Although she had noticed him from afar, she didn’t recognize her former classmate until she reached the bench he was sitting on.“I haven’t seen you for a long time,” she said, after they exchanged greetings.
“I don’t see you very well now,” he replied. “I’ve lost a good deal of my central vision to macular degeneration.”
“I hadn’t heard,” she said. “Should you be out by yourself?”
“I still have my peripheral vision, so if I’m careful I’m able to get around. But I can’t read signs and I’m not allowed to drive. They say I’m legally blind.”
“I’m really sorry,” she said.
“It’s a lot better than being illegally blind,” he replied.
“I like your attitude,” she said, “It’s not everyone who can be positive about a disability.”
“It may not be a disability,” he said. “It may only be a difference.”
When she didn’t reply, he told her that he’d been learning about deaf culture. He said many in the non-hearing community consider deafness an alternative way of experiencing life.
“There’s nothing wrong with being deaf?” she asked.
“It’s not a condition to be cured or fixed. Rather, it’s the basis of a vibrant culture with its own language and customs.”
“And you think blindness could be similar?
“I don’t know why not,” he said. “Before my eyes changed, I read a news report about anorexics who celebrate their condition. They promote it as a lifestyle and seek recruits.”
“I must mention this to a friend of mine who uses a walker. She laments her lameness. Maybe she should revel in it.”
“It’s a matter of equality,” he said. “We can’t really be equal until everyone recognizes that what some call dysfunctions are just variants.”
“Of course,” she replied. “How stupid of me not to have noticed. The witches inMacBethwho said fair is foul and foul is fair were heralds of egalitarianism and divas of diversity. I used to think they were out of touch with reality.”
“Reality may be optional.”
“And if optional, no longer normative?”
“Freedom from reality may be the last frontier.”
“I’m glad we’re having this talk,” she said. ”I used to think that vision, hearing, nutrition and mobility were good for us and blindness, deafness, anorexia and lameness bad. But if reality is no longer objective and instructive, one is as good as another, and deficiency is equivalent to completeness.”
“If they’re equivalent in sexual unions, why not elsewhere?”
“If we can celebrate procreative deficiency, why not blindness?”
“Blind pride has a lot in common with gay pride,” he said.
“And vice versa,” she added. “Not to mention the dark pride of transgender enthusiasts, who can’t see that when subjective identities are at odds with objective biology they’re disordered”.
By then she was sitting on the bench beside him, where they fell into a pensive silence.
“Isn’t pride one of the deadly sins?” she said at length.
“True,” he said, “and humility is one of the lively virtues.”
“And isn’t pride the denial of reality and humility the acceptance of it?”
“True again,” he said, “but when we cross the last frontier, egalitarianism will reign supreme and pride and humility, not to mention vice and virtue in general, will be equally good.”
“We may be there already,” she said.