NO EXCUSES

I was lucky enough to have coffee yesterday with Kyle Maynard. He’s a nineteen year-old congenital amputee with more energy, focus and dignity than most able-bodied people. His book is out this week, aptly titled “No Excuses.” Yep: the guy can bench press 360 pounds, with arms that end at elbow stumps and legs that end where most people have knees. He’s a wrestling champion and the first person I thought of when I met him was Don Rumsfeld. Boy, those two would get along. From the minute I tried to move a couch out of his way, and he simply clambered effortlessly over it, I saw something quite stirring. He answers his cell phone more quickly than I can; he writes with ease and fluency; his eager eyes pierce right through you. Kyle may perhaps represent the best of what might be called the disability movement. He has that South Park mentality that doesn’t try and hide disability or difference, but places it right in front of you. And then – through that fact, not around it – you begin to see the larger dimension of the person. It’s called integration – not avoidance, denial or embarrassment. Of course, I see the parallels with gay people – how the future is being made by people whose gayness is right there on the table, but eventually becomes integrated into an understanding of the full dimensions of someone’s personality and character. Ditto for those with HIV. Kyle believes that his disability shouldn’t prevent him from doing anything he wants to do or anyone he wants to be. But first you have to embrace the disability as a part of who you are – without fear or deflection. Reading his poignant, personal book is a joy. Buy it and try and get to see “Murderball” as well: the astonishing documentary on quadriplegic wheelchair rugby tournaments. I think we have a new moment in disability culture; and it’s a truly inspiring and progressive one.

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