The Ableism River

Cover of Planet of the and dog....

A woman sneered at me yesterday afternoon. We were on an airplane. Her seat was next to mine. Spotting the guide dog at my feet she pitched a fit. She told everyone within earshot that she was allergic to dogs. She needed immediate attention. She demanded a seat in First Class. She was, as they say, a “hot mess” and I tried to empathize—who am I to say she didn’t have allergies or that this wasn’t a deep inconvenience for her? Yet her nastiness was the thing. She was affronted by the very idea that I was “there” in that space. She sizzled with contempt.

If you’re disabled you know all about the contempt sizzlers. As Mark Twain would say, “you’ve met them on the river.”


More about the river…

The river is god itself. Not your ideas about it. Not your yearnings. It goes about its business, moving the glory of creation wherever it needs to go. Children sit on the banks dreaming. This is proper prayer.

The ableists’ river is also god itself. Its where self-contempt goes to bathe. And here come the cripples, floating down stream like loaves of bread…


You see, some days a cripple just doesn’t know what to say.
River. Bread, Children. Dreams. God in the mix. And sad strangers who can’t speak our language.


I wish that woman with her dog allergy well. I don’t think she had an allergy at all. It was in her voice. Studies show you can spot liars by their intonations. Hers said: “I’m a nasty, self absorbed wart of a person. And I want you to pay attention to me.”

The dog just slept.

Author: skuusisto

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

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