Mandela’s memorial yesterday has ignited a firestorm today out of the Soweto rain. No, not Obama’s failed message, or the non-Michelle approved Presidential selfie with other heads of State, but rather the fraud of an impostor posing as an interpreter for the Deaf during the ceremony.
The alleged sign language interpreter was so awful, in fact, that he had to have been in on the cruel joke that he knew nothing about even creating rudimentary signs.
Unfortunately, this sort of “faking it” is actually pretty common in the Deaf Community. There are a lot of “professional” interpreters who are not well-trained but who are given jobs because they are cheap — even though they are incapable of proper signing. The Deaf suffer and the incompetence gets a paycheck.
While not many working interpreters are as fraudulent on the level of what happened in Soweto — the end effect is still the same: The Deaf person has no idea what’s being said and has to guess about what’s really happening.
Cruelty because of disability is the unfortunate, de facto, standard of living for anyone who dares to live outside the mainstream of the able-bodied merely by purchase of birth. Janna, a Deaf Woman, and my wife, feels the sting of that cruel indignity every single day with impatient people who refuse to acknowledge her Deafness and who force her to read lips or to use her voice because they don’t feel like writing or finding a common cure that will enable a fair communication dyad that can be understood by all parties.
That inevitable cruelty is part of the daily station of the Disabled, and those of us who love and care for our Disabled friends and family feel that cruelty, too, by proxy, and we do our best to help create a cure of basic human courtesy. We are often unsuccessful.
What fascinates me, in a maudlin and depressing way, is when families of the disabled place politics above doing the right thing. A glowing example of a family member standing up and doing right is found in David Axelrod, one of President Obama’s dearest friends and campaign managers, and the fact that Axelrod is willing to shave off his 40-year-old mustache in order to raise a million dollars for epilepsy research. Axelrod’s oldest child has epilepsy.
Proverbially speaking, it is never considered proper to kick a fellow when he is down — doing so in reality is even worse. Whether it comes in the form of ridiculing a person who is sleeping on the street or yelling cruel insults at a person in a wheelchair, it is simply not the proper way for one person to behave toward another.
As you are well aware, I am not at all a fan of backseat parenting — I don’t see parents doing something with which I disagree and rush right over to tell them all about the error of their ways. There are limits to this, of course, and lines in parenting that cannot and should not ever be crossed — that line was crossed by a couple in Arizona who posted photos of their children tied up with Duct tape, mouths taped shut, and hung upside down.
Every day, anywhere from three to five times per day, we make important choices about the foods we choose to consume. What is going to fill our plates and bowls — beyond meeting the need to keep our bellies full and our nutritional needs met, is anything else important? I would certainly say so, given how much of the food that gets sold ends up in its tidy packaging on the store shelf.
When I was growing up I always wanted to go to, but never managed to go to the circus. My dreams of the circus were filled of images that I saw in books that I read — the elephant parades, the lion tamer, the tigers and monkeys, not to mention the plethora of acts involving clowns, trapeze artists, acrobats, and the like. I would on occasion get a box of animal crackers with the standard animals from the circus and enjoy munching on them when thinking about how much fun it must be to be that lion, getting the opportunity to perform in front of so many people every year. It was at a certain point, growing up, that I found out how badly the animal performers are treated.
We live in a cruel world. There is suffering. There is a lack of human compassion. We prefer the preservation of the self over the welfare of others.