Friday, January 16, 2015

Sympathy? What's That?

I don’t write in my blog enough. I use to, but my depression got the best of me and then I just ended up stopping. Couldn’t think of anything funny to write about. However, even when I’ve got a world of writer’s block in me, people still seem to find my blog and read it. I’m so, so happy about that.

I get people asking all sorts of things, like where an ASL class might be located or if a certain situation really did happen. Some want me to read books and give reviews about them (I’m not so good at that since I really only read non-fiction and most of the books they want me to read are fiction). But sometimes I do get requests to be interviewed. 

In fact, last week I received an email from a teenaged girl who “found” my blog and wanted to know if I would answer some questions to help her with a project at school. Sure! Of course I said yes. Always happy to help where I can. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t be of much help to her. See, her project was to compare the kind of sympathy for the blind with the kind of sympathy for the deaf.

The problem I ran into was that deaf people don’t really get sympathy. Rolled eyes, we get. Frustration. Angry communicators. We get all that. But very, very few people actually feel sorry for us. It’s more of a nuisance to them.

“Hi! I was just wondering if you could come speak with my class about deafness.”

“I’m sorry, what? Can you write that down? I’m deaf and cannot lipread. I need you to write for me.”

“Nevermind. I’ll ask someone else.”

Good luck with that! If you’re looking for a deaf person, you better be ready to write at least some of your conversation. Or repeat it slowly three times. (This, of course, does not include those who lipread like a pro.) Fact is, communicating with a deafie can be difficult. Not always, but often. And people don’t like that. In fact, they hate that! The thing is, deaf people don’t look deaf. You can’t decipher a deaf person from a hearing person just upon looking. So it’s a shock or a surprise or a grenade thrown right in their faces if they find you can’t handle small talk. No thanks. I’m not up to that much trouble. I’ll just move on over to this other person.

And it hurts sometimes. They leave. Sometimes they just turn and walk away without any acknowledgement. Ouch.

The blind, on the other hand, are visible. People can and do sympathize with someone who can’t see this beautiful world. Let me help you across the street. Would you like me to read that to you? What do you need? I can help!

Now, I’m not blind and, in fact, I only know a few blind people, so forgive my ignorance if I’m wrong. But they do get sympathy. I see it all the time. It’s that inevitable question:
If you could be blind or deaf which would you choose? And everyone chooses deaf. Why, “Because it would be easier. At least I can drive (you do drive, don’t you?) and I would have to learn Braille. If I were deaf, I could just learn sign language and everything would be normal otherwise.”

Ha! What’s “normal?” And as a matter of fact, if you learned sign language, who exactly would you be signing to? Are all of your family members and friends going to learn it, too? Will the world be able to cater to you if you know ASL? Dude, you have no idea what you would be getting yourself into.

Anyway, back to the question the teenager asked me (remember her from above?). Compare the two, sympathy-wise. I can’t. They’re two totally separate entities, each with unique and diverse experiences. I’d like to say that no two experiences are alike, but that’s not true. That’s what makes this blog helpful. Other deafies can read it and say, “I’ve been there.” Hearing people can read it and be baffled at how ludicrous the situations are.  Blind or deaf? Who gets more sympathy? There’s no comparison because there’s very little sympathy for the deaf population (though it’s not unfounded in some circumstances).

As for me, I don’t want anyone’s sympathy for my deafness. I am part of a great community of people who have a rich and diverse culture. I’m Deaf. I sign. It’s how I communication. Now, do I miss sound at any time? Hell, yeah! I’d do anything to hear music again or listen to my kids’ voices (of which I’ve never heard). But I don’t need people looking at me like I’m some fragile person who needs to be saved.

I never heard back from the girl after I explained the situation of deaf versus blind. Don’t know if she went to another source to try to find an answer she liked better or if what I gave was sufficient and she needn’t contact me again. That’s OK though. I don’t expect an answer. I do wonder if it surprised her. I wonder if this surprises you. Did you already know or is this news to you? 

1 comment:

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