Thursday, May 06, 2004

deaf p'litics

OK mates. Question of the day: Does a Deaf person in a highly publicized role have the responsibility to be as Deaf as possible? I mean as culturally Deaf as possible. Many people would say yes. Their logic is that there are so few Deaf people out there on stage and TV screen that it's necessary for each and every Deaf person to sign fluent and beautiful ASL on the screen and be the penultimate Deaf person.

Aside from the fact that that's an unreachable goal - everyone's going to have criticism - I just find the whole premise false. Who's to say who the "perfect" Deaf person is? Language is a starting point, but not an end, in this discussion - after all, we all weave back and forth between languages, like any other minority group does. Cultural behaviors are a little better, but these vary widely from discrete phyle to discrete phyle.

The person in question is from a strong Deaf background. Went to a Deaf school, Deaf mother, etc., etc. Instead of going to the media and saying, "This is what a strong Deaf background can produce - someone who operates in both worlds," there are people pointing fingers at this man and saying, "He's not Deaf enough." Well, screw 'em; they're not on stage, and they don't want to or choose to operate in both worlds. My friend does, and he does so precisely because he is Deaf enough. Because he gains strength from his Deaf friends and community and a lifetime of history with other Deaf people from whom he's learned a ton of things. It's always, always difficult working on the edge of cultures, in the places between where you can fall off; and all such choices are worthy of respect-both for the long struggle of identity development they require, and the eventual gold they produce.

I have to face similar choices in writing my fiction. Do I follow the political line of what is best for Deaf people, or the moral line of what is best for the character and plot I'm working on? I try to keep the focus on the character, not the politics. This results sometimes in very odd situations and results in my fiction. But I refuse to write straight-edge fiction, about one world or the other: I choose to work in all worlds, where possible. In such a framework partisanship can't survive very long. Only in polarized situations, which are inherently false, can such straight-edge fiction survive. The hope is for gold, and a kind of development both of my identity and the character's.

'Nuff for now. Back to hell and politics.

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