Disability, Pornography, Kompromat, and Trump

Kompromat in this instance employs paraphilia: abnormal sexual attraction, and at “The Act” Trump was treated to the sight of a deformed blind man as sex toy– a convoluted projection of teratophilia–a sexual attraction to deformed people or monsters.

In a ghastly but revealing article over at The Washington Post
Aaron Blake details some of the overlooked details in the Senate’s findings about Donald Trump and Russia. There’s the usual fawning over Putin, Trump’s beseeching of oligarchs, a probable affair with a woman (kompromat) while “the Donald” was in Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant…and then there’s this:

“And two witnesses — Rob Goldstone and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen — recall the Agalarovs and the Trump team visiting a club that featured a strange show which Cohen said involved a “sex act.”

Goldstone, a Brit who later served as an intermediary for the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, said Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller approached him about the proposed trip to a club called The Act, where an associate of Emin Agalarov was an investor. “Mr. Trump wants to come,” Schiller said, according to Goldstone.

Cohen described the club as “more than a burlesque club” and a “wild place.” Here’s Cohen’s recollection

He said the show that night featured a “young man” in a body suit who was blind and, in Cohen’s estimation, appeared to have suffered from birth defects. He said the man sang a patriotic song while a large woman in a thong bikini performed “sex acts” on him.”

Straight away my ears perked up–(I read with a screen reader) here’s kompromat meets disability meets freak show. Evers to Tinker to Chance.

In her book “Media, Performative Identity, and the New American Freak Show” Jessica L. Williams writes: “The freak show succeeded…because it reinforced binaries about gender, race, and ability but its failure was cemented when scientific advances and human rights issues altered the ways viewers saw otherness. ”

In other words, the freak show returns as pornography when science and human rights are nuisances.

Kompromat in this instance employs paraphilia: abnormal sexual attraction, and at “The Act” Trump was treated to the sight of a deformed blind man as sex toy– a convoluted projection of teratophilia–a sexual attraction to deformed people or monsters.

The Russians are terrific at Kompromat. After viewing “the act” should the news ever get out, the headline would read: “who’s the monster now?”

Blake adds:

“Trump’s visit to The Act was reported in a 2018 book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, though it didn’t specify what was onstage that night. Cohen has teased his new book by apparently referencing the club visit but referring to another act — one involving urination — that doesn’t appear in the Senate’s report.”

No One Left to Lie To, Part Two

When Christopher Hitchens published his grim appraisal of Bill Clinton (“No One Left to Lie To”) in 1999 I was having a bit of a bad time. When you’re disabled even the best moments can be demoralizing. I’d my own first memoir on the stands and while I’d tried to be nuanced and reflective about blindness both as I’d experienced it and as a larger circumstance I found myself on tabloid television where the nuance that disability requires went out the window. I missed reading “No One Left to Lie To” as I was busy dealing with the likes of Oprah Winfrey whose interview had nothing to do with my book. I appeared on the Leeza Gibbons Show with a drugged little girl, fresh from surgery, who’d had a third leg removed.

I was seeing first hand how the TV industry craves emotion over substance. I knew Bill Clinton had lied to the nation about reforming welfare by co-opting the GOP and emoting like a used car salesman looking into the camera and saying the poor would be lifted up. While the 80’s were built in part on fiscal lies the 90’s were about something worse. Clinton might have said: “a red herring in every pot” and few in mainstream journalism would have flinched.

Me? I’d written a book about disablement pre-ADA. Much like my friend Lucy Grealy’s memoir “Autobiography of a Face” which contended with physical deformity in public “Planet of the Blind” spoke to the self-to-self dichotomies of blindness and contempt in the civic sphere. Sitting in those TV interviews I saw that Oprah’s mantra “the truth will set you free” was false at least where disability was concerned. Her true motto should have been: “customary feelings only.” Several years ago I wrote about the Oprah experience. You can find the post here.

