How to Ruin a Dinner Party

Who am I? I’m the one who upsets the even tenor of every dinner party. Who am I? I use words like justice and human rights without irony. Therefore I’m unpleasant. I’m actually quite dreadful. I question the bug-eyed vanities.

Agreement is what you want if you’re concluding a business deal or building something—a bridge needs the correspondent attentions of many good minds.

This vision of agreement is deadly in provincial society. Racism, ableism, trans-phobia, all the bigotries are territorial. Bigots are only interested in sections of the bridge. As Ibram X. Kendri puts it: “Americans have long been trained to see the deficiencies of people rather than policy. It’s a pretty easy mistake to make: People are in our faces. Policies are distant. We are particularly poor at seeing the policies lurking behind the struggles of people.”

The bigot-engineer? His section of the bridge is built of likeness.

Want to upset the even tenor of the cocktail party? Make it clear that you don’t worship the habits of thought of people you’re with.

Dreadful. Here’s Kenneth Rexroth: “I write for one and only one purpose, to overcome the invincible ignorance of the traduced heart. […] I wish to speak to and for those who have had enough of the Social Lie, the Economics of Mass Murder, the Sexual Hoax, and the Domestication of Conspicuous Consumption.”

Rexroth could really piss off a dinner party. I’ve always admired his definition of the “social lie”:

“Since all society is organized in the interest of exploiting classes and since if men knew this they would cease to work and society would fall apart, it has always been necessary, at least since the urban revolutions, for societies to be governed ideologically by a system of fraud.”

He adds: “The state does not tax you to provide you with services. The state taxes you to kill you. The services are something which it has kidnapped from you in your organic relations with your fellow man, to justify its police and war-making powers. It provides no services at all. There is no such thing as a social contract. This is just an eighteenth-century piece of verbalism.”

This is the kind of thing that’s wholly antithetical to bigots on a bridge. Rexroth would ask: “Why build the bridge at all of its just another way to kill people?” I was in mind of this during the funeral of John Lewis last week.

I believe in justice-capitalism. Stop stealing from the poor. Stop poisoning whole provinces. No more colonialist wars. If you want to make money while cleaning up the neighborhood I’m all for it. Let’s design a future for the disabled.

Let’s create bridges that are multicultural, built for true democracy. Let’s name all bridges for John Lewis. Or at the very least let’s call them antiracist bridges. Ibram X. Kendri:

“Antiracists have long argued that racial discrimination was stamped from the beginning of America, which explains why racial disparities have existed and persisted. Unlike segregationists and assimilationists, antiracists have recognized that the different skin colors, hair textures, behaviors, and cultural ways of Blacks and Whites are on the same level, are equal in all their divergences. As the legendary Black lesbian poet Audre Lorde lectured in 1980: “We have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals.”

**

We have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals.

Another way to say this—not that anything Audre Lorde wrote needs improving—is that each citizen is tucked neatly into a province. One must never forget the Trayvon Martin was murdered in a gated community.

You’ll ruin a lot of dinner parties by arguing against provincialism.

I once told a group of disability studies professors that they weren’t sufficiently devoted to accessibility for the blind. Just about all of the 60 people in attendance had eyesight.

This view was not greeted with enthusiasm. Even within the disability community you’ll find bridge sections that are gated.

The fancy term is ophto-centrism—the eyes have it. All hail the eyes. If the blind can’t fully participate that’s “on them” for at least we allowed them in the room.

I’ll screw up the dinner party because I think the blind aren’t fully welcome in whatever it is we mean by disability studies in the academy. Let me add, if you squawk about it you’ll be judged and not kindly. I’ve been told if my behavior was better I might get the access I need. Try that on, little fella!

**

Rexroth: “Television is designed to arouse the most perverse, sadistic, acquisitive drives. I mean, a child’s television program is a real vision of hell, and it’s only because we are so used to these things that we pass them over. If any of the people who have had visions of hell, like Virgil or Dante or Homer, were to see these things it would scare them into fits.”

Racism and all the bigotries of the media…yes we’re making progress but have you looked at the miserable faux disability representations still being cranked out?

How about the eugenics narratives in popular books and films? “Million Dollar Baby” or Jojo Moyes?

Please stop imagining you’re inferior.

Author: skuusisto

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

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