I would just like to moderate the tone here a little bit.
When Matthew Sheppard (sp?), a young gay man, was pistol-whipped, tied to a fence crucifix-style, and left to die, it led to a wave out public outrage against gay bashing. People in the gay and lesbian community were relieved to finally see the larger public finally addressing the issue of gay-bashing. At the same time, however, there was also a lot of frustration and bitterness as well. Gay-bashing had been going on forever, and the public had largely ignored it until something so horrific as Matthew Sheppard’s case came along. So what did that mean for all the other gays who had been murdered across the years–were they just throw-away citizens? And what about the media circus around Matthew Sheppard’s death? Did people really care about him, or was it more the attraction of a freak show?
As I said, there was relief in the gay and lesbian community that the larger community was finally paying attention, but there was a lot of bitterness too.
Okay, so what’s the story on handy and the Gallaudet reference? Is handy just that insensitive? Or might there be something more there? Here are a couple of considerations that should perhaps be kept in mind:
A deaf person is rarely JUST deaf, especially if he has been deaf from birth. For starters, in the latter case, there are usually developmental problems as well, because the infant was deprived of vital input and stimulation (sounds) that other infants get. And that’s just the start of the baggage that comes with deafness. The public is largely ignorant of these things. Most people think deafness is like missing a foot. (you’re missing a foot? get a prosthetic. you’re deaf? learn to lip read.) But it’s not that easy. Deafness is a profound disability, and the public is largely unaware of that.
Gallaudet is not JUST a school for the deaf. I’ve been told in the past that in the hearing-impaired community Gallaudet is a highly controversial subject, and even a lightening rod for debate and criticism. I won’t bother going into all the debates surrounding the school, but there are a number of them: The methods by which it teaches the students; the types of students that attend and the additional disabilities they bring with them; who can attend and who can’t; the administration–should they themselves be hearing-impaired or not?; treatment of the school in the media; and the very location of the school–warehousing vulnerable kids in a crappy neighborhood in D.C. with a high crime rate.
As I understand it, the hearing-impaired community is very aware of Gallaudet and all its significance, and is also very sensitive to the deaths of students there and how the media deal with it.
So I think that accusing handy of insensitivity probably misses the mark a bit. If handy communicates at all with the larger hearing-impaired community, he is probably far more aware of the real issues surrounding Gallaudet and the deaths there than we are.
There’s no doubt that handy crossed the line and made a really tasteless joke. But to take him to task and accuse him of mere insensitivity is to take the easy route. Personally, I would prefer to suspend judgment and just ask him WHY he made the comment. Bitterness? And bitterness at what–the school itself? --or at the public for its treatment of the school, or the tragedy, or the deaf community?
I don’t expect him to answer. That’s not his way. And I don’t particularly like his drive-by style either. But he has a post count of almost 10,000. And although he tends to be a hardass on things, he generally toes the line of basic human decency as much as anyone. The fact that he has chosen this issue to exhibit this level of obtuseness tells me that there’s something more than mere insensitivity at stake. Given all that, I would like to counsel other posters against excoriating handy for insensitivity and just take it on faith that there’s probably a larger story there, even if handy never takes the time to tell it to us.
Maybe I’m being overly soft and sentimental here on both the issue and on handy himself, but I think handy deserves a little more consideration (and fewer insults) from us on this one, at least until we know more about his thinking behind this particular comment of his.