Tabloid television and its ugly child, “reality TV” were steamrolling by the end of Bill Clinton ‘s second term. I wish I’d read “No One Left to Lie To” back then. I certainly wish more people would read it now. In his lively introduction Douglas Brinkley writes:

“Hemingway famously wrote that real writers have a built-in bullshit detector—no one has ever accused Hitchens of not reading faces. What goaded him the most was that Clinton, the so-called New Democrat, with the help of his Machiavellian-Svengali consultant Dick Morris, decided the way to hold political power was by making promises to the Left while delivering to the Right. This rotten strategy was called Triangulation. All Clinton gave a damn about, Hitchens maintains, was holding on to power.”

I’m tempted to quote Brinkley’s entire intro but I’ll just add this, while noting the unsound and racist scalping metaphor:

“To Hitchens, there were no sacred cows in Clintonland. With tomahawk flying, he scalps Clinton for the welfare bill (“more hasty, callous, short-term, and ill-considered than anything the Republicans could have hoped to carry on their own”), the escalated war on drugs, the willy-nilly bombing of a suspected Osama bin Laden chemical plant in Sudan on the day of the president’s testimony in his perjury trial, and the bombing of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq on the eve of the House of Representatives’ vote on his impeachment.”


Do not forget that when running for the presidency in 1992 Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton signed off on the execution of a mentally disabled man named Ricky Ray Rector. This was death as a political stunt. It was also the exploitation of disablement as human sacrifice. How does a man of decency and conscience do such a thing? He doesn’t of course. Good men (and women) abjure the taking of human life for political theater. It’s permissible to argue about the ethics and merits of the death penalty but whatever your stance (I’m against it) you should know that politics is not only about who’s paying for your lunch (as Gore Vidal famously put it) but it also concerns public spectacle and performance. Democratic countries have always put people to death to make a point. Jim Crow. Sacco and Vanzetti. The Rosenbergs. Henry Ford and striking workers.

bell hooks wrote in her book “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love” “Men need feminist thinking. It is the theory that supports their spiritual evolution and their shift away from the patriarchal model. Patriarchy is destroying the well-being of men, taking their lives daily.”

If you’re a disabled writer you have to want spiritual evolution. You have to recognize that the cynical politics of tough talk and any public performance that devalues life will eventually kill innocent women, children and men. Back to Clinton via Hitchens who quotes Robert Reich’s recollection about “ending welfare as we know it”–

“When, during his 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton vowed to “end welfare as we know it” by moving people “from welfare to work,” he presumably did not have in mind the legislation that he signed into law in August 1996. The original idea had been to smooth the passage from welfare to work with guaranteed health care, child care, job training and a job paying enough to live on. The 1996 legislation contained none of these supports—no health care or child care for people coming off welfare, no job training, no assurance of a job paying a living wage, nor, for that matter, of a job at any wage. In effect, what was dubbed welfare “reform” merely ended the promise of help to the indigent and their children which Franklin D. Roosevelt had initiated more than sixty years before.”

A good man would not have ditched the supports Reich lists but a man who’d hang a mentally impaired prisoner would do it in a heartbeat. The point was “triangulation”–the pitting of the left and right against each other not for productive advancement but solely for personal success. Hitchens:

“Two full terms of Clintonism and of “triangulation,” and of loveless but dogged bipartisanship, reduced the American scene to the point where politicians had become to politics what lawyers had become to the law: professionalized parasites battening on an exhausted system that had lost any relationship to its original purpose (democracy or popular sovereignty in the first instance; justice or equity in the second).”

I say it all begins with the execution of a disabled man who was serving a life sentence. Good citizens beware.


America was built on an idea, Jefferson’s, equality at its core. Illusion was necessary if greed and the suborning of rights was to succeed. Civic rhetorics must be tuned for the increase of division. But only politicians who most desire power over all else will overtly “batten an exhausted system” with overt disdain for the poor or the cripples.

