Tag Archives: Contemporary Culture

“Me Before You”

I just read a review of the book Me Before You. I had never heard of it before, and the only reason I read the review was because a friend of mine posted it and the title of the article sounded interesting. Apparently there is a movie adaptation coming out in the near future, and based strictly on the plot presented in the article, this story sounds idiotic and evil. I don’t use the word “evil” lightly.

It’s supposed to be about a romance between a quadriplegic guy and his caretaker. He was paralyzed after being hit by a motorcycle and now hates his life. Apparently it is also over-emphasized  how people see and treat him differently. People are invariably awkward or uncomfortable around him. What’s even more problematic is that for one thing, he values himself so little that he is suicidal, and refuses to pursue what could be a loving, fulfilling relationship. It seems to me that he is largely portrayed as a burden or an object–at best, someone to be pitied and nothing else.

Normally I wouldn’t judge a story before I’ve seen the movie or read the book, but this really makes me angry for so many reasons. I was born with Muscular Dystrophy, and I developed epilepsy when I was eight, so my situation is different than that of Will’s (the character in the book), but the problems arising from this portrayal relate to disability in general.

I think it is true that the world sees people with disabilities differently. Sometimes people do pity us. Sometimes people are awkward around us. However, I noticed it a lot more when I was a kid. My peers were awkward. Sometimes I was shunned or excluded from things. However, I don’t think mature adults do this. Maybe it’s because I’m more comfortable with myself, but most of the time I don’t think people even see the wheelchair. They just see me. Often little kids look at me funny because they’re curious and they don’t understand, and I’m not offended. Their parents often try and get them away, so I make an effort to talk to them and act like a normal human being.

The fact of the matter is, disabilities are not something to be pitied. It’s just different. I can’t walk. So what? I am the first of my friends to graduate college. I’m the only one of my friends to have written and published music. I can write. They can’t. After reading the article this morning, I realized something else. If I was paralyzed, I’d have to be even more creative. This spring I took a few months of violin lessons. I don’t play violin the “normal” way because I can’t extend my arms enough. My dad made me a metal bar that fits into a hole in the side of my wheelchair and bends over my legs. I rest the violin upright on the bar, and play it kind of like a cello. My favorite thing is when people tell me I won’t be able to do X, Y, or Z, because I love to prove them wrong. I would love to hear about some of the creative things people with other disabilities have come up with.

I also love the question: “Do you mind if I ask…?” No one knows how to pose the question. They always trail off. I don’t know why, but I like telling people what Muscular Dystrophy is. Then I abruptly change the subject because my disability does not define me. This actually touches on a broader issue. I think, too often, people let small things define them. They sometimes put far too much emphasis on their own sexuality or the color of their skin or their gender or what have you. They do this because the world has done it to them for so long that it’s become second nature. It’s become their defining feature. I recently told my dad that when I was a little kid I hated the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I never had an answer. He said they asked because they were trying to put me in a box.

Our culture loves boxes, and they hate it when one box doesn’t comfortably fit in another. I am not primarily a disabled person. I am not primarily a woman. I am not primarily asexual. I am not primarily white. I am all these things, but I don’t really care about them. What matters to me is that I write well and that I love people, and that means all people, in a real, significant, tangible way. It matters to me that I’m an optimist in a largely pessimistic or even nihilistic culture.

The fact of the matter is, my disability makes certain things difficult. It makes some things impossible. That does occasionally bother me. Because of my MD I will never be able to live on my own. Because of my epilepsy I will most likely never be able to hold down a “regular” job. That’s fine by me. It’s all the more reason to write a seriously awesome novel, followed by many more. Most of my main characters have some kind of disability. I don’t focus on those. I focus on their strengths and their personalities. My story is about how a diverse group of people work together to dismantle a very problematic, illegal government program. The problems presented by Me Before You are all the more motivation to finish this thing and knock it out of the park.

Lastly, I want to focus on something that is of utmost significance. God made me who I am. God made a Katie with disabilities. To tell the truth, I think my faith is much stronger than it otherwise would be because of this. It makes me realize how much I need him, and it makes me realize how close he is to me. It makes me realize how much he loves me and how much he loves all of us. I know for a fact I’d be a very different person had I not had my personal complications. I would probably have different friends, and I might be interested in different things. I’d probably be more athletic. I can’t even imagine all that would be different, and if I could see that version of myself, there’s no guarantee that I would like it. I like who I am now, and if I were offered a do-over, I wouldn’t take it.

To anyone reading this who feels like disabled people should be pitied: Don’t! If you pity us, you obviously don’t know us.

To anyone reading this who feels bad for themselves because of their disability: Don’t! Seriously! It’s a giant waste of your time! Be creative! Be productive! Be happy! There is always something to be happy about! Always!

