Deaf As I Wanna Be
Thousands of Palestinians have lost their lives due to the oppressive nature of the Israeli government. Even as Israeli tanks and military personnel invade the dank refugee camps they're forced to call home, they continue the struggle to form a land of their own. Hundreds of Israelis have lost their lives due to the primitive and warlike nature of the Muslim culture. With bomb-laden Palestinians lining up to spend Saturday nights at the local cafe or disco, Israelis struggle to maintain their way of life.
Millions of humans led to the slaughter. Timorese. Tutsis. Kurds. Russians. Cambodians. Armenians. All lost because of our inability to love one another.
The death and destruction perpetrated against people by their fellow man never ends. One group makes peace and another goes to war - often because of variations in thought, appearance and belief that go largely undifferentiated by outsiders.
But there is no genocide greater than the systematic eradication of Deaf culture. As Afghans lie dying in the desert because they belonged to the wrong tribe and Sudanese Christians are forced from their homes by the encroaching enforcement of Sharia, the Deaf in America are losing their distinct, beautiful tapestry of culture due to the profound ignorance of the Hearing world.
When I moved into this neighborhood five years ago, my contact with hearing-impaired people had been minimal. There was the deaf, retarded girl who lived a block away from my childhood home, but her primary disability was retardation, and "I Am Sam" aside, there's no push for a cohesive culture revolving around feeblemindedness. Her deafness was merely a bonus in the jackpot of life.
After high school graduation, along with several people, I rented a house in a questionable area. A few blocks to the right, there's a housing project. A few blocks to the left, there are "luxury" three-bedroom duplexes for which suckers pay upwards of $350,000. And in the middle -- there's us. A mix of blue- and-white collar, white trash and pseudo-yuppie, black WWII vets and the younger generation that disrespects them.
I didn't see the house before I agreed to rent. So, when I first saw the "Caution: Deaf Children Playing" sign, I sighed. When I saw the blue-eyed, blond-haired, SSI-abusing, hearing-impaired Neo-Nazi white trash that prompted the sign, I knew I was home.
See, I attract weird neighbors, and if I'm lucky, I take away a little something from having known them.
My early childhood years were spent living across the street from the Miller Family. Mr. Miller was Hitler's suburban, child-molesting clone. It was all there: from the tiny moustache to the black hair to the sandals with knee-high black socks to the thick glasses. Mrs. Miller had a perfectly coiffed bouffant hairdo and a penchant for retro housewife gear. The more crinoline, the better.
The kids -- Joey and Jessica -- were your normal lower middle-class kids. Joey was the mildly retarded bastard lovechild of Danny Pintaro and Chris Burke. Jessica worshipped Madonna and did her best to fit her 200-pound frame into black, lacy frocks.
If I ever wanted kids, the prospect of having two as ... interesting ... as Joey and Jessica killed the dream. And if I ever wanted a ring on my finger and a house in the 'burbs, the Millers made me think twice.
When I was 13, the Millers moved. A steady stream of prospective buyers visited the house, but it was a 40-something, anti-social white man who coughed up the cash for the two-bedroom ranch. Thanks to a little helping hand from taxpayers.
Frank served in Vietnam, and the Army served Frank with Section 8 papers. What happened to him in the jungle is a mystery, but whenever a neighbor let his grass get a bit too high, Frank's left eye twitched. Landscapers did a boom business on my street.
In the morning, a short bus picked up Frank for his treatment. Frank was ordered to receive psychological counseling and a boatload of MAOIs after police arrested him for harassing people at the grocery store while wearing an ill-fitting Boy Scout uniform.
As I walked to the car each morning, Frank sat on the front steps waiting for the bus. Each day, he smirked and gave a Miss America wave.
War is Hell.
When I turned 18, I bid farewell to Frank and moved into my own pad.
Nothing prepared me for the Deaf white supremacist Clampetts. They're deaf. They keep pitbulls chained in the backyard. And they hate those goddamn niggerspicchinkdotheadcameljockeyjap bastards.
After five years of Deaf block parties, Deaf relatives living in their RVs with an electrical cord running to the house, disability payments for being Deaf, driving while Deaf, the Deaf husband chasing the Deaf wife with a shotgun, Deaf teenagers silently destroying the property of hearing non-whites in the area and, oh yeah, Deaf block parties with loud, vibrating music, I've taken away only one thing from the experience: I hate Deaf people with a seering passion.