Rick Perlstein writes in “The Invisible Bridge” about the singular moment when during Nixon’s first term American housewives protested a beef scarcity. Nixon trotted out his top consumer advisor, Virginia Knauer:

“President Nixon’s consumer advisor, Virginia Knauer, made a presentation for the press, suggesting “liver, kidney, brains, and heart can be made into gourmet meals with seasoning, imagination, and more cooking time.” She then trilled, “From my own experience I have found a shopper can generally trim as much as ten percent off her food budget.” An aide demonstrated a cost-per-serving slide rule for the cameras. On NBC that night, Knauer’s lesson in home economy was the lead story. It was followed by a field report on a schoolteacher’s wife who surreptitiously slipped horse meat into her husband’s sandwiches (a similar story made it onto an episode that fall of All in the Family).”

Talk about battening the exhausted!

Disability as lived experience is all about the lack of things. Inadequate public transportation; insufficient medical care; inaccessible doctor’s offices; lack of jobs and job training; the daily difficulty of acquiring necessary accommodations whether you’re in a boardroom or a ball park. There may be no greater experts in exhaustion battening that the cripples.

If you want to forestall equality there’s nothing like promoting ingesting bleach or shining a light inside the body during during a pandemic. If you want want power alone–without any irritable reminder of America’s foundational social ideals you push horse meat, execute Ricky Rector, defund any social programthat will help the poor during the greatest health crisis in global history. You tell people there’s nothing to see. You tell people they need more seasoning and imagination.

This was Reaganism at its core. Clinton understood it better than George H. W. Bush. Poppy Bush actually believed in “compassionate conservatism.”

In 1999 I discovered that tabloid TV which was by then, really, all TV, was only concerned with the exhaustion batten complex.
Oprah wanted to know if I could see anything at all, a variant of “how many fingers am I holding up?” Leeza wanted to know if my life was sad. Dateline wanted to know if my effort in youth to seem more sighted than I was meant “I was living a lie.” That disability is a devastating social construction was off the table. I was the singular lurid talisman of something they couldn’t figure out.

Reagan and Clinton put us firmly on the road to Trump. George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, launched accountably to seize non-existing weapons of mass destruction destroyed the last remaining optics of American idealism. Obama did his best to staunch the bleeding of public confidence but he wasn’t much of a liar and while he served two terms he never could put the batten back in the box. A country that’s disinterested in the least of its citizens and disdainful of nuance is next to ungovernable.

Back to the beef. Reagan was Governor of California while the price of meat was skyrocketing. He became the subject of an inquiry. Perlstein writes:

“In 1971, a student-operated radio station at Sacramento State College reported that Reagan’s 1970 tax return claimed he owed precisely zero dollars and zero cents. Reagan was befuddled when confronted with the news at a press conference; then he offered a recollection that he might have got a refund on his federal taxes. The governor’s office released a statement saying the reason was unspecified “business reverses.” He refused to say anything more—with a vengeance: “We fought a war about that! I say all men have a right to be safe in their books and records. That’s what the Revolution was about.”

Can you think of anything more Trumpian or Clintonian than that?

But wait! There’s more! Perlstein:

“One month later, the Sacramento Bee broke the story of what these “business reverses” entailed, and it was a doozy: the governor had contracted with a company that advertised to clients with a net worth of at least $500,000 that “tax laws favor cattle. . . . When you buy them, you become a farmer and can keep your books on a cash basis. You put in dollars that depreciate or are deductible. You take out capital gains.” Voilà: newly minted cowboys, whose ranks included Jack Benny, Alfred Hitchcock, and Arnold Palmer, “lose” enough money, in the company’s boast, “to avoid or postpone payment of any income tax.” ”

Can you think of anything more Trumpian or Clintonian than that?


Bill Clinton signed a much ballyhooed law in 1999, “H.R. 1180, the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act” which was trumpeted as a progressive effort to help the disabled receiving social security disability benefits by allowing them to participate in job training and vocational rehabilitation programs and still receive stipends. The problem? There was no effort to create jobs. Money for the VR programs came from social security. It was in effect a double tax without a true employment program.

