Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Anyone Feeling Passionate?

This is a piece I did for “Audacity,” an on-line magazine about people with disabilities. I’m putting it here in case anyone wondered what I’m passionate about.

Passion means intensity of feeling, as far as I know.

I’ve had a lot of passions—things I have had strong feelings about—over the years. I still have them.

When I was a kid, I felt like some sort of alien, not like other people. Kind of like a Martian somehow shipwrecked on earth. Having a physical disability and spending a lot of time in hospitals and in casts made me different, of course. I didn’t go to school (this was before “mainstreaming”); I wasn’t socialized, and I was raised by my grandparents—back then I didn’t know of any other kid living with their grandparents. I heard a lot about how I was different. So different, in fact, I was told my parents didn’t want me. Now I know they were inadequate and hardly grown up themselves, and addicted to alcohol. I was caught in a messy family melodrama.

Being gimped up set me aside, no matter how hard I tried to avoid admitting that. I really was different. I didn’t belong to a normal family or a normal society. What I lived was a very different reality from what I heard about. What I saw was different from what I heard, too. The world was different than the one I read about and heard about. A lot different.
That hasn’t changed: there’s still a major difference between what I call the official reality and the actual reality. I’m bothered by the difference.

We lead the industrial world in the number of families who need two paychecks. The only country that comes close in the number of people who live in poverty is Canada (US: 17%, Canada 12.6%). We lead the industrial world in the number of children living in poverty—22.4%, as well as the number of people who die of malnutrition. We spend more on health care per capita than the other industrialized countries. Only about 40% of our population is covered by health insurance—about 44 million (in Switzerland, 98% are covered by health care).

America’s—average—infant mortality rate is about 10.5 per thousand births (it’s higher for non-whites). In Sweden it’s 5.9, Norway, 7.9, and 5 in Japan. We lead the industrial world in the number of prisoners per thousand, too—by about 4 times. In Germany, 87% of the voters actually vote; here it’s about 50%.

[And this just in: according to an organization of journalists, the U.S. is tied with Myanmar (Burma) for having the 6th largest number of journalists in jail. ]

I’m passionate about trying to eliminate the difference between the way things are and the way things could be. There’s no good reason for the way poor people’s health care is and the way health care is for the wealthy. A visit to any big city general hospital is like a visit to another world—unless you happen to be poor. Hanging out around a food bank is an education: we’re supposed to be the richest nation in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from the way people line up to get food. America spends more on weapons and defense than the rest of the world put together.

That’s beyond being wrong: it’s ugly and immoral. I’m passionate about wanting to change that.

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