Deaf people, as I came to learn, are largely undereducated and underemployed because they avoid the evil Hearing World in favor of the the warm womb of militant Deafism. They have their own culture and language, both of which they guard fiercely at the expense of jobs, literacy, education and self-sufficiency.
Being deaf -- rather, Deaf -- is not a disability. Far from it. It's simply a different way of being. Just as pedophilia is simply a different way of expressing one's sexuality. Neither sets out with the intention of being deaf or perverted, but hey, if God gives you lemons, make a new culture out of them that makes you feel damn good about yourself and your shortcomings.
My neighbors feel damn good about their damn fine culture. All of their friends are Deaf (and white). All of their working cars have Deaf pride stickers. All of their Deaf parties feature booming, loud music that clearly is a subversive effort to deafen the rest of us. All of the kids, their parents and relatives attended Deaf schools that instilled Deaf pride in their Deaf Culture, which means they've got a real feather in their cap, what with being old-school Deaf. The caste system is such that Deaf gives you respect, but Deaf of Deaf gives you street cred. Deaf of Deaf of Deaf of Deaf of Deaf of Deaf of Deaf of the Mayflower -- my God, you could own the place.
Their culture, though, is not unique. Throw in a cochlear implant or two, and the hills of West Virginia come alive with the sound of music. With a high rate of depression and little chance of moving beyond the assembly line, there are few differences between white trash and Deaf cultures. So, when I see a car on blocks in the front yard of a house, I might have to stop and consider whether the residents are white trash or Deaf white trash, but they're white trash all the same.
My Deaf neighbors are a family of five. No, six. Wait, maybe seven. We lost count once the battered RV was parked outside permanently.
The mother is on husband number two, but if you blinked, you would have missed the switch. He's the Deaf Dick Sargent. There's something slightly different about him, but he shares with the first husband that fluid movement of the hands as he yells at his wife with one hand and holds a shotgun in the other.
The children would be perfect Aryans -- porcelain skin, blue eyes and blond hair -- if it weren't for the deafness and stupidity that pollute their gene pool. They range in age from 13 to 20, and the 20-year-old only recently graduated from high school.
The average culturally Deaf high school graduate -- high school graduation generally being around the age of 21 -- reads at a third- or fourth-grade level. Without the ability to read at an advanced level and comprehend what is being read, many deaf people cannot find employment or employment that will keep them above the poverty line.
Deaf activists might argue that this is due in large part to the mediocrity of deaf education -- making it no different than the general mediocrity of the education system -- but where's the incentive to better oneself when one can remain in an insulated, cozy world with government support? If I know I'll always have a friend in the Deaf world, who needs to embrace the values, beliefs and ethics of a world from which I can segregate myself? They're easy to tune out when you can't read lips.
Gallaudet University is the premiere instiution for Deaf studies in the world. It's where the Deaf go to be Deaf in peace. It stands alone as the bastion of higher education for those who can't explain the minute musical differences between Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears. Yet, its four-year graduation is five percent, and after six years of continuous studies, only 26 percent of students manage to walk away with a degree.
But taxpayers continue to support each new generation of deaf children, with little return on the investment. Their education -- with small classrooms, extra teachers and transportation -- is free, paid for with public funds. Children with hearing impairments who are educated in residential programs cost $32,397 more than children with hearing impairments who are educated in regular classrooms.
One of the things Candy and Sharon, a deaf lesbian couple who purposely conceived two deaf children, think about is how much more a hearing child would cost. "It's awful to think that, but it'll be more expensive!" Sharon acknowledges.
For the low price of $32,397, we get hearing-impaired leeches with lots of cultural pride and Marlee Matlin as their token representative. And even she gets shit for daring to use the vocal cords nature gave her.
My Deaf neighbors don't work. As in, they don't even peddle finger alphabet cards on the nearest street corner. How could they find employment? They can't hear. They can't speak. They barely can read. They have free access to government funds.
A survey published in 1993 that was conducted in California showed that deafness was associated with the lowest educational level, lowest income, lowest percentage employed and lowest percentage holding professional jobs among people with all kinds of disabilities, including being a paraplegic or female.
And being deaf is a disability. That a large number of deaf people do not consider it a disability is irrelevant. When I was in 11th grade, a white classmate tried to convince us that her half-black baby was, in fact, a dark-skinned half-Italian baby. It made her feel better, I guess, but one look at the kid's nappy hair, and it didn't take much effort to guess that she'd had a little chocolate syrup in her milk.