Trump now says the states should pay the ongoing unemployment benefits that nearly 60 million Americans desperately need.

Voila indeed! To avoid or postpone payment of benefits as well as taxes!

The disabled are in the cross hairs of the exhaustion batten and tabloid TV won’t cover it.

MSNBC won’t cover it.


Anyone out there?


In a devastating article over at CBS we learn that over 100,000 disabled Americans have died while waiting for social security benefits, which is to say, died after being denied those benefits, died while they were being further reviewed:

“The Social Security program, known for its retirement benefits, also provides disability payments to people of all ages who can’t work because of a physical or mental condition. But the process required get those benefits can be a bureaucratic nightmare, with applicants — who tend to be older and poorer than most Americans — sometimes waiting years to start collecting.

One measure of just how arduous that process can be: From 2008 to 2019, almost 110,000 people died as they awaited an appeal after initially being denied Social Security disability benefits, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan federal agency. Between 2014 and 2019, 50,000 people filed for bankruptcy waiting for their cases to be resolved.”

Stories about the health crises faced by the disabled are still few and far between in the mainstream news. Even the “progressive” platforms like “The Nation” and “Mother Jones” largely avoid the subject though at least The Nation has been giving space to the activist and disability journalist Sarah Luterman .

Instead the media reports on disability as scandal. The inestimable Ira Glass of “This American Life” broadcast a hatchet job about disability and social security but with lots of help from NPR and The Washington Post. Here I’ll quote from my blog in 2017:

“The Washington Post has published an article that purports to examine a steady increase in disability Social Security claims by poor families. Under the heading “Disabled America” the headline bellows: “One Family, Four generations of disability benefits. Will it continue?” If you’re disabled like me and you’ve a sense of disability history you have to shudder since the half-rhetorical question evokes an edict by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who infamously wrote: “three generations of imbeciles are enough” in Buck vs. Bell, a 1927 ruling that upheld the right of Virginia to sterilize “mental defectives” without their consent. (You can read more about the case here.) In short, the Post’s headline raises the specter of eugenics whether the writer or editor knows it or not. Either way its fair to say “shame on them.”

Shame also for committing the journalistic equivalent of what I call “Betsyism” for Betsy DeVos who presides loudly over our education system without experience, knowledge, or curiosity. Only Betsyism, the willful extrusion of facts for ideological purposes explains the Post’s perfervid and ill informed article. Why is it ill informed? Because like other mainstream media forays into the subject of disability and Social Security there’s only a singular narrative: the US is filled with fake cripples who are stealing from good old you and me–a story that received considerable traction two years ago when the redoubtable radio hipster Ira Glass rebroadcast (without journalistic fact checking) a spurious story from Planet Money asserting phony social security disability claims are officially out of control in America. The provenance of the story hardly mattered to Glass, who, when confronted with its falsehoods simply declared himself a journalist and shrugged. It mattered not at all to the doyen of “This American Life” that the tale was largely the dream child of a notorious rightwing think tank, or that the outright falsehoods contained in the broadcast might do tremendous damage to the disabled. Falsehoods about the powerless play well.”

Remember what we’re talking about? Batten exhaustion as tabloid meat.


There are people, disabled, black, brown, indigenous, white, old, young, students, seniors, health care workers, activists of all kinds who are talking back to the Batten Exhaustion Complex.
Some of the best writing comes from the folks over at The Disability Visibility Project .

In her essay “The Future Liberation of Disability Movements” Valerie Novack, a black disable woman, writes:

“I realized that my disabled peers weren’t fighting for my inclusion, my access, my liberation. My peers were fighting to be part of the status quo, to be part of the norm. To have access to all the privilege they felt denied as white disabled people. Largely, they didn’t want to fight for something new, better, and just, they wanted to fight for access to the systems we have and know were built on the bodies of our ancestors and that these systems thrive on continued oppression of BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). I learned that the disability rights movement wasn’t a push for equity, but for equality in the hierarchy of structures offered to other people. ”


Disableism, ableism, disability discrimination–is profoundly encoded, encircled by racism. Reading Valerie Novack I thought: “How many times have I been among privileged disabled people, all of whom were white, who applauded Bill Clinton?”

