Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Closing Statement

What can I tell you? This campus is a special place, the people here are special people, and these are extraordinary times. No one knows what the future will hold for the deaf and the not-deaf but one thing is clear: there’s still this moment on which to write that future, to define it, to direct it the way you’d like it to go.

Go high, child! Go to the light!

Can you imagine? I met a man two weeks ago whom, since retiring from the plumbing business in Canada, has spent his time and savings empowering deaf people throughout the third world. His method is ingenious – he’s created a company, Godisa, which designed and makes hearing aids with solar powered batteries. The aids cost a measly 100 bucks, the batteries last for two or three years. Best of all, all the assembly is done in Botswana by signing deaf employees. Their language has graced them with spectacular hand-eye coordination, perfect for fine soldering work.

If that’s not enough, Godisa’s latest factory will open in Jordan and will employ, I kid you not, young deaf adults from Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. Christian, Jew, Muslim -- I can see them now, crossing the borders at dusty checkpoints beneath enormous middle eastern skies peeled of all filter, clocking in, signing excitedly to their workmates, finishing an aid and holding it up and feeling within them that sensational wordless growing, that “yes, I made this,” that “yes, I am of value,” that “I have a purpose,” “I am perfect just as I am," "This world needs me!"

The plumbing executive, by the way, wants no credit or praise. He isn’t deaf, nor is anyone in his family. You see wrong, he says, you have to try and make it right. You have to.

Evenings, the workers walking back home tired and content, buying their families dinner, leaning down to pick up small children who run to greet them. Dogs lope between their heels. They kiss their husbands and wives.

There’s something stirring. In this school, this country, this world. All around are reminders of our possibility. What we could be. The map to the better world has been found. The ships have been loaded. We gather together...

Ho! A stranger smiles at your smile.

And if they say: You’re not good enough; you’re deaf. You’re not good enough; you’re black. You’re not good enough; you’re too young. You’re not good enough; you’re old. You’re not good enough; you don’t understand that this world is a bitter and cruel place. You’re not good enough; your God is worse than mine. You’re not good enough; you…

You’re good enough.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rescue Package

Glued to the news like Pryor to the pipe, who has time to write? The polls, what say the polls? And Lordy, did you hear what that fat woman said at that massive gathering of powerful, self-pitying white people? “I’m scared of the black fella with the funny name. Let’s kill him.”

The crowd’s cheers thundered across the rafters then, reverberating against their pitchforks.

Turn the channel and in minute by minute real-time, you can watch the disintegration of honest lives, the shattering of eggs, nesting and otherwise, the implosion of Iceland, the sheriff come round to evict the entire southern half of Ohio, the world as we know it expiring.

Make way for the $700 billion paddles! Clear! And again…Clear!

“Greed is good,” they told us and we believed them, and bought all the toys, the phones, the doowahickies, the houses and cars bigger than we could ever possibly need. We marched happily along, soldiers of bling, soldiers of fortune, bought apartments and flipped them, bought stocks and shorted them, put it all on the plastic and set that plastic drifting down the river, past the chemical factories spewing untreated waste. Down it drifted into the great big ocean, the great big “not my problem.”

“It’s not my problem.” Want another loan, son? Want another card?

Oh, but we have lived like children! The piper’s due to be paid!


Now, for those of us who have watched our life savings detonate and disintegrate like fireworks at a carnival, please don’t take this the wrong way but….could this maybe be a good thing? Could all this abyss-plunging be not just the final statement on a failed economic policy, but on a failed set of life priorities? We’ve put self before nation, equated the American dream with the bottom line….and maybe that just doesn’t wash! The economy created from that just doesn’t hold! Maybe we’re better than that!

Here at Gallaudet, there’s a community of people that on some days, at some moments, reflects another approach, one that values people before profits and etcetera other hoary clichés of brotherhood – so, naturally, its at the edge of its own abyss, facing extinction. (Now, mind you, I said some days – on others, people here are just as capable of reflexive, bitter, defensiveness, of lashing out at the Faceless Unfair Other Who Doesn’t Understand.) But still, sometimes, such as now in a computer lab full of young men and women with big dreams of a more accepting society, you look around and think: maybe the whole world should be deaf.

Live it all out in silence, brothers and sisters.

Live it out in silence so that we can never forget that the only thing that matters, that the thing were here for is connection, not conquest. The only thing. And when you lie on your deathbed the questions you will be asking yourself are not: who’s going to get the jetski and why didn’t I buy Google back in the day but: did I love well? Did I forgive?

My dearest, was I kind?