Saturday, June 14, 2008

18: Helen Keller - more than just W-A-T-E-R

One thing that's always bothered me is how both Deaf and hearing people view Helen Keller. I see her as a victim of crab theory. Deaf people see her as a traitor. She apparently disdained Deaf people and made efforts to speak, and was friendly with Alexander Graham Bell, who tried to eradicate the Deaf population in America and fought with Edward Miner Gallaudet about how to educate Deaf people.

Hearing people see her these days as a pathetic figure who somehow learned... something. We are often not sure what, because usually they stop talking about her life at the point where she learns to spell W-A-T-E-R. Yet she wrote 13 books; she campaigned extensively on behalf of the poor; she saw blindness as a social issue which could be prevented instead of a moral issue which was decided by God; and she made ties to socialist organizations in America which persisted until her death. To hearing folk, however, she's still just a disabled person who learned to spell.

To my sorrow, most of the 13 are impossible to get and read. But the miracle of Google Books now gives us texts we can even download - not only the ubiquitous "Story of My Life" but "Optimism: An Essay," a poem called "The Song of the Stone Wall" (how closely is this connected to another book titled "No Walls of Stone?",) "The World I Live In" and "Out of the Dark: Essays, Lectures and Addresses on Physical and Social Vision." I hope people read these texts and gain a better picture, a more whole picture, of Helen Keller. She deserves more than just crabbiness.


Greg said...

I could related to your 'Helen Keller' blog. It does happen to me everyday. I truly am tired of seeing most people seeing others by appearances and disabilites. Your blog just brought me back all of my memories of how I was being treated as a deaf person and saw what and how one group treated another group. I always kept (still keeping) thinking and tried (still trying) to understand a relevance to their reasoning of the importance of appearances, disabilites, and perhaps 'tribes' to one's group. I only believe that we all came alone, meaning individual. So with that being said, I feel that still of this century, it would take, maybe, another century to stretch one's mind to see more than the word 'water' that Helen Keller learned how to fingerspelling.
I as a deaf person am always learning how to shift in a strange land like I did three months ago. I had to get a job, and I was their first deaf employee. I had to get them to see beyond my deafness and showed them that I don't have that kind of limitations but that limitaions. Everyone has its limitations but learning to include them through love. I hope that last line does make sense to public's eyes. :-)

Anonymous said...

one db friend told me many dbs do not think high of her. interesting pov from db.