The white disabled community has been slow to recognize poverty and structural racism as coefficients in furthering disability rights. I remember disabled people applauding Clinton’s Social Security gambit. I also remember saying “there’s something fishy about this.”

I love Novack’s phrase “equality in the hierarchy of structures offered to other people” since it denotes how the comparatively well off white disabled often want their own level playing field but not much else. One sees it.

I remind you: Good men (and women) abjure the taking of human life for political theater.

Political theater can be less dramatic than the execution of Ricky Rector, it can be the calculated indifference to suffering on either a small or vast scale–but always delivered with that moue of contempt, the one that says “they deserved it.”


With Reagan’s election in 1980 the nation largely shrugged and accepted an imperial presidency, the chief executive whose method acting would be always about the consolidation of power, a consolidation built around the demolition of social programs favored by the old liberals. Reagan was a great story teller. Bill Clinton studied him closely. Triangulation for both these men meant never solving poverty but pitching the idea that the “other” party was solely responsible for the nation’s increasing squalor.

Black Lives Matter is presently upending this forty year narrative.

It’s a deeply embedded narrative. According to Dick Morris, Hillary Clinton said of “welfare reform” in 1995:

“Our liberal friends are just going to understand that we have to go for welfare reform—for eliminating the welfare entitlement. They are just going to have to get used to it. I’m not going to listen to them or be sympathetic to them.”

Excerpt From: “No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton.” Apple Books.

Mr. President I’m One of Those Who Needs Reassurance

I’m disabled, Mr. President. I work with the disabled. We represent every ethnicity and nationality: we’re old, young, veterans, parents; we’re gay and straight, and yes, we have physical and other limitations that cause us to be medically and socially vulnerable. When yesterday you rebuked NBC reporter Peter Alexander for his “nasty” question about how you might reassure anxious Americans you essentially dismissed the 60 plus million Americans with Disabilities. I think you knew you were doing it.

Not once in any of your press conferences about the novel Coronavirus has the word disability been uttered. Not once. I know why. You think Americans who need “reassurance” are weak. Moreover you think without irony that life is unfair. When asked why star athletes are getting virus tests while ordinary Americans are waiting you told us this is how life in America operates. Reassurance is a pesky word isn’t it? It means to restore people to confidence. What about those of us who’ve never had it in the first place? While you berated Mr. Alexander you were essentially saying America is a cruel craps game and the losers can go to hell.

There was nothing nasty or corrupt about Alexander’s question, Mr. President. Where will the disabled get treatment when the majority of our hospitals and clinics are only conditionally accessible? Where will those who rely on Medicare get help when so many states have been cutting services prior to this health emergency? What is the VA doing to assist wounded warriors who may contract the virus, especially older veterans? I suppose you’d say these are nasty questions too.

When the Nazis came to power Hitler declared the disabled “useless eaters’ and insisted the only valuable citizens in Germany were those who were hail and hearty. That’s an extreme way of saying life is unfair. By showing no empathy toward the most vulnerable in society you’re essentially saying the same thing. No wonder the health experts who stood behind you yesterday looked stricken. No wonder they wanted very clearly to hide their faces. You thought you were demeaning NBC but you were stomping on those who need help the most.

So You Elected a Pornographer, Now What?

First things first: wash your hands. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve actually shaken hands with Donald Trump or not. All the major studies agree that frequent hand washing is good for you. My Finnish grandmother once shook Richard Nixon’s hand and then didn’t wash that hand for a month. As far as I know Nixon wasn’t into porn but he certainly had dirty hands.

