My own response to Allison Kaftan's "Silent Hands Sculpt Epitome of Beauty... Not," with a nod to the Deaf Pagan Crossroads.
ME (after being told how beautiful my sign language was): Do you know there's over 100 different signed languages?But then there's:
HEARING PERSON: No, really! That's amazing!
ME: And few of them make any sense to each other, they are all completely different.
HEARING PARROT: That's so stupid! Deaf people should only have one language!
ME: You would destroy that much beauty? (Walk away)
DEAF PARROT, SIGNING VERY FAST TO SHOW HE CAN: Me use only ASL! No English! English hard!OR:
ME: Well, yes, but they're both languages, and therefore English is as beautiful as ASL, just sorta... leaky. Dribbling.
DEFF PERRAULT: But ASL have own grammar, own structure, own vocabulary, etc., etc., same English! (smiles, as if he's proved a point)
ME (pause): So... why is English so much harder? Do you know any OTHER signed languages? What do you think of BSL? LSF? If we're a cultural group do we still have the right to demand interpreters under the Americans with *Disabilities* Act? But then don't we gain rights under language charters? My point is, if we're saying we're a culture and a language group, don't the boundaries change?
DEAF MAN: No! Because we're Deaf! We have to have rights!
ME: So we need a totally new group, because we're not disabled, but we're not just a culture, either? (And maybe we do.)
HEERING PEEPUL: ASL! (siiiiiiigh) So pretty!And then there's:
RAINMOUND: Can I tell you a story about sign language?
HERRING PURPLE: Sure!
RAINMOUND: Do you know in the old days signed languages were the inspiration for what we know as magic? Witches knew signed languages. They were wise old women and healers who would go round the country and be nosy and check on people, and being nosy and intelligent they could talk to Deaf people. Witches would meet the poor Deafie in the woods and bring him food and dance with him and sign with him, and the jealous townspeople would say, See that witch, she goes to speak with the Devil, the duyvil, the Deaf-ill, the Deaf man, we must burn him, we must end her, we must drown her heart... They hated the nosy old ones who were smarter than they were and far more pitiless so they said, knowing perfectly well the truth, that the moving hands were witchy gestures, and they had their excuse and burned the scary gesturing witch but they never caught the Deaf man, who ran naked through the woods and through the high alcoves of roaring trees.
Deaf people never forgot the witches, and the witches never forgot the Deaf, and even today Deaf people are blessed always with the wonder of a witch's last dance, all because they could speak our language, all because these hands had meaning... and witches, even on television, still twitch their noses and wave their hands...
DID THEY EVEN UNDERSTAND?: But... sign language is SO beautiful!
DEAF WOMAN: I not trust VP (videophone) interpreter, no! But I want to communicate in my sign language!And so, to quote Kurt Vonnegut: And so it goes.
ME: But you have to accept that not all hearing people have VP. Suppose you accept go ahead VP, must accept ASL interpreter will see your SSN number!
DEAF WOMAN: No, no, no, me not accept, no! Must direct VP to bank with my beautiful sign language!
ME (exasperated:) Fine. How you think the bank person will understand you, with your beautiful sign language?
DEAF WOMAN (pause): Can they get an interpreter?