SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
June 30, 2019

Faking It

 

When I was younger, twenty, thirty years back, I was in a perpetual rage. Everything pissed me off—government, religion, people, cars, nature, music, art, myself, food, plastic, everything. Put anything in front of me, and I’d hate it like I’ve hated nothing else.

            Over time that became exhausting, and cooled into a simpler and less strenuous contempt and world weariness. Not that there isn’t still plenty to rant about (especially now), but old men screaming about how much everything sucks all the time are just tiresome. But there’s one thing without fail that still lights that fuse of instantaneous murderous rage, and people who’ve been around me when it happens know this.

            Every now and again strangers—assholes, the undereducated and willfully ignorant—will see me doing something (like going to the post office by myself) they feel I wouldn’t be able to do if I was really blind. They therefore conclude I’m just using the cane and running into trees to get pity, and take it upon themselves to accuse me to my face of faking the whole thing.

            When my first book came out, one of the earliest user reviews posted on Amazon was from some dullard who, having seen me walking down the street without the cane a few years earlier, loudly and proudly proclaimed I therefore wasn’t really blind. I’m sure he was very pleased with himself for having pointed this out to the world.

            (If your question at this point is, “How fucking stupid do you have to be to think faking blindness was a good idea?” see below.)

            I’ve never been terribly righteous or sensitive about disability issues, but there’s just something about that one thing in particular that splits an atom in my brain, setting up an unstoppable chain reaction. I’m not the only (bona fide) blindo who reacts this way.

            Not long ago my friend Andy, who is also blind, was on his way home from the bar when he decided to stop and get a dollar slice at a place in his neighborhood. While doing so, he was confronted by an asshole who, believing no actual blindo could go into a shop and buy a slice of pizza by himself, likewise accused him of not really being blind. It’s something we’ve both been encountering far too often for far too long. Andy exploded on the guy in a torrent of obscenities. The encounter left him shaken for a day afterward.

            Like Andy, I’ve gone all apocalyptic on these simpletons far too many times to recount, and I can’t admit I’m proud of it. Homicidal rage is probably not the best response in a situation like that. I mean, I encounter assholes and the merely stupid every fucking day, hear all sorts of asinine, dull-witted drivel spill out of their mouths, and have no trouble ignoring it. Some people you simply aren’t going to be able to educate on a street corner no matter how patiently you try. But that special breed of asshole who feels compelled to step out of his own self-deluded bubble of shit to call out a cripple is someone I can’t let slide. I think part of the reaction in that specific situation arises from frustration. How can you convince these people they’re wrong, that you really are blind? You can’t very well invite them to inhabit your consciousness for a few minutes to see what it’s like for themselves. Or maybe it’s just a reaction to witnessing such blinkered human ignorance at it’s most moronic and personally invasive. And the uncontrollable violent reaction likely only sends them away thinking I’m protesting too much.

            There was a time, I think, when I was able to calmly respond to my accusers, regardless of what their motivations might have been.

            A woman stopped me on a street corner once and started asking a few of the basic blind questions, which I answered patiently. Then she said, “but you’re not really blind. You’re looking me in the eye.”

            Keeping the fire under control by breathing deeply, I explained, “It’s an old habit. I could see once, so I know how faces are laid out. I can hear your voice, and so know where your eyes are in relation to your mouth. But trust me, just because my eyes are pointed in your direction doesn’t mean I’m seeing you.”

            Fortunately for both of us she seemed to accept that. Going ballistic on her wouldn’t have helped my case at all,

            Two or three times now while I was on the stoop having a smoke, my neighbor Pete (who is not a small man) has crept quietly up to the gate and stood there silently for a minute, just to see if I’d notice him. When I didn’t, he said, “Wow, you really can’t see me, can you?”

            I never got pissed at Pete for this game of his, because I never got the impression he ever doubted whether or not I was really blind. Maybe a few of the neighbors were suspicious but would never say anything to me directly, and asked Pete to check it out. Whatever, it was annoying, but at least he got his evidence.

            I’ve had eight-year-old ruffians accuse me of faking it because they saw me blink as I passed them on the sidewalk. Before throwing them into the speeding two-way traffic I wanted to explain that even though I couldn’t see thanks to a genetic glitch that’s decimated my retinas, my eyes still get dry, and I still get shit in them I need to blink away. Realizing that trying to offer rational explanations to ruffians was pointless, I just gave them the finger and kept walking.

