Friday, February 17, 2012

Hard Bargain

I’m depressed. I’ve been depressed before but this is for real. Up until now, I’ve been able to temper my bouts of depression by self-medicating with Cheetos.

But I must have built up an immunity. Because these days I’m constantly worried that something terrible is about to happen to me and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m going to have to face one of my worst fears. I dread what will happen to me if I don’t get cured. The only thing I dread more is what will happen to me if I do get cured.

My fear of being cured goes way back to when I was a tiny kid. Here we were, my sister and I, poster children. We were the human face of tragedy. They put us on television, broke us out at banquets and bowl-a-thons and parades, all in the name of cure. But the whole thing felt creepy because I never wanted to be cured. Hell no! Why should I? Why strangle the golden goose? The only reason I got to go on TV and eat pheasant and wild rice at banquets was because I was crippled. If I got cured I’d be shooting myself in the foot. My sister got to ride on a parade float once. The only difference between her and me and the other kids in the neighborhood, who would never in a million years get to ride on a parade float, was that they weren’t crippled.

The older I’ve gotten, the deeper my fear of being cured has taken root. Nothing terrifies my inner smart ass more than the prospect of me suddenly not being crippled. It’s the same reason so many comedians were terrified at the prospect of losing George Bush as president. There goes an endless source of rich joke material, which is a precious natural resource. Being crippled also gives me something that every human being longs for: a gimmick. It’s a shortcut to the spotlight. Why would anyone want to give that up? If I’m not crippled, what am I? I’m just another white guy, just another smart ass.

But lately I’m worried that if people like me don’t hurry up and get cured soon, there will be hell to pay. Because I’m starting to figure out that in attempting to come to terms with the phenomenon of cripples, the rest of uncrippled society goes through stages (sort of like the Kubler-Ross stages of grief). The first stage is Denial. This stage began right around the time of the appearance of the first cripple. RX: lock the cripples in the closet or smother them or turn them over to the nuns.

Then next stage is Bargaining. That began about 50 years ago. In this stage, cripples get to come out into the sunlight as long as it doesn’t go on forever. Cripples have to work hard at someday not being crippled. That’s our end of the bargain. The Bargaining stage is characterized by telethons and other such extravaganzas of the Charity Industrial Complex.

But I wonder how long it will be before the good will of the Bargaining stage deteriorates into the next and final stage of Anger. This charity stuff’s been going on for more than half a century and there are just as many cripples around as there ever were, except for the polios. Why can’t the rest of the cripples be like those nice polios?

How long before the uncrippled villagers get sick of waiting for us to deliver and start burning cripples in effigy? How long before they feel suckered and kick down our doors, throw us out of the wheelchair they bought for us and take them to the pawn shops in an attempt to salvage some return on their investment?

Charity is not a thing to be trifled with. So I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I wish I could just be crippled in peace.