–Brian Martin details how labels shouldn’t deter people away from achieving their peak potential.
My mother and father gave birth to me in a Tijuana hospital. They’d said I came out blue because I’d been tangled in my umbilical cord, and doctors were certain I was retarded because of how long I’d been choking—“But,” said the doctors, “you’re infertile, Minerva. Even if the child is retarded he’s still a blessing.” This was the first diagnosis I’d ever received–“possibly retarded but irrefutably miraculous.” And I understand it may be difficult to read his diagnosis past “retarded’ or ‘”infertile”, and that you want to apologize for me, or him, but understand that by choosing to limit his diagnosis to disabilities or apologies you’ve blocked out the beauty of what he’s saying: the doctor had the choice to apologize, but by apologizing he knew he would built in the tragedy, he would’ve made me into some helpless vegetable, which is what science told him I was. Whatever science said I was, all he could see was a woman who shouldn’t be giving birth give birth—if anything that child is an angel. It’s our greatest power as humans to take a situation or an object and, for better or for worse, endow it with meaning. So I’m baffled as to why we put such effort into cynicism when we have the option to do otherwise. It can’t be pleasurable taking miracles and dissecting them until there’s nothing but blood and guts to cry about—if a kid is dangling by the cord around his neck, you’re really gonna sit there upset about the inevitability of his fate? Or are you going to untangle him? That’s our choice, every day we speak, or hear, or think.
Everyone out of the womb could be diagnosed with anything and we’d accept it; the way we worship science today, if a physician tells you your kid is a unicorn you won’t bat an eye to go find him a unicorn specialist to treat his sickness. And a lot of kids do get diagnosed, and their parents make a retard out of ‘em, and they end up with the rest of their lives noosed by a label around their neck that reads “tragedy.” These babies grow up to be people who can’t read a book past “nigger” ‘cause they can’t bare the world being anything else but what’s written on that label, so there’s no way Huckleberry Finn is anything but a racist book about a racist time period, and I hate racism so I hate Huckleberry Finn and everyone who likes it. Sometimes I wish I could lay back and drown in that cynicism, like an ocean of Novocain reaching around my neck and pulling me under the tide. I’d watch the light of the sun get smaller and smaller, sinking deeper and deeper into a depthless black until I had to doubt the light was ever there to begin with. I want something to hold me and tell me that everything is awful and there’s nothing I can do to change it, because then there’s no pressure or responsibility. But I can’t do it. I grew up with the sun cradling me in a smile, my mother saying, “Brian, you’re lucky to be alive… I remember when you were born, you came out blue, and…” I was born of the light, like every other living thing, and there’s no way I could sever that part of me. By attempting to do so, by falling to cynicism, I’d be creating a reality so abstractly evil I’d be frozen in a constant expectation for disappointment—every morning will rise with an absence of light, with an iron lung made of black matter so heavy we can’t lift our head from the pillow. If we were demons, we could lift our heads, and run, and thrive in the blackness. But we’re angels. Born in the light of silver linings, we can only exist bathed in sun and gasping for air.
So I look at the world the way the doctor looked at me, tangled in my umbilical cord, as “Possibly retarded but irrefutably miraculous.” And I can’t stop seeing beauty in every dying thing I see.
—article by BRIAN MARTIN