I’m not an expert in pornography but like a famous Supreme Court justice I know what it is when I see it. We’re now living in the age of decline porn. Every story coming out of Washington or Biloxi is like something out of a soap opera. The National Basketball Association? Soap opera. Congress? You get the gist.

People have to love their porn. They have to wallow. Trump brags about grabbing women by their privates. Abuse ‘em and ditch ’em. That’s how he runs the government, conducts foreign relations, handles his business dealings. The man is a grifter. He’s also the decline pornographer in chief. He tells people the country is in trouble though he inherited a prosperous and largely well run nation. He tells people the dark hordes are coming although immigrants fleeing persecution are part of our national history and social identity. The man is sticky with self loathing, which, as I take it, as a necessary pre-condition for spreading porn.

Yes he’s the decline porn star in chief. He’s the Harry Reams of politicians. (Remember when he boasted during the debates about the size of his thing?)

The decline porn star needs endless dysfunction to succeed in spreading false misery narratives. Remember, he’s only happy when he can abuse and mislead people.

A thoughtful, earnest, truth telling chief executive doesn’t need decline porn–he or she can see the real problems facing the nation and bring decent people together to tackle them.

In order for Trump to spread his stickiness all over the place he needs smaller decline pornographers like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and countless others with dirty hands to admire his fecklessness and abuse of dignity.

Susan Sontag said famously: “What pornography is really about, ultimately, isn’t sex but death.”

Look at the children and adults dying on our border with Mexico.

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:
Barnes and Noble

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 

On the Pleasures of Hating, American Style

“The white streak in our own fortunes is brightened (or just rendered visible) by making all around it as dark as possible; so the rainbow paints its form upon the cloud.”

—On the Pleasure of Hating, William Hazlitt

The leaders of nations are again whipping up hatred and though one may stoutly observe this circumstance is customary I don’t think the American variant of it is time worn. Donald Trump represents a national vanity, the disdain that comes at the ends of empires. The white streak in America’s fortunes is soiled and Trump’s boys fear they’re losing control of the census. Trump’s aspersions are steeped in rhetorics of scarcity and the terror of dark hordes. This is not to say that prior empires have been without their particular gloating rancor but Trump’s possessed by a vision of absolute scarcity built on a racialist proposition of thievery. He believes the colored peoples of the earth are stealing from America’s hard working white people. Victorian bigotry was built in large part around the idea that foreigners were sinister carriers of disease or represented chaos that must be contained—Dracula is a novel about the British fear of the east more than anything else. Trump’s Dracula is a hydra of ethnicities and yes, women and cripples and queers who seek to steal America’s vitality. In this way his hatred and its expression are vampiric. It is altogether fair to wonder if “The Donald” has ever donated blood.

Now another word for this kind of hatred is despair. After the murder MacBeth says: “For, from this instant,/ There’s nothing serious in mortality:/ All is but toys — renown and grace is dead.”
It’s the age for cowards. The hating coward feels no guilty remorse. it’s enough to have power. If this power is based on despair and has no nobility that is the way of it. Another way of saying there’s nothing serious in mortality is not to say life is cheap but that it has no grand purpose beyond the acquisition of personal power. It’s the rage of humiliation. In her unjustly overlooked book “Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals” Iris Murdoch wrote: “the condition (for instance as humiliation) may, almost automatically, be ‘alleviated’ by hatred, vindictive fantasies, plans of revenge, reprisal, a new use of energy. There is, which can be no less agonising, a guiltless remorse when some innocent action has produced an unforeseeable catastrophe. A common cause of void is bereavement, which may be accompanied by guilt feelings, or may be productive of a ‘clean’ pain. In such cases there is a sense of emptiness, a loss of personality, a loss of energy and motivation, a sense of being stripped, the world is utterly charmless and without attraction.” There can be no better description of Donald Trump and his gestalt than this.

