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Thoughts on Clare (and why I'm not a fan)

Shlomo's picture

Like rachelr, I've been getting a little frustrated with Eli Clare.  I haven't read enough of his book to feel like he is being overly repetitive; rather, my frustrations lie with his attitude.  He consistently makes remarks where I just stop, put the book down, and think, "Really?"  I can't stop thinking about and really being bothered by the following passage:

"At an anti-war protest not long ago, I saw a placard announcing 'An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.'  This slogan is one of many that turns disability into a metaphor, reinforces that disability means broken and is fundamentally undesirable, and ignores the multitude of actual lived disability experiences connected to war.  For folks who know blindness/disability as a consequence of crushing military force, the 'eye for an eye' slogan offers a superficial rationale for nonviolence but no lasting justice.  In response, I'd like to stand next to those anti-war activists and hold a placard that reads 'Another crip for peace,' or maybe, 'Blindness is sexy; military force is not'" (xii-xiii).

I take multiple issues with this statement.  First of all, Clare is correct in thinking that the slogan does not make blindness seem desirable.  But...blindness isn't desirable.  I don't know anyone who wishes to be disabled--have you ever heard anyone say that they wish they were a paraplegic?  However, the fact that disability is undesirable does not mean that disabled people are undesirable.  I can love a disabled person the same way I can love someone without a disability.  

Second, I think Clare is mistaken about the way this phrase might strike people who are disabled because of war.  I think that anyone living in war's wake will be more pleased about this phrase's peace-keeping potential than they will be upset about its stance on blindness.  After all, what is one person's offendedness compared to lives saved (or even one life saved)?

Third, I think Clare's anger is really off-putting.  The fact that he overanalyzes a sign that is about love and turns it into something about hate, then admits a desire to strike back at this signholder--none of that makes me want to read his thoughts on disability or gender.  It frankly makes me want to put the book down and never pick it up again.