I entered college during Nixon’s second term which meant I was disposed to believe anyone over thirty was venal, amoral, and in some sense “perverted”–though if you asked me what the latter meant I’d have said old people copulate with dogs and that would have been the end of it. In short I was hot headed and unsophisticated and now when I look back on that guy I find that I still like him.
It’s the contrarian in him. He had good reason to distrust his elders. They said he didn’t belong. In almost every setting–from Kindergarten onward–his legal blindness was a shameful thing according to the good burghers, (who later he’d enjoy calling the “running dogs of the bourgeoise.)
The ableist running dogs. Yes I still like him. He loved the old New York joke. You hold up two hands, wiggle your fingers and ask “you know what this is?” Then you stick up your middle finger and say “it’s a whole flock of these.”
Screw you you ableist running dogs.
Later he’d write a poem:
America with your history of eugenics.
With your hostility to the global charter on disability rights.
With your jails, stocked with psychiatric patients—worse than the Soviet Union. We are Gulag Los Angeles; Gulag Rikers Island; Gulag Five Points in Upstate New York.
America with your young Doctor Mengeles.
With your broken VA.
With your war on food stamps and infant nutrition.
With your terror of autism and lack of empathy for those who have it.
With your 80% unemployment rate for people with disabilities.
With your pity parties—inspiration porn—Billy was broken until we gave him a puppy.
With your sanctimonious low drivel disguised as empathy.
With your terror of reasonable accommodations.
With your NPR essays about fake disability fraud, which is derision
of the poor and elderly.
With your disa-phobia—I wouldn’t want one of them to sit next to me on a bus.
America when will you admit you have a hernia?
When will you admit you’re a lousy driver?
Admit you miss the days of those segregated schools, hospitals, residential facilities—just keep them out of sight.
When will you apologize for your ugly laws?
When will you make Ron Kovic’s book irrelevant?
America, you threatened Allen Ginsberg with lobotomy.
America you medicated a generation of teenagers for bi-polar depression when all they were feeling was old fashioned fear.
When will you protect wheelchairs on airlines?
When will you admit you’re terrified of luck?
Let’s admit he wrote the poem much later, that he couldn’t have written the thing at 18. But the hot kid who rejected popular opinion by just being disabled and fighting on, that kid, who didn’t give up or become a young Republican, that kid would read Allen Ginsberg and understand the republic was lousy with social lies and that those lies kill people, he’d grow up to ask America when it will apologize for Nixon eating cottage cheese and ketchup while discussing war casualties? When will it apologize for homelessness? When will it ask for forgiveness for the Judge Rotenberg Center where until last year autistic children were tortured with electro-shock?
Years later he’d find this quote from F. M. Cornford, whose translations of Plato he’d read in college, and whose essay Microcosmographia Academica he’d discover in a book by Christopher Hitchens:
“There is only one argument for doing something; the rest are arguments for doing nothing.
Since the stone axe fell into disuse at the close of the Neolithic Age, two other arguments of universal application have been added to the rhetorical armoury by the ingenuity of mankind. They are closely akin; and, like the stone axe, they are addressed to the Political Motive. They are called the Wedge and the Dangerous Precedent. Though they are very familiar, the principles, or rules of inaction, involved in them are seldom stated in full. They are as follows:
The Principle of the Wedge is that you should not act justly now for fear of raising expectations that you may act still more justly in the future—expectations that you are afraid you will not have the courage to satisfy. A little reflection will make it evident that the Wedge argument implies the admission that the persons who use it cannot prove that the action is not just. If they could, that would be the sole and sufficient reason for not doing it, and this argument would be superfluous.
The Principle of the Dangerous Precedent is that you should not now do any admittedly right action for fear you, or your equally timid successors, should not have the courage to do right in some future case, which, ex hypothesi, is essentially different, but superficially resembles the present one. Every public action that is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.
Another argument is that “the Time is not Ripe.” The Principle of Unripe Time is that people should not do at the present moment what they think right at that moment, because the moment at which they think it right has not yet arrived.”
So the hot youth turned hot man would wrestle with moral prolepsis, anticipating in advance objections to demands for justice.
Disability advocacy and poetry deserve no less.
Now the kid in me believed some ridiculous things. He’d discover people over thirty are not inherently canine copulators and he’d find that marijuana doesn’t make anyone smarter. He’d discover the average poet is no more empathetic or progressive than any variety of blue collar workers. Yes and he’d remain wholly vituperative about ableism.
Admit you have a hernia America.