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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