12:43 p.m. - February 25, 2003
I prefer the intimate connections, the one-on-one when I can assess my place and experience the palpable connection, know you like me, I like you, all's set and I can laugh and talk and not worry about what you're thinking, whether one is being polite due to a proper upbringing or is genuine, won't think less of me for laughing or being foolish.
Really, where is this entry going? It's going downhill from nowhere.
This morning's seminar has left me feeling perturbed, annoyed by brilliant idiots. Apparently there is an article in this weeks' Newsweek about cochlear implants and the topic happened to fall under the discussion of politics and language and I found myself defensive and caught up in seeming contradictions and how does one truly communicate the things that most form one's being? One student dismissed everything I said with her Watching ASL is pretty, but who wants to be handicapped like that and it hurt, not her words, but by the overall cultural assumptions that foreground her dismissal. What good comes from deafness that would override the promise of a cure? How could I explain a language and way of life that is far richer than spoken language in thousands of nuances, how could I emote the feeling of having to sign when I truly want to express myself? How? I'm a hypocrite, I know; I'm against implants even though I know they work for some, just because I cannot bear the thought of not being able to sign to someone, of not seeing Deaf people, of not watching ASL poetry and storytelling.
When I left for college I also left the deafness behind - I was free! - and had nothing to do with ASL or Deaf culture for a long time. Yet I would sign to myself in the dark, I would sign poetry in the mirror, I would whisper-sign songs in church because I couldn't help it. This part of me that I had so long resented was something that I couldn't live without. I remember one woman came up to me and said she had seen me signing and would I teach her and I denied it, didn't want to see the ooh-how-fun in her eyes, didn't want to some silly hearing gal learning the power of my language just for entertainment's value. She picked up on my reticence and started signing slowly, awkwardly, told me she had once known a Deaf girl and if I would, please teach her how to sign a few songs, and I couldn't say no. And I remember a year later watching her in Group (this thing at school) signing songs and she was unashamed, didn't care if people watched (and of course they did), and I thought how wrong, how wrong of me to be ashamed of what is mine. It's a part of me; it's not a disabled part, a handicapped part, a deficiency part. It's me, all of me. I can't explain it now, couldn't explain it this morning.
Yes, I know that some day there will be no more deafness and I can't fault parents for wanting to give their children the best life, but I'm angry that there is the perception that deafness is inherently unpalatable and undesired and must be fixed. We're already into the age of designer genes and engineered children, and I wonder what society will be like when we've eliminated differences; today deafness, tomorrow blindness, next week we'll all have pale skin and blue eyes. And I can tell you from my vantage point, being both Deaf and hearing, that you hearing folks are missing something tremendous, powerful, and far more deep than you could possibly know. And you think that's better than what I know? The days of Deaf culture - my culture - are numbered, and you may not think it's a big deal. A parallel is you losing your sight, your hearing, your taste - all of your senses - one by one, slowly deteriorating, and not being able to staunch the loss. It's you, fading away.
And you know what? You still don't get it and that's okay. I know.