            I’ve also had adult strangers flutter their hands in my face to see if I would blink. I didn’t bother trying to explain that sensing something flutter that close to my face—there is a breeze, after all, and a flash of shadow that might be a low tree branch or a pigeon—would result in a reflexive action. Better to simply break a few fingers. And I’ve had people online say, in all apparent seriousness, that if I’m not wearing dark glasses, then I’m not really blind. I’d never thought of the condition as a matter of proper fashion sense, but I never thought I’d be living in a world this dumb, either.

            Think about it, can you imagine someone saying, “Well, you’re not really Jewish,” or “You’re not really black”?

            Hmm. Even as I was writing that, I suddenly realized that yes, of course, both accusations are made every day, though mostly from within the extended community itself. So never mind.

            The problem is, in my case, and Andy’s, and so many others, the accusations have become much more prevalent in recent years. It’s become so commonplace, even expected, I no longer fucking care to take the time to try and explain a condition to an ass wipe who isn’t interested in listening anyway. It’s so much easier to land a baseball bat across their temple repeatedly, and would likely do more good.

            So then the question becomes, why are there so many people who suddenly feel compelled to accuse me of not really being crippled despite all the evidence to the contrary? What kind of ugly soul does that require? I mean, if cripples make you uncomfortable, fine. They make me uncomfortable too. But if that’s the case you just stay the fuck away from them, you don’t go up and harass them, pointing fingers and saying they aren’t what they appear to be. What—and this is a serious question—are they trying to prove to themselves? Do these same people approach paraplegics and say, “Oh, you’re not really missing your legs”?

            I think there may be two explanations for why this has become such a problem.

            It was only inevitable, I guess, that after transgender and transracial, we’d witness the emergence of what is calling itself the “transabled” community. I’ve ranted about them before, these sad and pathetic creatures who, despite being perfectly abled, insist on pretending they’re crippled simply to bask in all the pity they feel they deserve. So they roll around in wheelchairs or pretend to be deaf or walk around with white canes and, yes, dark glasses. All the standard signifiers they’ve seen in pop culture. You have to wonder if these fuckers have paused even a second to think (though I doubt it) what kind of effect their cheap play-acting might have on the rest of us who are legitimately handicapped. They haven’t received quite the publicity the transgender or transracial crowds have, but still—if I was normal and heard about this nonsense, then yeah, I might start looking a little askance. Especially those who seem normal in every other way.

            (Quick detour here. I’ve had several people stop me in the store to ask, in a non-accusatory way, how it is I could find a case of the specific beer I was looking for without help. I then show them that what I’m looking for is in the fifth cooler down from the wall, bottom shelf all the way to the right. I further point out that the bottles of each brand have a unique design, and furthermore the cardboard carrying cases are different as well, with a specific texture and handle configuration. Point all that out to them, and it usually does the trick. Thank you.)

            I suspect the infiltration of the transabled fools is the lesser of two possibilities. A more likely explanation is the cultural shift that began in 2016, with a presidential candidate who didn’t think twice about mocking a disabled New York Times reporter in front of a cheering bloodthirsty mob of thousands. His victory only opened the door, leaving the more boneheaded among us feeling justified in giving their darker psychic impulses free reign. Suddenly it was okay again to openly express your hatred of cunts, spics, kikes, niggers, faggots and cripples, all of whom, were less than human.

            We’re now living in a nation of trolls, psychological thugs just looking to do or say what they can to get a rise out of people, especially those they consider vulnerable. All the more reason to keep my cool and not feed them. Of course those they can’t get a rise out of, they beat.

            The administration’s successful ongoing effort to dismantle the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) only further justified this perception by once again stripping us of the civil rights we’ve enjoyed for, well, almost thirty years now. If we’re not really human after all, why would we need civil rights? You don’t see horses or goldfish with legislated civil rights, do you?

            Oh, Christ, I’m slipping into the righteous. I’m sorry, but you see the kind of effect these fuckers have on me? And just try to find a dealer who’d sell a blindo a semi-automatic handgun.

 

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