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

My Enemy (Final Version)

My Enemy
by Katie Rose Curtis

We’ve started dropping bombs on Syria.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others have joined us in the effort to destroy ISIS.
Civilians will die.
Countless civilians have already died.
We will train “moderate rebels” to be our ground forces.
This will take a year.

Israel drops bombs on Palestine.
Palestine fights back;
and that’s not all.
We have never seen the
beginning of war.
It’s all we’ve ever known.

Parasitic.

Cyclical.

We watch it on TV, and change the channel
because we don’t want to see.
But it’s still there, somewhere.

Countless little countries whose names we’ll never know;
who we’ll never bother with because they’re not a trade partner
or a threat,
fight each other;
fight against themselves.

And we pretend we’re sophisticated.
We pretend we’re above it.
We hold conventions
and make movies
and write stories,
But somewhere there’s a riot.
Somewhere there’s a protest gone wrong.

Somewhere a white man has killed a black boy.
Somewhere a mean man yells and beats his wife.
Somewhere a straight man breaks his brother’s heart.

And someone somewhere is alone.
In every high school it’s the same.
There are the ones who hate each other
and the ones who hate themselves.
“Kids are cruel,” they sometimes say
and write it off.
They won’t read between the lines.

Some kids grow up broken and perpetuate the problem,
but the ones who survive
learn to love or die inside.

History is the great master of bitter irony.
It’s hard to deny that the nicest men,
the one’s who want the world at peace:
John Lennon
Martin Luther King Jr.
Christ,
are the first to die.

Someone once asked Jesus,
who is my neighbor?
who is my brother?

And Jesus told him.
Our brothers are the ones fighting far away.
Our brothers are the ones we’ll probably never see
and never agree with.
Our brothers are the ones who, like us,
need love.

But we fight in the name of God.
We’d fight in the name
of all our cousins’ cats if it came down to it.

The Buddhists believe that one should never harm a living thing.
One should love the least of these.

Forgive the people.
Don’t forgive the deeds.
People are wrong.
People are human.
It’s all a matter of degrees.

But the rhetoric is wrong.
We say we have to
fight for peace.
We talk about what it will take to
destroy the enemy.
Destroy,
break down,
eradicate;
these are people we’re talking about,
and I have no enemy.

Gordon, I Love You, But Sometimes…

Last night I saw a story on the news about Gordon College–my college. It was not flattering. The mayor of Salem Massachusetts has broken ties with Gordon; they will no longer be involved with the management of the Old Town Hall. This is because the president of Gordon, D. Michael Lindsey wrote a letter President Obama, along with several other religious organizations, asking to be exempt from a national law that clearly states, no business or organization can discriminate against anyone in the hiring process.

Gordon, along with the others were seeking exemption for religious reasons. Specifically, they were seeking the right to exclude members of the LGBT community from their hiring process. While this is the wish of the president, it is certainly not the desire of many of the students. Christian morality is important, but who defines it? It is both a communal and deeply personal faith, and thus, both aspects must be taken into consideration.

I read an article by Rev. Chuck Currie arguing that it is precisely these types of requests and actions that are in fact opposed to what Jesus taught. By openly requesting that they be allowed to exclude certain types of people, Christian organizations are showing the world that they are unwelcoming and judgmental. Perhaps they are not overtly so, and perhaps on an individual level the people at the head of these organizations are very nice to people of different sexual orientations. However, Currie cites the countless examples in history where religion has been used to oppress a specific group, whether it was women, African Americans or other groups. Now the target group happens to be anyone who isn’t straight.

I personally have a hard time with the issue of sexual orientation. Many of my close friends and family believe that it is inherently sinful because of specific Bible passages. However, these verses refer more to one’s conduct and fidelity than what type of person they are attracted to, in my opinion. Honestly, it just doesn’t seem to me that God would make people of different sexual orientations if they weren’t meant to be. Why would he allow them to happen otherwise? It used to be believed that disabled people were disabled because they were being punished either for their own sins or for the sins of their parents. I don’t know why I’m disabled, but I do know that God wouldn’t have made me if I wasn’t meant to be. God loves me, and he loves my gay friends too.

Many conservative Christians are afraid to give up their traditions. That’s fine. Tradition is great. However, one must be able to reconcile tradition and contemporary culture. Culture shapes religion; or at least it ought to. There are certain standards and beliefs of Christianity that shouldn’t and won’t change based on loyalty, selflessness, kindness and love. if one lives by these virtues, the rest can and should adapt. People tend not to like change. We all get comfortable in our own little worlds with our own ideas about what is right and wrong. The truth is there is only one Right and Wrong, and we’re only capable of knowing a little bit of that Truth. We are told not to judge so that we may not be judged. Obviously there are times when we know something is clearly wrong, but what about when it comes to gay Christians or philanthropic, upstanding atheists? It simply gets too muddled, in my opinion; at which point, I think it’s our job to be friendly and love our classmates, friends, coworkers, and whoever else we are in contact with in our lives.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!