from “Letters to a Young Cripple” #3

Dear _________,

You may feel they hate you, and I believe many of them do; “they” the apparatchiks, bureaucrats, customizers, shampooers; artists; school teachers; airline personnel; politicians; Human Resources minions; architects; do-gooders; priests; academics; tour guides; short order cooks; taxicab drivers; salespeople of all kinds; mechanics; happenstance strangers, some of them damaged, who call out: “Why do they let you people in here?”

You must feel they abhor you, that they’d wrap you in old newspaper and throw you out with yesterday’s fish if they thought they could get away with it. Insult to injury: they often “do” get away with it, tasering autistics, denying access to medical help, defying civil rights laws as a prima facie position—“let the cripple sue us—it will take him years—and in the meantime we can put up (insert structure or software system here) without the thin extra dime accessibility would have cost us. Ableism is knee-jerk and wholly consistent.

So yes, they hate you, but not for the reasons you’d suppose—or for the reasons they’d imagine (I promise not to digress) but we’re symbol making animals and we tend to believe the glibbest fancies, for what else is required for flourishing bigotry but a glittering pocket watch made of vivid untruths?

They dislike you because your presence, your very being, the sight of you, the dynamic realities you represent—all this—makes them think. And by God they hate thinking. They hate it even more than they hate children (though they certainly do) and more than they hate the manifold nuances of history (they do) and even more than they hate women (though they most certainly do.)

You are polyphony when all they wanted was cheap guitar. Forgive me Wallace Stevens. The man with the cheap guitar wants to conjure a place, a godforsaken place in his head, and fill it with godforsaken people—the poor, the dazed, the idiots, the blind, the lame, toothless women, stuttering children, war veterans, people fit for dark and empty imaginings, for the man with the cheap guitar has a cheap imagination.

As I say, you’re polyphony. One thinks of Anton Webern’s quote about music: “The idea is distributed in space. It isn’t only in one part; one part can’t express the idea any longer, only the union of parts can completely express the idea. The idea found it necessary to be presented by several parts. After that, there was a rapid flowering of polyphony.”


I know of no better definition of nuerodiversity than that. No better description of disablement as it meets the body politic.

It’s not your inconvenience; your extra lap robe; your breathing tube; your service animal that bothers them—it’s that the old ways of doing things cannot express or reflect human complexity. Humanity must be understood, nay, the individual must be recognized as an idea in several parts. Normalcy can’t be easily played any longer. The cheap guitar is outmoded. You stand for a rapid flowering.


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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