Disability, Expectation, and a Just a Whiff of Episcopalianism

“I expect color to be used against me,” writes John Edgar Wideman in the closing story of his latest collection American Histories. “Amen,” I think, early, the sun not up, reading alone with my talking computer. Race is the first they “they” see—the predatory “they” ruthless, short tempered and ubiquitous—good God is it everywhere. And the sun not up, alone, I want to reach through circuits and virtual pages and shake Wideman’s hand.

Each of us does her or his or they own dance with the expectation of disadvantage in advance. If you’re black, or Latinx, or queer, or disabled you are far more likely to live this on a daily basis. Not likely. I take that back. One does. What was I thinking?

I expect disability to be used against me.

Long ago I read a definition of resentment which I can’t attribute or source: resentment is drinking poison and waiting for others to die.

I not only expect but know disability will be used against me so how do I escape the poison-resentment-complex? Or “we”—how do we do it? Black, queer, neurodivergent, women in male dominated professions, in my case blind at a university that has poor support services for the disabled and more than passing hostility?

I don’t like poison. It tastes like wormwood and iodine. Trust me I know what it tastes like.

When I’m home alone, after a day of discriminatory treatment, being told to shut up, etc., I think, as I’m sure Wideman must, “I’m a good guy; I’m funny; I like people, why is this happening to me?”

That’s the effect of the poison. Swallowing it you fall into false consciousness, a false expectation about others. You think they’re supposed to change and you’re dying inside and the ableist, racist, homophobic people go on happily about their business. As Auden says famously in his poem Musee des Beaux Arts—suffering is unnoticed by the privileged. He says it better. Read the poem.

The key to having a good life when you know your difference is going to be used against you, perhaps in a minute, perhaps later this afternoon is mysterious and there are few prescriptions in tablet form or in holy books that are proper anodynes. I love the psalms. I adore Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Shit, I’m an Episcopalian. I have whole passages of the New Testament memorized. I love Christ not for his suffering but his transcendence of it. He’s both the king of those who are mocked and of those who persist in love. But I’ll admit it: most days Jesus is too mystical for me when I’m struggling disabled in a hostile world.

I expect disability to be used against me.

It’s that word “expect” that’s the killer.

Expect is related to spectacles. It comes from Latin “to look out”.

Later it comes to mean imagining things that will happen. Somewhere in the 16th century the word transitioned from “fact” (to see what’s coming) to fiction—one of the pejorative dynamics of imagination, suspecting things will happen because they’ve happened in the past. I often tell creative writing students only ten percent of imagination is worthwhile. That estimation may be generous.

This is the poison of imagination. I expect the next bad thing. Ungoverned this becomes depression. The depressed imagination sees everything in the world as equal and equally bad.

Wideman’s literary character is correct: race will be used against him. Finding love in the face of this is the most difficult challenge of all. We can invent machines that defy gravity but so far no machine has defied hate.

I like to think they’re working on this at MIT—maybe something like an aluminum spaghetti colander with wires sticking out that you wear on your head and with a flip of the switch voila hate disappears and water turns into chablis.

As far as I know—not far of course—is the only machine that can zap hate is the imagination which we’re currently under utilizing. Like the oft repeated maxim that we only use ten percent of our brains, we simply fail most days to push our imaginations toward loving others.

I expect to be disliked. It’s a certainty. This is the story of Christ. It’s the story of my neighbor.

I expect to be more loving. Will start today.

I expect to spit. (Expectorate)

“I tell you, you will not see the new beauty and the truth, until you make up your minds to spit.” (Malevich, Essays on Art)

Aim carefully.

Read John Edgar Wideman.

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:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

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 

Just for the Books

IMG 2248

On Wednesday last, April 11, I had the privilege of reading from my new memoir Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey  at Gramercy Books  in Columbus, Ohio. Gramercy’s owner, Linda Kass took this terrific photo of the event. I’m standing in front of a good sized audience, my purple sweater covered with dog hair, and I appear to be just about to make an extravagant gesture with my hand, like the opera tenor I’d really like to be….

As I’ve said before on my blog, I adore independent book stores. People come there for the books. They really do. Oh they might get a frou frou coffee, some poodle-ish beverage, but for Indie shoppers that’s just “value added” as they say in marketing circles. Customers who shop in independent book stores are drawn by words, intuitions, giddiness, mystery, fantasy, Dostoevsky, or “news that stays news” as Ezra Pound once said, describing why poetry matters.

You can’t tell from this photo but there are several guide dog users at the event. And puppy raisers from Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

What could be better than books and dogs, and lots of readers?

