Pardon the use of a provocative term but we're among friends I hope and I never much cared for the politically correct terms people conjure up to cover folks who have lost body parts or the function of body parts.
I received an urgent plea a week or two ago from the person I believe founded this site - I forget his name - urging me to buy his book about his cancer experience, losing a portion of a limb, and so forth. It was spam in the sense that, although I had corresponded with the guy, it was a broadcast email. That's okay. As I said, I didn't recall him either. The email said I may have known him because he gives inspirational talks. I was going to write back something glib about not wanting to buy a book by an author whose site's name is bad English (it should be Fewer than Four...which also sounds better....I think) but the guy sounded anguished and I doubted he was in the mood for my type of humor.
But it brought to mind a question I've long pondered. Over the past four decades or so I have seen several people respond to disability by making disability a career. One of my old wheelchair basketball teammates started becoming a member of the lecture circuit, such as it is for this sort of thing, after Dow featured him in a commercial using their new prosthetic limbs. Even though I thought it was good to get the word out about the latest generation of "peg legs," and I thought it was also a good idea to counter the negative public image regarding Vietnam vets (he'd lost most of two of his in combat - a huge difference in public perception) I still felt sad for him. I'm not sure why.
Question is, do you feel that giving talks to groups of ABs (the old wheelchair athlete's term for Able Bodied) helps public perception of amps? Is it good for the person making all or most of their living giving these talks or writing these books? Obviously there is no correct answer here.
My qualms involve the tendency I've noticed among ABs to view such lecturers as Doctor Johnson's dancing dog. Samuel Johnson - whose life was famously chronicled by Thomas Boswell in the 18th century - was a Doctor House figure: very nasty wit that contained huge chunks of truth. His remark about a dancing dog was that you don't expect it to do it well; you're simply surprised that it does it at all. After the disabled person gives their inspirational talk they often get an invidious sort of applause and reinforcement....a condescending "Well, good for you!" Is that helpful for either speaker or the rest of us?
There have been some perception shattering books regarding disability. Tommy Sullivan's If You Could See What I Hear in the '70s was a big seller and did a lot to change the perception of sighted people toward blind people at the time. It was even made into a movie. It also helped that Tommy Sullivan was, and still is, possessed of infectious joy and charisma. That book launched a career that continues to this day, though - now in his 60s - he's Tom Sullivan (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Sullivan_%28si...).
We now have a new and large group of war amputees. While they're undergoing rehab at, say, Walter Reed, you have a concentrated group in need of a little or a lot of inspiration. They're young, were members of a very physical culture, have traumas in most cases beyond losing limbs, and are already largely forgotten by a public that's moved on after eight years of war. After they leave the hospital, however, they scatter to all corners of the realm. This is clearly a population that could probably use a good book written by someone who shares their experience and has the talent to inspire with candor and good humor.
For the rest of us, though, I wonder which better serves us: the super-cripple on the lecture or book tour, or each of us doing well apart, and without reference to, disability.
I am more than a little interested in your views on this.