Disability and Life in the Public Square

A political life is brave if you’re an advocate for people without access to language. A political life is cowardly when lived in the service of those who control discourse. This is what came to mind for me when I heard David Gregory’s question to Glenn Greenwald on yesterday’s “Meet the Press”.

Mr. Gregory held the putative and prosecutorial stance of DC insiders when he asked Greenwald why he shouldn’t be prosecuted for aiding and abetting Edward Snowden who is on the run, having disclosed the true enormity of America’s domestic spying complex. Gregory defended his question as journalistic faites de affaires–an inadequate response given the circumstances. A translation of David Gregory’s question in vernacular would be: “isn’t telling the truth about government secrecy now a crime?”

I grew up as a provisional person–unwelcome in public schools, isolated, often demeaned by teachers and administrators. My point is that if you’ve been objectified and encouraged by rhetoric to feel abjection you learn to talk back. You also learn to view obfuscation as cowardice. Self-justifying to be sure. Up on its hind legs. But cowardice just the same. Putative and hostile questions are invariably the preferred vehicles for those whose legitimacy is in some doubt. In my case I remember a high school principal who had determined my blindness should prevent me from running with the track team. “You know you don’t belong, don’t you?” he said. (It was, I think, revealing that he had a large color photograph of Richard Nixon on the wall behind his desk.)

Disability teaches you to be suspicious of pejorative and accusatory rhetoric. When I heard Gregory’s question I heard the old voice of a minor league high school principal who was threatened by a blind runner.

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