On Turning Citizenship Over



“I am an American woman:

I turn that over”


–Adrienne Rich

Speaking at Disability Center Turkmenistan




One is back again from a long trip, the air opening like realization itself for sometimes the air is smart. Even the air in Newark, New Jersey where a tough customs agent wants your story–why have you been in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan–and my friend and I stumble, tell him we’re writers, we were on a trip for the State Department, cultural ambassadors, etc. and he looks at us with a wheel turning in his head, decides we are too cartoonish to be any real trouble for I am blind with a stick and my friend, a woman, has lots of blond hair and sentiment wins out. America for all its fevers still has sentiment. 


I think about this in a state of jet lag. Sometimes jet lag is a good thing, like a quality hangover. You think, if nature does not mourn our existence why should America? Then you think, America should be a large consciousness just as Walt Whitman said. Isn’t that why I became a poet? I believe love should win in my country, and therefore I believe in love as an export. Thoughts when tired. 


A policeman who does not know us, escorts my friend and I from the terminal for he sees my white cane and doesn’t want us to stand in a five mile line of passengers. He is kind, thinks helping a blind person is a good idea. And I’m grateful. This is American decency. For all our fevers we still have decency. 


In Turkmenistan I spoke to a room full of people with disabilities. They wanted to know many things: do people with disabilities in the US have jobs? How do they go to college? What is “Inclusive Education” all about? Then someone asked me why the US Senate refused to ratify the United Nations Charter on the Rights of People with Disabilities. In effect I told them that sentiment will win out–that the treaty will come before the Senate again, that the American people want to see it pass. But the real question was: “how can something that’s unambiguously good be voted down”? 


How do you tell people who are still suffering for freedom that there are senators in the USA who don’t like the United Nations and will even refuse to endorse freedom and dignity for people with disabilities to make a crude point–namely that no one tells America what to do?


And that’s when it hit me. My nation’s policemen and firemen are the people I want in the Senate. 


First thought. Best thought. Eh Mr. Kerouac? I’m home. 







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