The fish in the sea is not thirsty and Trump doesn’t know how stripped he is. He strips others—in every way. This is why his political imagination is joyless. He hates and his “base” as it’s called on television is thrilled. This is what Simone Weil called “malheur” a type of affliction. Hillary Clinton was wrong when she called Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters “a basket of deplorables” because most of them feel neglected, powerless, betrayed by the powerful, and so want little more than vengeance. All is but toys—Trump gives them the nursery of rage and it makes them real. One thinks of the commercial where an elderly woman has fallen and can’t get up. The poet Paul Valery: “the desire for vengeance is the desire for balance.”

Vengeance and balance, vindictive fantasies, cowardice, a loss of energy and motivation are the essential ingredients of the Trump pleasure principle. You might say these are primordial factors in the rise of Fascism but in America it is more accurate to call it a fetishized pissing contest.

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:
Barnes and Noble

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 

Denied a Cab Ride, Grieving for Who We Are…

Tomorrow I’m heading to the University of Michigan to participate in a program on accessible publishing hosted by the UM Press and the University’s library. As a blind writer who teaches I know as much as almost anyone about how difficult it often remans to get access to books, journals, online publications, websites, software platforms—it’s a long list. So my hat is off the the folks in Ann Arbor for taking seriously the challenges of access for people with disabilities and putting together an ambitious workshop on accessibility.

In a mood of warm anticipation, packing for my trip from Syracuse to Detroit, I was wholly unprepared for the mean spirited encounter I had by phone with a cab company in Ann Arbor this afternoon. Just recounting what happened is an exercise so objectionable I’m forced to be brisk as the altercation was nasty.

I told the man who answered the phone I needed a ride from Detroit-Ft. Wayne airport to the U of Michigan. He was agreeable. Then I said I had a guide dog. He was disagreeable. He said:

“These dogs are stinky, they go to the bathroom, they’re dirty, I can’t have them.”

“Not the first time this has happened to me,” I thought.

“Guide dogs are allowed everywhere,” I said.

“I don’t care, now you’re going to tell me all about your rights,” he said. (Sneering, he was. Your rights…uttered as if I was some whiny baby.

“Well yes,” I said, “it’s a violation of state and federal laws to deny a blind person and his dog a cab ride.”

“I don’t care,” he said.

“You should care,” I said. “It will become a big story. Plus there’s a huge fine associated with this.”

“I don’t care,” he said.

“This will become a news story,” I said. “I myself write for newspapers like the New York Times…)

It’s hard to describe the effect this had on him. He began shouting that Donald Trump had won the presidency and “you people” (apparently meaning blind New York Times readers) “don’t matter anymore.”

He was absolutely vicious and crowing about how people like me don’t matter.

I said, “well, I’m going to turn you in to the Department of Justice.”

He said he didn’t care.

I hung up.

I went upstairs to tell my wife.

Five minutes later he called me back.

I answered.

He said, “I have allergies.”

He’d apparently shared his conversation with someone else. This was his effort to pull his leg out of a hole.

“It doesn’t matter, you still violated my civil rights,” I said.

He began abusing me again. Hot, geothermic mistreatment.

I hung up.

I posted his company’s name and phone number and a description of what I’d experienced on Facebook.

I didn’t know the man’s name.

He apparently received dozens of phone calls throughout the afternoon, including some from the press.

He’s now claiming victim status. He has allergies. He can’t be expected to take a passenger with a service dog.

The law is very clear on this matter. He doesn’t have to. All he has to do is find me a cab that “will” take me.

He chose contempt and mean-spirited bullying.

Some people on Facebook have messaged me to say he now regrets the matter.

Me too.

Whatever happened to saying, “hey, I know all about having a physical condition! I have one myself. I can’t help you but I’ll get you someone who can.”

Instead he went into a rebarbative snarl and wouldn’t stop.

He apparently told someone on FB that I ruined his day.

I have in fact filed a formal complaint with the Department of Justice and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

I’m still shaking. I want to close by saying I’ve heard promptly from the U of Michigan. They’re as upset as I am.

Is Trump’s ascendancy now a patented script?

If you hail from a historically marginalized group you know the answer.