Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Helen Keller Died for Our Sins

I admire Helen Keller for a lot of reasons.  First of all, no other cripple has an entire genre of jokes dedicated them. Yeah sure, some Helen Keller jokes are stale and stupid. But some are pretty funny. But that’s not the point. I wish I was famous enough to have a genre of jokes about me. (How many Smart Ass Cripples does it take to screw in a light bulb?) I wouldn’t care how damn stupid the jokes were. It would be a real kick just to figure that prominently in the public discourse.

Helen Keller is probably the most famous cripple who ever lived. She’s so famous there should be a Helen Keller commemorative, collectible bobblehead doll. That’s another way to measure your cultural prominence. You know you’ve really arrived when the bobblehead people make a doll out of you. It’s the highest civilian honor. So if the bobblehead people were going to make a bobblehead doll of the most famous cripple, they’d probably choose Helen Keller. Ray Chares would deserve serious consideration as would the two Stevies, Wonder and Hawking. But if there was a ballot initiative asking voters which famous cripple should have a commemorative bobblehead doll issued in their honor, I bet Helen Keller would win.

Helen Keller was the crippled Jackie Robinson in that she was the first cripple to step up to the plate, so to speak.  When people made ignorant, crude, boorish comments to Jackie Robinson, he just had to grin and bear it. “Thank you, sir. May I have another?” I don’t know how he took it. I know I sure as hell couldn’t have done that. The minute somebody called me the “n” word, I would have beat them to a pulp with my baseball bat.

I bet people made a lot of ignorant comments to Helen Keller, like “Oh you’re such an inspiration” or “I so admire your courage.” But no matter what, she had to shrug it off. She couldn’t fight back. Again, it’s a good thing it wasn’t me. After hearing that about four or five times, I’d have been ready to kick the next person who said it square in the balls.

Now imagine how different things would be if Helen Keller lost her cool and kicked somebody in the balls. But she couldn’t so much as emit a sarcastic huff. Exercising such superhuman restraint must have taken a heavy toll on her.

 Helen Keller took that bullet for future generations of cripples. She bore that burden so we wouldn’t have to.  So now I can make a smart ass retort without worrying about screwing things up for other cripples. Because no matter how much I come off as a bitter little caustic wisenheimer, there’s always the stoic, noble image of Helen Keller as a counterbalance. And so cripples receive the benefit of the doubt that maybe they’re not all like me.

Thus, I am free to indulge in smart assery. And I owe it all to Helen Keller.

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