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The wheelchair typology of society.

Today’s Fresh Air guest is Amy Schumer.* Fresh Air interviews tend to be engaging, but they rarely range so broadly. At about 32 minutes into the interview the discussion turns to Schumer’s father’s diagnosis and later life living with Multiple Sclerosis and the effect of the two on Amy’s life. At 34:52 in the interview she says

When I’m dating someone, I think, “Would I want to push their wheelchair? Would this guy push my wheelchair?”

This struck a chord with me. A few people like Schumer have the opportunity to see the importance of this question in their youth, but it’s not something which seems to be on the radar screen for most young adults looking to cozy up with a life partner.†

I’m not big on typologies. I’m definitely a splitter, not a lumper. But from here on out I suspect I am going to look at societies in terms of whether Schumer’s question ever has to be or is allowed to be asked. When the nuclear family is at the center of everything there are logistical issues to take into account that aren’t present in the little community. And there are ideological freedoms and constraints to be taken into account. In ancient Sparta, for example, when a young boy seemed unlikely to be on his way to supersoldierdom it was considered perfectly acceptable to turn him out in the nearby hills and whatever fate may have awaited him.

Logistical difficulty and sanctioning ideology don’t have to be an either/or issue, of course. I suspect that some of both contribute to the 90+% abortion rate in cases of prenatally diagnosed Down Syndrome in the United Kingdom. Unconditional love and acceptance aren’t any more of a guarantee for and from those of us living in modern liberal democracies than they were for the Spartans, it would seem.

Matthew Timothy Bradley


* Amy is a distant cousin of (Senator) Chuck. Good to know that someone in that family is making a positive contribution to society.

† Well, actually… if you’re attractive and high-achieving enough you seem to get “s/he’ll stick around after the car wreck” points put in your positive column regardless. On the other hand, if you’ve seen how many points single folks in wheelchairs have in their negative column from the get-go, you know better than to mention the words ‘diabetes,’ ‘endometriosis,’ or ‘bipolar’ on the first date.

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