A week ago I got some water in my left ear and I can hear nothing out of it. I'm deaf on one side. I has been a week of, "Huh, what did you say? Can you speak up?" and craning my right ear forward in the vain hope that a few of the sound waves can be interpreted correctly so I don't look like a dumb ass and am forced to ask someone to repeat themselves again. This is a painful return to my childhood. As a kid I went from one bad ear infection to another as my ears can't seem to drain the slightest amount of moisture and it has cost me some of my hearing permanently.
I know what it means dealing with the hearing impaired. My Dad lost most of his hearing from nerve damage and spent most of his life following the lips of strangers in an effort to keep up with what they were telling him. If they looked away or mumbled, he was lost. Television was almost useless to him as the only shows he could follow were the evening news, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. I can still see him leaning forward in his chair with a hand cupped to his ear in a vain effort to catch Dan Rather tell him how the world had gone to hell today. If he was in a noisy crowd, he would keep looking from face to face trying to decide who was talking and if they were addressing him. You could see the frustration on his face.
He always spoke loudly and clearly and would look you in the eye when he spoke with the hope that you would do the same for him. This is a trait I seem to have acquired.
But while I suffer with diminished hearing, I know I am not alone. There are many others in this country who suffer the same thing, but it isn't caused by a thimble-full of water lodged behind their eardrums or childhood infections. They can't hear because they have filled their ears with messages of hate. They can't hear the cries of those they have hurt or the sound of I love you's spoken in tenderness. These deaf people have forced their deafness on a state and a nation. They have funded a campaign to deny love a place in this world and have passed out earplugs to all who would take them. The lamentations of the couples that they have rent asunder fall on deaf ears as these people crank up the volume on their iPods to a song only they want to hear.
To them I want to shout from a bull horn, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do you not see the hopes of many that you crush beneath your heel? The God you praise loves these people too. Is there no room in your heart for the same compassion that God gives you? Have you learned nothing that Jesus taught?" And while the voice of one lone man crying out, "Injustice!" to a crowd of the deaf means little in the grand scheme of things, I feel compelled to try. I may never return the gift of hearing to the deaf, but perhaps I can teach a few of them to read lips.
I will speak slowly and clearly and look them in the eye as I remind them that this is America, where our inalienable rights that we are endowed with by our Creator are recognized, and our pursuit of happiness is seen as a universal good. Would they sit quietly while their slim chance of happiness is stripped from them? Would they allow themselves to be branded as something less than human and to be treated as a second class citizen?
No, I think not.
So why would they expect others to accept the indignity of being denied the right to a happiness they claim to covet so much?
A while back I wrote an article on George Takei getting married and I mentioned that perhaps I was the wrong person to report this as I am straight, married, and a redneck. Coaster Punchman said, "I beg to differ...it's really important that you continue to speak out on this topic. It's heartening to see the smarter elements of our country embracing this kind of change at a grassroots level." I thanked him for his estimate on my brains but excused myself from the topic as I felt I was talking about something that I had no right to.
Well now I realize that not only do I have the right, I have an obligation to myself, my country, my God, and my fellow man. I cannot be like the priest and the Levite who go on their way and leave the striken man by the side of the road. I must be the Samaritan that shows mercy and kindness to someone I don't know and to leave two silver coins with the inn keeper for his care. My God asks this of me. What does your God ask of you, and can you hear with those earplugs so firmly planted in your ears?
I don't hear very well, but I can hear the calls for mercy and kindness. Can't you?
P.S.- Coaster, send me an address. I want to send you a toaster for you and Poor George. It was the only thing I could afford that I could have engraved. Besides, you are setting up house keeping now and will need these sorts of things. Congrats!
P.P.S.- Should you get the chance, I have some short fiction below I'd like to have your opinion on.