The Whiplash of Audism

by Donald Grushkin (2011)

[Accessed 25 August 2011 from Deaf Echo
Used by permission of the author © 2011]

  1. Two by two, they filed into the Temple of Audism, these hopeful Supplicants to the God Locutus.
  2. Within, they met the Oracles of Locutus, with their full beards and smarmy smiles.
  3. "Your Child shall be healed," the Oracles cried. "But first, thee and he must drink from the River Lethe."
  4. "Its waters shall help you and him to forget."
  5. "For forget, he and thee both must, that he cannot hear."
  6. "Forsooth, ye shall forthwith refer to him only in words pleasing to Locutus: 'Hearing Impaired,' 'Auditorily Handicapped,' 'Communicatively Disordered,' 'Hard of hearing,' 'Severe-profound hearing loss,' 'Amplificatorily Challenged."
  7. "But eschew ye the blasphemous word 'Deaf,' for it has the power to mitigate the effects of the River Lethe."
  8. Eagerly they drank, and spooned it into the mouth of their trusting, unknowing Child.
  9. "Very well, now thee may begin to honor the God Locutus by offering your Child up to Him."
  10. "Never allow thy Child to use his hands, except to work and for personal grooming, for this shall make him unclean in Locutus' sight."
  11. "Never allow thy Child to see anyone use their hands in improper ways, for this shall make his mind unclean and unfit to live in eternity with Locutus."
  12. The Supplicants pledged their fealty to the Creed of Locutus, and instantly they were transformed into True Believers.
  13. The years passed, and the Supplicants remained true to the Audist's creed.
  14. Daily, nay, thrice daily they raised their orisons unto Locutus.
  15. "Ball," "Ball," "Ball," they intoned.
  16. And lo! Their Child began to speak, and forthwith the Supplicants transformed into Acolytes of Locutus.
  17. "Can I have a popicle?" the Child asked.
  18. "Ssssss. Popsssssicle."
  19. "Popicle."
  20. "Popsicle."
  21. The hours passed, until at length, the Child asked, "Can I have a popsicle?"
  22. "No, thou may not, Child, for it is now bedtime."
  23. And the Child felt a strange stirring in his soul.
  24. The months passed, and the Holiday season came around.
  25. The Acolytes' brothers and sisters and their children all came to revel in the Holiday cheer.
  26. They gathered in the Large Room to eat, drink, and be merry.
  27. Eagerly, the Child joined them, for he wanted to be part of his family.
  28. One Acolyte covered her mouth, another mumbled. An Acolyte's brother turned his head in mid-sentence, while the other Acolyte responded to some random comment from across the room.
  29. The Child gazed in bewilderment. Suddenly, the room erupted in laughter.
  30. "What's so funny?" the Child asked.
  31. "It wasn't that funny," came the response.
  32. And the stirrings in the Child's soul grew stronger.
  33. Still, the Child attempted to catch snippets of the conversation. Tendrils of words and phrases floated in front of the Child's eyes. Yet, the Child could not catch most of it.
  34. "What did thee say?" the Child asked the female Acolyte.
  35. "It's not important," the Acolyte answered.
  36. The stirrings started turning into a rumble.
  37. "What did he say?"
  38. "I'll tell thee later," the Child was told.
  39. Patiently, the Child waited. A few hours later, the Child asked again: "What did he say?"
  40. Came the reply: "I forgot."
  41. The rumble grew louder.
  42. Still, the Child persevered. A word here. A tantalizingly nearly complete sentence there. The Child's brain worked feverishly to complete the sentence. Meanwhile, the conversation had moved on to new tracks, and the Child was once again lost.
  43. "I CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT'S GOING ON!" the Child wailed.
  44. "Thou art not trying hard enough," the Acolytes admonished. "Thee must try harder."
  45. The Child blinked. Had he not already been trying his hardest to follow?
  46. The rumble became a roar.
  47. The months and years passed, and the same scene repeated itself in umpteen permutations.
  48. "I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT ANYONE'S SAYING!" the Child exclaimed.
  49. "Don't make a scene!" the Acolytes chided. "Thou art making us uncomfortable."
  50. Suddenly, the Child realized what had been happening while he felt the stirrings and the rumblings: the River Lethe's effects had been slowly eroded and washed away.
  51. "They tried to make me forget," the Child thought. "But I remember! I remember! I AM Deaf!"
  52. The next year, the clan gathered for the annual Holiday revels. This time, the Child listened to his soul. After making the mandatory greetings, the Child took refuge with a book.
  53. "You're being antisocial," the Supplicants scolded. "Thee must be one of us and with us!"
  54. In vain, the Child tried once again, and met with the same results.
  55. Several more years passed, and the Child's Deaf soul asserted itself more strongly. He approached the Acolytes.
  56. I wish to learn the Language of the Hands. I want to be with my own kind," he said.
  57. "Nonsense," the Acolytes replied. "We are your kind, and verily, to use the Language of the Hands will render thee unclean unto Locutus!"
  58. As the Child had no choice, he grudgingly acquiesced. Yet, in his heart of hearts, he knew this desire was what he truly needed.
  59. As the Child reached the age of majority, he began to venture forth, seeking others of his kind. At long last, he met one, and was introduced to others. He began to learn the Language of the Hands.
  60. As he grew stronger in the Ways of the Deaf, he returned to the Acolytes. This time, he was not alone, for other Deaf were with him. Joyfully, they conversed in the Language of the Hands, while the Acolytes helplessly looked on.
  61. "Rude!" one Acolyte scolded. "Thou art not including us in your conversation!"
  62. The Child stared expectantly.
  63. The conversation between the Child and his newfound peers continued. After a particularly witty jest, the small group burst out in laughter.
  64. "What was so funny?" an Acolyte asked.
  65. "I'll tell thee later," the Child replied.
  66. "Impossible!" the Acolyte snapped. "Later never comes, for Later always becomes Now!"
  67. At that, the Child just nodded knowingly.
  68. Another burst of laughter. The question came again.
  69. "It wasn't that important" came the response this time.
  70. "If it wasn't important or good, then why was it good enough to laugh at?"
  71. Again, the Child nodded.
  72. The years passed, and the Child became more secure in his identity. One day he returned to see the Acolytes, adorned with symbols of his clan.
  73. "Thou art now becoming a militant!" the Acolytes warned.
  74. "Other Peoples wear symbols of their ethnic pride," the Child replied. "Why then, should it be wrong for me to wear mine?"
  75. More years passed, and the Child decided to cast his story out into the world, so that others might not share his fate.
  76. "Thou art embarrassing us and all those of us who worship Locutus!" the Acolytes scolded.
  77. "Why does Locutus deserve respect?" came the rhetorical comeback. "Locutus has proven to be a false God, and thou hast been led down a false path by your unswerving obeisance to His tenets."
  78. "We did right by thee, and Locutus did right by us," the Acolytes answered.
  79. The Child and the Acolytes stared at each other, their worlds and planes of existence having diverged into a vast, unbridgeable chasm, and never would the twain meet again.