The Clemson Cripmas Party

    "The national leadership of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity says it suspended about two dozen members at Clemson University and removed chapter leaders after the group held a Christmas theme party that raised social tensions at the school.

    "The 'Cripmas' party had students dressed like gang members, wearing red and blue bandanas and T-shirts with images of the late rapper Tupac Shakur."

--- AP news item, 2014

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Those of us who have been disabled for all these many years never duck the word "crip." In fact, we often banter it around with each other, alternating it with "spaz" or "gimp" or "peglegger" (after Stevenson's famous one-legged Long John Silver).

Others, those of you who are not disabled, we refer to as "walkies. Or TABs --- the "temporarily-abled."

Cheers for SAE. Anything, we claim, is better than "handicapped." Or God forbid, "differently-abled."

I must confess that I 've never had problems with the jobless young black men of the streets of Los Angeles stealing this name we bandy about so easily with each other. I only wish they would use it for better ends than shooting down their brothers in the street, often making real "crips" out of those so tragically young.

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There is a commonly accepted literature of disability, most recently represented by Christopher Reeve, Reynolds Price, Ram Dass, John Callahan, Ron Kovic, Andre Dubus. But all such lists should include the more traditional books, ones like "Treasure Island," "A Christmas Carol," "The Phantom of the Opera" . . . and "Richard III" telling of Shakespeare's "hunchback" who is "rudely stamp'd", "deformed," and "unfinish'd". And down-home mean.

And we can't forget "Lady Chatterly's Lover." Recall that Clifford Chatterley was permanently disabled from his "war wounds," and thus couldn't be a Good nor a Loving Husband to his lusty Constance. Which may have forced her to look elsewhere. Like in the garden . . . there amongst pansies and the peonies.

"Cripple" is originally from the Old English creopan, to creep --- a tribute to our brothers and sisters from centuries past who didn't have the advantage of a wheelchair as did Lord Chatterley. Before the coming of the Everest & Jennings or the Quickie II, if you were rich, you would have an army of workers to move you about. If you were poor? Good luck. You got about on someone's back. Or you stayed sitting in one place, perhaps on the street with a cup in hand and a sorrowful look in your eyes.

Or, a worse, you crawled. That's where the word crept comes from.

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If our poorer brothers in Watts favor that name, by my lights they are welcome to it. And with the latest figures on the continued spiraling incidence of spinal injuries in the ghettos due to gang warfare, perhaps the name is more salient than any of us --- or them --- could ever believe (or want).

As far as the brothers at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter at Clemson University being chastised for using the "c" word --- I'd say forget it. Drop the charges, give them a bravo! But make them promise to give a real Cripmas Party this year and every year thereafter. The requirement: they'd have to get about without an arm or a leg, using braces, crutches, wheelchairs, or gurneys, and --- as is the case with many spinal-cord injured --- having themselves fitted up with a breathing apparatus to deliver oxygen to lungs that can but weakly wheeze.

And, yes, with the typical loss of certain muscles of the urinary and reproductive tract in spinal-cord injuries, these young fellows should have the chance to get to know an indwelling penile catheter and, what with our lack of certain voluntary and involuntary muscles in and around the lower intestinal tract, these selfsame frat brothers must commit to what we in the biz call "a daily bowel program."

Let them spend a couple of weeks with that baby.

No cheating allowed: no casting away crutches to race down to the funroom below to get some more booze or pot; no yanking out tubes and caths to make a quick play for the sorority sisters milling about upstairs; no popping out of the wheelchair to run over to the bathroom to throw up.

I suspect that this new and more honorable Cripmas will give these young leaders of America's future a serious --- perhaps even scary --- initiation to the secret rites. The real world of our Special Order of Crips.

An introduction that will never be forgotten during their otherwise long, happy, and prosperous lives.

--- L. W. Milam
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