Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on some of the readings for 3/25/2021

Some readings that really stuck out to me for today were Douglas C. Baynton’s “Introduction” from Defectives In The Land and Jillian Weise’s “The Old Questions.”

With his introduction, Baynton touches on and introduces evidence of the negative connotations and stigmatizations associated with society and its views on individuals with disabilities and how they are present in the medical field during the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One piece of this evidence provided to readers is a medical certificate issued to one Delphi, that states “I hereby certify at Delphi, age 23 years, native of India, who arrived this day per S.S. Pennland is a mute and freak and unable to take care of himself.” Following immediately behind this, a second medical certificate is shown to readers. This one being issued to someone by the name of Jugernaut, states that “I hereby certify that Jugernaut, age 16 years, who arrived this day per S.S. Pennland, has loss of arms and legs. He is unable to care for himself.” These word choices and claims that are used by the medical professionals are not only shocking, but they show that the discrimination and negative views of disabled individuals reached all corners at the time. While of course or society has grown past using such words to describe an individual with a disability, Baynton’s piece paints an interesting picture that we can use as a mirror to hold up to our own modern society and see where we not only have improved but where we also have fallen short.

With her poem “The Old Questions”, author Jillian Weise sheds light on how people’s questions can come off as insensitive and be a lot emotionally for her. One such example that Weise provides is when she states “do you sleep with it on? I forgot / there would be this conversation.” Here, Weise not only gives an example of the types of questions she is often times asked, but also provides her response, showing how not only caught off guard she was, but also how she herself doesn’t see her disability as making her different than anyone else, its only the people asking the questions that see her as different. Weise follows this up with “do you bathe with it on? / I need to rehearse answers to these questions.” With this example, Weise is echoing just how often she is asked these invasive questions. In fact, she states that it happens so many times that she should just start to rehearse responses to them. These examples by Weise provide commentary on how we as a society oftentimes ask disabled individuals insensitive questions without even considering how they make the individuals feel. Begging us not only to ask ourselves if we have ever done this, but to also encourage ourselves to not do so anymore if we have.

If anyone has any thoughts on the readings I mentioned above, or even if they want to discuss some of the other readings that we had assigned for today, I would love to hear other people’s thoughts.

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