Monday, July 14, 2008

A Phoenix Shall Rise from the Ashes of DBC

From Aidan's calling out closet anti-ci people to Patti's repeated pleas for peace, some might call the recent discourse on DeafRead madness. From my point of view, this fits perfectly with Joseph's interpretation of Deafhood. We might fight and scream and hurl insults at each other, but in reality this is part of the process, although painful at times, of finding our identity as a community during these changing times. The advent of CIs have forced us to reexamine what it means to be deaf. Does it mean deaf-mute, or can we hear and still be deaf?

This reminds me of parenthood. As a parent, I am constantly wrestling with choices- to vaccinate my child or not, to give my child a CI or not, to spank my child or not. Regardless of the choices we make, parenthood is a journey without an end. In this sense, the battles raging in DeafRead significantly contributes to the shaping of our American deaf community, especially what the community does with those who are deaf but can hear with CIs.

Whether the deaf community likes it or not, we are slowly evolving into a signing community. We no longer will need to base our membership on the degree of hearing loss, but on whether we know ASL or not. ASL is the key- ASL holds our community together. As long as there is ASL, there will always be a deaf community.

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Adam said...


"As long as there is ASL, there will always be a deaf community."

You approach perilously close to arguing that ASL does not need deaf people. I can certainly imagine ASL as a dead language, like Latin. Just because Latin exists, doesn't mean there is still a Latin-speaking community beyond the academic world.

And for that matter, how can you suppose that simply having a sign language means people will keep giving birth to deaf people? Sign language causes deafness?

Contrast your above quote with Veditz's:

"As long as we have deaf people on earth, we will have sign language."

I don't know. I'm more inclined to believe Veditz than you. I would much rather believe that deaf people lead to sign language, and not the other way around. Read Margalit Fox's "Talking Hands" for evidence supporting Veditz's assumption.

Please do not forget that deaf people form the heart of the signing community!

AL said...

Adam, good point- I think I meant deaf community in a community sense, not in a physical sense of having a hearing loss. The sense of deaf community that we have right now is strong because of ASL, as ASL is at the heart of the deaf community itself.

Adam said...

I see what you mean. In that light, I agree with you, then. Something like, "As long as we have deaf people, we will have sign language. As long as we have sign language, we will have a deaf community."

Works for me! :-)

AL said...

I just reread what you wrote and what I wrote- interesting, what is the heart of the deaf community? Deafness (yes, the medical term) or the language? I dont know. I know both are important. We haven't found a cure for deafness yet, and I hope we never have to find out which one is right.

Native ASL/CI parent and child said...

Beautifully said. Thank you for being my advocate, being my ASL CI child who-can-hear-but-is-still-deaf's advocate, and for the rest of the majority of today's deaf children's advocate.

As long as we have deaf children, there will be ASL!

Off the point: My ASL/oral son will have a playdate with an oral bilaterally implanted friend from an oral summer camp. That kid will be exposed to an ASL environment at our home.

Im so excited.

Hey, that boy is doing great as an oral kid, but itll be his first opportunity to experience ASL.

Anyway, thanks for the blog.

AL said...

na/cipc- glad you liked it. I thought of this while washing the dishes, as I was digesting what had been said over the past week or so during and after the DBC conference. It has been spellbinding for me, watching all of these v/blogs about DBC, deafhood, and of course especially CIs in the deaf community. Ella Mae Lentz's words in the newspaper lit a fire in the deaf community- for good or bad, time will tell. About the title- I don't mean DBC is dead, only that it is burning. Again, time will tell what kind of direction DBC will take from now and on.

Native ASL/CI parent and child said...

Hey AL ,KL, and the ASL/CI Community,

I have something for you, a question from Dr. Don Grushkin's vlo titled "Horizontal Violence" written by Mr. Pietro Riolo.

Here's the excerpt I would like some of you to comment in his v/blog. I do not wish to be the spokesperson for you all. I'd love to see some of your input.

Joseph Pietro Riolo:
I would like “native asl/ci parent and child” to teach us how to approach him or her in respect to the sensitive topic on cochlear implant. Will changing words help (i.e. use “dislike” instead of “against”)? Will changing tone help (I realize that it is difficult to convey right tone through written communication and this may mean that high verbosity may be necessary)? What are the other ways to maintain civility during the informal communication? (Extreme formality such as in court or debate is required for obvious reasons – to keep the discourse extremely civil. But, how can civility be possible in the informal situations like this thread of discussion?).

Thanks for your attention on this matter as time is of essence. I sensethe community is opening up. We are a part of the community and I believewe have a responsibility to educate our comrades about ourselves and our d/Deaf children.

Anonymous said...

DBC has a great message to share with everyone. Let's hope their leadership is up to the task of doing the right thing. Their latest conference was a success- I believe they can pull it off with some changes in how they run the organization. A group consensus must be reached so they can be effective in decision-making and carrying out the necessary tasks.

nomad said...

native asl/ci parent & child:

this is a journey we all are on. the more people sharing their thoughts on this journey, the more evolved our discourse becomes. joseph asked for your thoughts, do share. imo, for us all to participate in a discourse examining derogatory statements about ci's is important in elevating our thinking about this matter.

individuals react differently to same statements because of their upbringing, their experience.

i do not think there is a difference between being against the surgery, the tool (ci), and being against the person receiving one.

if you are against the tool on my head, then you are against my decision to get one (or my parents' decision to get one for me).

therefore, when you say you "dislike" ci's, you are, in essence, disliking my decision in getting one (for myself or my child).

i do not see a separation there. do you?