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:
Grammercy Books
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

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 

The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Program from NFB

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

CONTACT:

Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, extension 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

cdanielsen@nfb.org

National Federation of the Blind Announces Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards

 

Baltimore, Maryland (January 24, 2012): The National Federation of the Blind today announced that applications are now being accepted for the 2012 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Program.  Each year the National Federation of the Blind presents cash awards to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. 

 

Dr. Jacob Bolotin was a blind physician who lived and practiced in Chicago in the early twentieth century.  He was widely known and respected in Chicago and throughout the Midwest during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his untimely death at the age of thirty-six in 1924.  He was particularly recognized for his expertise on diseases of the heart and lungs.  Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for the employment of the blind and their full integration into society. 

 

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Dr. Jacob Bolotin was a pioneer who overcame low expectations and discrimination to become a renowned member of the medical profession without the benefit of the support services and civil rights protections available to blind people today.  He was also a fierce advocate for greater opportunity for the blind in his time, and doubtless would have been a leader in the organized blind movement had he lived to see it come into being.  The Jacob Bolotin Award Program celebrates his pioneering spirit by recognizing and supporting outstanding programs, technologies, and individual efforts that promote independence and opportunity for blind Americans.  Our previous winners have been a distinguished lot and we look forward to honoring more trailblazers this year.”

 

Recipients of the 2012 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards will be determined by the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee of the National Federation of the Blind.  Online applications are due by March 31, 2012.  Individuals or organizations are encouraged to apply on behalf of themselves or others.  The award recipients will be announced at the 2012 National Federation of the Blind Convention in Dallas. 

 

The Jacob Bolotin Award Program is funded through the generosity of Dr. Bolotin’s nephew and niece, Alfred and Rosalind Pearlman.   In addition to establishing the Alfred and Rosalind Pearlman Trust to endow the awards, the late Mrs. Pearlman also wrote The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story.   The book has been published by Blue Point Books and can be ordered directly from the publisher at http://www.bluepointbooks.com.  Proceeds from book sales will also benefit the award program.  For more information or to fill out the online application, please visit www.nfb.org.

 

 

Let's give Disabled Soapbox a boost shall we?

We just discovered Susan’s blog called Disabled Soapbox.  Here’s what she has to say about her brand new blog:

"I’m told I hog the soapbox so often, I decided to create my own I can
hog without apology – feel free to join me- there’s room for more."

Let’s show her some love shall we?

BOOST IT! Forward… This is our attempt to  give a blog a boost by "paying it forward"…
Blog_boost_3_3 You can support this effort by visiting the referenced blog and if you like what you see (we’re assuming you will) perhaps you too
can give it a BOOST!  This might be a new blog that could use a BOOST!
Or it might be a blog with many readers that just happens to be new to
us, therefore we’re not sure you’ve seen it.  Or, we might just BOOST!
a blog because we like a post.

~ Connie

You should visit "The House Next Door"

We’veBlog_boost_4 Been BOOSTED! by The House Next Door!
This is to say thank you to the host/hostess of a blog  that paid us
some attention and in so doing gave us a statistical boost, large or
small.  We’re hoping that the readers of our Been BOOSTED! post will
stop by your blog to review you as "the source", thereby giving you a
boost. (Not that you need it!)

Thank you to Keith Uhlich for including a link to us in his post Links for the Day.  Check out his other links, one of which is titled "Vermont town considers banning nudity"…  We’ve been BOOSTED! by Keith before and because he and his co-contributers get thousands of visits a day, we tend to notice the increase in traffic on this humble little blog. 

As Steve would say "we’re not worthy"…. 

A New Neighbor

We’veBlog_boost_4 Been BOOSTED! over at THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR
This is to say thank you to the host/hostess of a blog that paid us
some attention and in so doing gave us a statistical boost, large or
small.  We’re hoping that the readers of our Been BOOSTED! post will
stop by your blog to review you as "the source", thereby giving you a
boost. (Not that you need it!)

Thank you Keith Uhlich

A Chautauqua Institution Invitation

Mark Your Calendar: Join Steve at the Chautauqua Institution!

  • WHAT:  Book reading and presentation for Eavesdropping at the 2007 Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle series of book presentations  www.ciweb.org
  • WHEN:  Thursday, August 16, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.
  • WHERE:  Hall of Philosophy at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, NY
  • MORE INFO:  view WEEK 8 by following this link

Is this exciting or what?  Come join us, won’t you?

~ Connie