The ADA @ 30: Essay 11, “Rope-a-Dope”

Dear ADA @ 30:

You have made it possible for people with intellectual disabilities (that hoary and inelegant phrase) to live in the community. You’ve made it possible for wounded veterans returning from combat to stay in the military; made it possible for disabled students to get mainstream educations; there are so many triumphs in your corner. You’ve educated millions around the globe. Not bad my friend. And perhaps the best thing of all: you’ve withstood your enemies, done the Muhammad Ali Rope-a-Dope. Conservative courts and business interests have tried to defeat you but they failed to understand you are the American spirit. 

Dear ADA: I’m a poet. I don’t know much about the law save that I read broadly in many disciplines. Poetry is a guarantee against specialization but not an obstacle to focused curiosity. I love knowing that they composed music for surgical procedures before the age of anesthetics. While they sawed off your leg you could hear a nice quartet. I love knowing that double hydrogen bonds make DNA possible. O how sublime is the very electrolysis of life! And in terms of “the law” I like the axiom that normal people teach the rules but outliers teach the laws. You’re the Queen of the Outliers and you continue to “punch up’ as they say nowadays.

The poet in me likes it that you’ve changed the way disability is used as a matter of law. I’m thinking in this instance of Romer v. Evans, in which the US Supreme Court nullified an amendment to Colorado’s state constitution which made it legal to discriminate against homosexuals, lesbians and bi-sexual citizens in matters of employment, the receipt of social services, and the right even to claim discrimination. The Supreme Court wrote that the Colorado amendment imposed a “broad and undifferentiated disability on a single named group” and added that the impulse for the law was “inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.”

OK. I’m just a poet but this is the first instance so far as I know of the Supreme Court using disability as a juridical metaphor in the service of human freedom. I may be wrong about this but I suspect I’m right. And I suspect the court’s understanding that physical embodiment can be degraded merely owing to bio political considerations was informed by the shift in consciousness brought about by you, Dear ADA. 

Oh how I love you. Let me count the ways. 

Author: skuusisto

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

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