OCDAC said...

DBC Mess + NAD Confusion = Death Of ASL?–vQ

K.L. said...

It is very difficult to have a civil discussion with someone who tells you he opposes the CI, because no matter how you look at it, we are on opposite sides of a very big issue.

If they are against implant companies there is some room for discussion, or if they specifically say they have nothing against people who have them, or parents who choose them, they are making an effort to remove hostilities.

But I try to avoid those discussions entirely, because there is no point in it. They won't change their minds, and I certainly won't change mine, so why bother?

AL said...

na/cipc, I'd have to agree with nomad and KL here. We should start viewing CIs as a tool like a hearing aid. In the 80's if one wore hearing aids they stood out in the deaf community. Now they are commonplace, even some of the Deafhood leaders wear hearing aids.

Saying that one is uncomfortable about CIs or aganist the tool itself, not the people, or in any other form, is essentially saying that CIs and the people who wear them are wrong. I can't see discourse happening with that kind of mindset. Maybe if people who are anti-CI specifically state what makes them uncomfortable about CIs then that is something we all can discuss together.

K.L. said...

I went over to his blog, and commented. I'll copy my comment here:

Native asl/ci parent and child asked me to come over here and add my two cents. I understand why some people dislike the cochlear implant, but I cannot agree with them. The potential benefits for the individual child outweigh the impact to the Deaf Community. As a parent, my responsibility is to my child, and ONLY to my child. I need to give her as many tools as I can so she can navigate in this world as easily as possible. If she can have hearing AND sign, then that benefits her.

It does me no good to debate this with people. If they want to hear my views, fine. If they want to ask questions, fine. If they want to dialog, fine. If they want to tell me why I am wrong, I will leave. I don’t have time for that. I have no interest in arguing. I obviously won’t change my mind, and I have no great interest in trying to change other people’s minds. As far as I’m concerned, it makes no difference if the other person is against implants in general, or against the people who have them. I will shield my child from them. The potential for emotional damage is just too great for her. She will have plenty of time when she grows up to deal with that negativism. Not now.

So if you want to engage me in conversation about the implant, don’t start by telling me how much you dislike it. Even if you don’t reject the person, it will come across that way. A good example would be Aiden Mack. I actually have a great deal of respect and admiration for her and what she has accomplished. However, even though I know she does not dislike people with implants, I will not allow my child around her for fear that her beliefs will leak out and confuse my child. I simply choose not to socialize with people who dislike my choices and how I raise my child. They have a complete right to their beliefs, but I don’t need to be subjected to them.

AL said...

Perhaps one way to reduce the fear and oppression of CI users is to make ourselves more visible. We are making some dents through this blog. Adam Stone is already making waves by being a visible CI user in an ASL environment. Josh Swiller is coming to Gallaudet this fall. Can we do more? Maybe serving on the board of the new organization for ASL and deaf children would be one way.

mishkazena said...

I think that would be a good idea.

Whether others like it or not, the diversity in the Deaf Community is growing.

The world is rapidly changing.

Native ASL/CI parent and child said...

thanks kl and the others for your input. whoever say they're against ci implies that the person is against the ci person. i do not buy the rhetoric when someone says I dislike CI, but I do not dislike you. This would still hurt the CI person's feelings period!

I made a comment over at Vess' latest vlog about the wild idea of coming up with an organization that is uniquely ASL/CI so there will no longer be any disagreements. Let DBC be for ASL/Deafhood/read and write English and ASL/CI (whatever the imaginary organization is called) be for spoken English and ASL.
Of course literacy is included!

My eyes hurt and I think I am retiring for the night.

starrynight said...

We should view CIs as tools like hearing aids. If one doesn't like to use hearing aids or don't believe in using them, then so be it. Why can't that be the same with the CI?

Some of my deaf friends are against CIs (they often use the word "against" or "oppose" - powerful word) but seem to respect my decision for implanting my child. I wouldn't be surprised if they talk negatively behind my back. I have to ignore what others think and do the best for my child. Some of them would almost never inquire about my child's CI while others do. I wouldn't tell them about my experiences with my child's CI until they ask me.

"Oppose" or "Against" seems a little extreme. Perhaps say "I personally don't like CIs but if others like them, that s their decision and I have no problem with that." That would be a better approach. It s the same thing with hearing aids. Some of us don't like them but I have never heard anyone say "I am against hearing aids".

Anonymous said...

My son has the implant and goes to a school for the deaf in our state. He has a deaf identify and strongly identifies with other deaf peers. He is an ASL signer and also uses spoken English. He is proud to be deaf. I have told him that there are some deaf people who are against the idea of the implant. He was very puzzled and did not understand it (he is 12). I told him that is what they chose to believe and we have to respect their choices.

However, the very idea that some deaf people would reject my son disturbs me.