Deaf people can grunt and rave about not being disabled, but not only are they deluding themselves, they're cutting themselves off from the larger society by creating an artificial one that nurtures their delusion.
Rather than attempt to become part of a society that will allow them to support themselves, they cling to each other in the Cult of Deafness. They'll never need to accept that they're disabled if they surround themselves with only those who also lack the ability to hear.
People have senses that are vital to the human experience. We're supposed to hear. It's not only to enjoy a concerto or have a safe conversation while driving, it's to hear the train coming down the tracks as you walk along them. The deaf animal in the wild isn't going to last as long as the one who can hear the predator coming. You can wrap reality in emotionally soothing verbiage, but it doesn't change that you're at a disadvantage.
If Deafness is not a disability, though, then the Americans with Disabilities Act should no longer apply to the Deaf. If you're not disabled, stop accepting SSI and SSDI. Roll back the legal requirement that interpreters be provided at hospitals. Stop putting chips for closed caption access in all TVs. Get rid of separate publically funded schools. If it's just a different way of being and a legitimate subculture of the mainstream, then catering services specifically for the Deaf is as logical as aiming services at goths. We're subsidizing a chosen lifestyle.
The Washington Post recently featured a story about a Deaf lesbian couple that, in fact, chose the Deaf lifestyle for their children.
As Sharon put it: "A hearing baby would be a blessing. A deaf baby would be a special blessing."
As Candy put it: "I would say that we wanted to increase our chances of having a baby who is deaf."
"Some people look at it like, 'Oh my gosh, you shouldn't have a child who has a disability,' " signs Candy. "But, you know, black people have harder lives. Why shouldn't parents be able to go ahead and pick a black donor if that's what they want? They should have that option. They can feel related to that culture, bonded with that culture."
Comparing a deaf couple attempting to produce a deaf child to a black couple choosing to pass on the melanin is ridiculous. A black person might have to overcome social obstacles, but a deaf person has to overcome physical and communicative ones. There's no comparison. A harder life due to trailer-park rednecks calling you "******" from the safety of their moving truck isn't the same as having a harder life due to something that no amount of societal tolerance and accpetance can overcome. You're deaf, and no college-campus love-in or "HBO: America Undercover" is going to change that.
Deaf culture came into being, evolved and continues to exist because deaf people often find it difficult -- whether through their own preconceived notions or that of those with functional hair cells -- to integrate with the hearing world. They created their language, values, beliefs and traditions because they felt excluded from the dominant culture. If researchers discovered a way to reverse deafness, Deaf culture would cease to exist because no one would shove an ice pick in his ear in order to keep the culture afloat.
No one finds Ken Glickman that entertaining.
When The Washington Post reporter posed the scenario of science finding a cure for deafness, Jan said: "Maybe there will be no more deaf children."
"Except," says Candy, "for those of us who choose to make more deaf children."
And my Deaf neighbors are churning them out at breakneck speeds. Not a month goes by without spotting another stringy-haired Deaf teenager parading around with her expanding stomach. The 20-year-old Deaf son might not be able to read, but he sure can fuck.
The continuation of the Deaf culture is more important than eradicating or stemming the growth of the disability that forced the culture into existence. Rather than showing excitement at the prospect of future generations having one less limitation to deal with -- just wait until we can cure homosexuality -- the Deaf retreat into the safety of their artificially created world, scared at the thought of being a dying breed.
Flying in the face of the parental credo of giving one's child a better life than one's own, this couple condemned their children to a life of limitations -- all because they want to foster and perpetuate a culture that exists to support those who were given no choice in their disability. Purposely handicapping a child is abuse. It's no different than a transgendered male adopting a male child and chopping off his dick because the father loves the transgendered culture and wants someone to experience it from the beginning.
But Deaf culture is gaining ground and respectability.
Naturally, the Web has become popular as a means to expand the Deaf culture movement. From jokes to hardcore militantism to art, the Deaf are getting their shit together. They're angry, they're unintelligible, they're supported by your tax dollars, they're breeding and they're organizing.
So, when a co-worker starts ranting about Muslims and how intolerant they are of other cultures, tell him to crash a meeting of the NJ Deaf Club and mention cochlear implants. See how welcome he is there.