On Refusing the Sadness Industry

Cover of Planet of the Blind....man and dog....

I will not be sad today, even though a faculty member recently treated me to unspeakable ableism. He can’t touch me. There are invisible rubies inside my shoulders. I will not be sad though I won’t live to see disability inclusion—full inclusion—in higher education. The road is too long, the grievous effects of false assumptions about the disabled student and scholar will take another generation to eliminate. I know this now. I imagined something different and better when the ADA was signed. I will not be sad. 

I was treated horrifically on two Delta airlines flights recently. I won’t be sad. Sadness is a manufactured thing—aimed at everyone who hails from a historically marginalized community or heritage. They want you to be sad. Sad will make you doubt your worth or send you back to bed in a fever of depression. Sadness-infliction is an industry. I will not be sad today. 

Now sad is an interesting word. It comes from Old English sæd “sated, full, having had one’s fill (of food, drink, fighting, etc.), weary of,” and its interesting that it didn’t assume its current meaning—inferior, pathetic—until the 1890’s. I’ll venture this: sadness is inflicted and designed to keep immigrants, women, the disabled, people of color, LGBTQ folks fully incapacitated. 

This isn’t news. Of course. But I won’t be sad today. Won’t be addicted to personal misfortune. That’s what they want. 

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Barnes and Noble

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

Author: skuusisto

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

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