Oscar Pistorius is a gimp. A crip. A handicapped man with an attitude. He’s also what’s known, in disability circles, as a super-crip. This is a somewhat pejorative label as it gives the rest of us a bad name–by and for the mainstream abled community. Super-crips make the rest of us look like slackers, like lazy no-goods out for a hand-out: if he can do it, why can’t you?, ask the able-bodied.
Let me here engage in blonde sorority girl ingenuousness: Well du-uh! Is anybody home?
From one gimp to a whole bunch of able-bodied people: Can you do what Michael Johnson did? Can you do as well as Wilt the Stilt? Are you Bret Favre? How about Ronaldinho, can you play like him? No. Of course you can’t. Why? These people are exceptional. . .and you’re not. You’re just average. Like most disabled, very many of whom are ex-military.
The very worst athlete you see on TV is better than any athlete you’ve ever met.
So, if you can’t do what these athletes can do, why do you expect all crips to perform like super-crips, the exceptions to the rule?
Prejudice. Pure and simple.
We’re a sign of the fragility and meaninglessness of life. We are the embodiment of your life-fear: there but for the grace of God go I. So. . .God’s grace has been taken from the disabled and it’s therefore A-OK to ignore the disabled, want the disabled out of the way, treat the disabled poorly, as if they’re something less? Why is it they have to fight so hard for inclusion in this society? Where’s the humanity?
And now that a super-crip can perform at the level of an able-bodied exception, the prejudice surfaces with a vengeance. Why? Because a gimp is as good as a non-gimp and that makes the abled look like they’re less than they are. You think? And, by God, he can’t do that to us!
In reality, all Oscar Pistorius has done is overcome a handicap that most normal and, probably, most exceptional people could not overcome. And that pisses y’all off. Who the hell does he think he is, acting like a normal person? He’s a fucking crip! He belongs on the sidelines, living a bare subsistence life, dependent on the pity and piteous welfare of peoples and governments, living in holes in the wall or nursing homes–just damn well anywhere but out in public and independent. Yeah?
What an insult, what an embarrassment Helen Keller was to the abled community. Yeah?
Homer (blind). Milton (blind). Beethoven (deaf). Goebbels (club foot). Henry VIII (club foot). Cher (dyslexic). FDR (post polio syndrome). Abe Lincoln (manic-depressive). Lord Byron (club foot, manic-depressive). Lord Horatio Nelson (blind in one eye). Sarah Bernhardt (one leg). Steven Hawking (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). Walt Disney (learning disabled). Miss America 1995, Heather Whitestone McCallum (deaf). Deafy Hoy (baseball pitcher who invented umpire signs). Curtis Pride (baseball outfielder). The great NFL running back John Mackey (one leg shorter than the other). Moshe Dayan (blind in one eye).
Why is it that a disabled person must out-perform any and all abled persons in order to gain respect and recognition? Why is it when he does he is suddenly not allowed to compete? Why? Because he’s too good. And his disability shows. His adjustment to disability and his will to perform, no greater than any other exceptional athlete’s will to perform, is right out in the open.
What an insult to Michael Johnson if Oscar “Gimp” Pistorius even ties his record–a record gained by specially rearranging Olympic events so Johnson could perform at such a high level. Pistorius isn’t asking the Olympics for anything special to enhance his performance.
Oh! There’s the key word: enhance. Performance enhancing drugs disqualify you from the Olympics. Performance enhancing drugs for the able-bodied. Performance enhancing drugs that raise the ability of the abled above their natural capability limits. Since cheetahs enhance Legless Pistorius’ performance, he can be eliminated, too. Right? Well. . .he’s not normal able-bodied to begin with so. . .is it the same kind of enhancement? No. But it doesn’t matter: he’s a crip out-performing most able-bodied athletes and we just can’t allow that. Y’know?
So. . .the Olympic Committee gets together and in their able-bodied sagacity and prejudice ruminate over the matter. They decide to do a simulation. That simulation proved to them that, yes, Gimpy Pistorius’ cheetahs are an enhancement because he doesn’t have to put out as much effort as an able-bodied man. Let’s forget that he doesn’t have the legs to do what an able-bodied man could do to begin with, yeah?
But there’s a problem here. As Karl Popper points out in Conjectures and Refutations, simulations will always prove what you are setting out to prove because of the way the experiment is set up: with prejudice, with the desired end in sight. This, he says, proves nothing. If you want to prove a theory–and it is only a theory that Pistorius’ artificial limbs are performance enhancers in the illegal Olympic sense–you must try to prove that that theory is wrong. If you can’t, then, at least for the moment, you’re right. A simulation does not prove a theory at all; it proves a preconceived notion, a prejudgment. . .a prejudice.
A disabled person performing at the level of world class able-bodied athletes is untenable. It’s unheard of. Until now. Well, at least for the Olympic Committee members. They’re not up on their sports history: asthma is a disabling disease and many Olympic athletes have asthma yet they are allowed to compete even though they are taking medication that contains the performance enhancing drugs known as “steroids” and “speed.” All they have to do was tell the Olympic Committee they were taking this drug for their asthmatic condition, their disease, their disability. Pistorius doesn’t have to tell anyone of his performance enhancer–that an able-bodied man could not use–because it’s visible to all and sundry. Steroidal anti-asthmatic medication allows a person to perform beyond his normal capability; so, too, Pistorius’ cheetahs. What’s the difference? Well, I think you can see need. And the man’s got no lower legs. And he can run. And he has overcome his disability to such an extent that he can perform at world class able-bodied level. Those asthmatics couldn’t without their drugs. So, what’s the difference?
After all. . .a disabled man can’t do as well as an abled man, right? I mean, he isn’t supposed to be able to. I mean, we can’t let this happen. Can we? A disabled man as good as. . .me?
On what grounds? Able-bodied prejudice. Fear. Fear of failure: a crip can do what a non-crip can’t. It doesn’t matter that we do what the abled can’t do every day: listen to yourselves. . .I’d hate to be like that, I could never. . . .
The Olympic Committee has effectively taken the disabled agenda to the international arena where everyone can see their narrow-minded, dismissive, segregationist attitude, the attitude that keeps us marginalized, inferior and worthless.
Oscar Pistorius asks for recognition and the OC, able-bodied athletes and the press spit in his face.
George Washington couldn’t have won much of anything if it hadn’t been for his two disabled officers. Yeah. Get that: the Father of the USA needed crips to be a winner.
JAMES L. SECOR is a writer dramatist and professor of literature at Shaoxing University, Shaoxing China. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.