Friday, January 24, 2020

Shame and the Social Contract

This is the time of year when cripples are busily organizing all the cripple pride parades that will happen this summer in cities all over. Cripples put together floats and stuff like that and roll through the streets strutting their stuff. As parades go, they tend to be low-budget affairs. There aren’t any giant hot-air balloons shaped like Stephen Hawking or anything like that.

These parades are a good thing, though it’s too bad they're necessary. We wouldn’t have to publicly proclaim how proud we are to be who we are, if everybody didn’t think otherwise. It reminds me of that TV commercial where everybody talks about how wonderful it is to work for Amazon. Amazon wouldn’t waste their time and money making a commercial about how wonderful it is to work for them, if everybody didn’t think working for Amazon sucks.

I take part in the Chicago cripple pride parade every year. But I have to say that I’m always left feeling unfulfilled. There’s something missing. Our message of pride just doesn’t seem like it's having its full impact.

But I’ve figured out what it is that’s missing. There are no hecklers. Nobody feels threatened enough by what we’re saying to come out and try to shout us down. And that’s troubling.

Don’t they know how dangerous we are? I mean, when it comes to cripples, shame is an indispenable clause in the social contract. Society gives us a little space to move around and in exchange we have to act like it’s all sad wretches like us deserve. If it’s charity, we have to be ecstatically grateful for whatever is given us, even if it’s a dead pony. If it’s something like Medicaid, we have to stay forever broke and inert. Because if we’re not forever broke and inert we aren’t really crippled.

So you’d think that when cripples have the nerve to be proud of themselves and each other (in public no less), it would scare the hell out of at least some uncrippled people. If cripples can’t be shamed into submission anymore, it’s like giving them all that stuff for free. Then what? They’ll demand more and more and pretty soon they’ll take over!

I’ll keep joining the parade every year but pretty soon I hope I’ll see agitated uncrippled onlookers holding up signs saying CRIPPLES GO HOME. And maybe I’ll even get winged by a flying rotten tomato or two.

Won’t that be glorious? That’s when I’ll know we’ve really arrived.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Demographic Immunity

I am immune from car sale commercials. No matter how much of a super spectacular blow-out of a sale the ecstatic spokesactor or local dealership owner proclaims it to be, it all just bounces right off of me. Because the only kind of car I’m ever going to buy is a cripple accessible minivan. And you never see or hear commercials for a super spectacular blow-out sale on cripple accessible minivans.

You would think this would be something I’d mourn. But it’s not. Car sale commercials actually make me feel the opposite. They make me feel grateful to be who and what I am. It’s a relief to know that spokesactor or local dealership owner isn’t talking to me. One of the great struggles in life is to tune out the torrent of sales pitches we encounter each day and keep focused on what’s real. I can tune this one out without expending any energy. It’s a blessing.

Car sale commercials also make me feel grateful that I am the type of cripple that will never ever be able to walk or be any less crippled than I already am. Otherwise this sales pitch might shame me into spending hours and hours walking on a treadmill in a physical therapy gym in the hope of becoming uncrippled enough to someday take advantage of the super spectacular blow-out car sale. In a capitalist society where your worth is measured by how many people are trying to sell you something, the temptation would be great.

My crippledness gives me an armor their arrows cannot penetrate. I call it demographic immunity. Sometimes being so far outside the mainstream demographic that no one notices your existence ain’t such a bad thing.

I wonder if cripples who have no legs feel the same way about commercials for shoe sales. And what about cripples who eat through stomach tubes? Do they feel blissfully immune from food commercials? I sure hope so.

(Smart Ass Cripple is completely reader supported. Purchasing Smart Ass Cripple books at and filling the tip jar keeps us going. Please help if you can.)

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Terrifying Wholesomeness

Rahnee and I were eating dinner in a restaurant, just minding our business and having a grand old time, when I saw something that scared the living hell out of me. It triggered severe PTSD flashbacks.

A guy sat at a nearby table and he wore a red preppy sweater over a white shirt. I gasped and muttered, “Oh Dear God! It’s Up With People!”

Rahnee’s face twisted up, inquisitively. She had no idea what that out-of-the-blue comment was all about. It hit me that she’s much younger than me and since Up With People was a phenomenon mostly of the 1960s and 70s, she might not have been subjected to them. So now I had to explain to her what Up With People was and what made them so terrifying.

I told her that when I was a teenage inmate at the state operated boarding school for crippled kids, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT), they took us on a field trip to a theater. The performers were the Up With People troupe. And they were just as I’d seen them on TV, performing at football game halftimes and on hokey variety shows. As I remember, the guys wore red or blue preppy sweaters over white shirts and the females wore matching red or blue jumpers with white blouses. The performers were all as white and pure as could be. They all had permanent, lobotomized smiles and they sang relentlessly upbeat songs about how we all need to be nice to each other while they performed stiff, synchronized choreography.

It scared the hell out of me in the same way the guy on the Quaker Oats box scared the hell out of me when I was a child. I wasn’t scared of the Quaker Oats guy in the sense that I thought he would break into my room and stab me to death or anything like that. When I look back, I realize what terrified me was his overpowering wholesomeness. I’ve always reacted that way to people who are unabashedly wholesome. I get paranoid that they’re coming after us all. Their agenda is to release a tidal wave of wholesomeness that will drown us all and when it recedes we’ll all be as wholesome are they are.

That’s how Up With People affected me as a teen. I just wanted to get the hell out of that theater before their ingenious form of torture broke me down to the point where I’d surrender and become one of them.

Seeing the guy in the red preppy sweater made this all come rushing back. I explained all this to Rahnee and her face shifted into a new look that said, “What kind of drugs have you taken?” It was a look of pity.

When we got home, I sent her an internet video of Up With People performing in the 1960s and 70s. So at least she knows I didn’t make it all up, though she probably still wonders what kind of drugs I’ve taken.

(Smart Ass Cripple is completely reader supported. Purchasing Smart Ass Cripple books at and filling the tip jar keeps us going. Please help if you can.)