Friday, May 22, 2015

Overcoming Overcoming

Here’s why stories about cripples who “overcome" bug the living crap out of me. When a person, crippled or otherwise, is praised for overcoming something, whatever it is we say they overcame is always something bad, right? I mean, we never say, “He overcame extreme wealth and good looks to become president of the United States!”

When cripples are praised for overcoming something, it’s always our crippledness we are praised for overcoming. So therefore the implication is that everything about being crippled is bad and awful and in need of overcoming. But there are many good things that come with being crippled. Like for instance, I get to cut to the front of lines a lot. I’m not sure why that happens. I don’t know whether the person waving me on through thinks I’m a VIP or a fire hazard but don't ask questions. I just shut up and go for it.

And I'm not trying to say cripples never have to overcome anything. Lord knows we do. But cripples never get praised for overcoming the shit we actually have to overcome. One of the biggest things I had to overcome was being shipped off as an adolescent to a crappy-ass state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). But I promise you if a Hollywood producer takes a notion to make a blockbuster movie about me, it won’t be because he/she sees it as “the inspiring story of a man who overcame being shipped off as an adolescent to a crappy-ass state-operated boarding school for cripples.” Another huge thing cripples have to overcome is all the bullshit of bureaucracies like Medicaid and insurance companies. First we have to fight like rabid wolverines to get them to buy us a wheelchair or some other piece of essential equipment and then when it breaks we’re dead in the water for six months while they make us leap through a million bureaucratic flaming hoops in order to get it fixed. This is a real, dramatic, harrowing, high-stakes struggle that cripples all over engage in every day. But I’ve never seen a blockbuster movie, TV show, book or anything else that professed to be “the inspiring story of a man who overcame all the bullshit of bureaucracies like Medicaid and insurance companies.”

That’s what I hate about that overcomer crap. It gives us another thing to have to overcome.


  1. What I hate about overcomer stories is the way "well meaning" friends, relatives, and roommates use them to shame those of us who haven't overcome. "Here's a blind landscape artist who paints by touch" or "there's a quadriplegic who climbs mountains with his eyelashes" they say, so what's your excuse for sitting on your ass collecting disability? I like to turn it around, and say "you're not crippled at all, so what's your excuse for making me pay half the bills around here with my SSDI check?" This usually shuts them up long enough to let me watch my shows in peace.

  2. Love this post. The word “overcome” has always annoyed me, because I reason if I ever overcome my blindness it would mean I could see. So far, that hasn’t happened.

  3. PS: Just heard you are going to be doing a show in Chicago on June 5, and the flyer about that provided me not with just one, but TWO bits of good news – one, I hope to attend the show, and two, it mentioned you have a blog. Now I can follow you -- maybe even to the front of the line!