A couple of days ago I had the pleasure to lead a panel of American writers in a discussion at the American Embassy with Uzbek disability rights advocates about identity and imagination. This was a powerful experience for me on many levels. Perhaps the most significant thing was the challenging level of conversation we had with people with disabilities from Tashkent. One man wanted to know why the US Senate refused to ratify the UN charter on the rights of people with disabilities. I told him that there was widespread outrage about this in America and the issue isn’t over. But still they wanted to know why. Sitting in the embassy, facing an audience of people with many types of impairments I felt embarrassed for my country, embarrassed because by voting down the simple ratification of the treaty the Senate abandoned people with disabilities around the world, both literally and figuratively. They asked me a second time how this could happen and I had to explain the hostility that certain hard line politicians have about the United Nations. As the poet Theodore Roethke said: “such waltzing was not easy” and I wanted Jim DeMint in that room so he might see with his own eyes what American exceptionalism costs in the global village.



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