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The term handicap has become a thorn in the side of the English language.  It is one of the words most associated with the argument of political correctness. So what is a handicap?

I read on CNN’s Young People Who Rock about a young fellow, Sean Forbes, who performs music videos with American Sign Language for the Deaf Community. He is an inspiration to the Deaf Community and he brings to them a piece of the world most people never expected they could have. Below the passage there are a number of comments flaming the mention of deafness as a disability [handicap]. In my mind a handicap is something that significantly alters the way a person experiences society. The Deaf Community is indeed a culture. ASL is the third most used language in the United States. But it is impossible to say that when outside of the Deaf Community communicating can be a struggle. I have taken a course in ASL, but having not actually sought out situations to use it, I have only used it once in the four years since I first started. People who have speaking difficulties are often considered to have disabilities or handicaps, but it merely a communication barrier. Perhaps that is why deafness is not considered a handicap because it is a communication barrier similar to the growing English-Spanish barrier. But then speaking difficulties should not be disabilities.

It is impossible to toss around the word handicap or disability without making someone angry. It is almost as if the terms themselves make people lesser than others. They are social categorizations similar to race. Ultimately, I must agree that deafness is not a handicap, but such a term can only be defined in the eye of the beholder. If I went to Russia could not someone say I am handicapped?

People of the United States and likely elsewhere across the world put shame upon the People’s Republic of China when it was discovered the young girl who appeared to be singing for the opening ceremony had only been lip syncing. The girl who was actually singing had been deemed not beautiful enough to represent the country. One became a heroine, the other became a “role model” for proper Chinese conduct. A similar shame should be relinquished to the United States. Students in China may sometimes blindly praise Mao Zedong (River Town by Peter Hessler), but in the U.S. students are taught to blindly believe in the goodness of past presidents. George Washington went from “chopping down a cherry tree” to perfect leader. There are other examples of false perceptions in the U.S. as well. Martin Luther King Jr. is appraised qualities of sainthood by the education system. Indeed his feats were great, but he also struggled at times too. In fact, the NAACP felt so strongly about perceptions that it determined who the heroine of the Civil Rights movement would be. Before Rosa Parks took a stand (or more literally, a seat) against racism, another woman took a similar action. The NAACP considered a legal challenge, but one problem arose: the woman was unmarried and pregnant (Soul of a Citizen by Paul Rogat Loeb).

I picked up an intriguing book while browsing Barnes & Nobles entitled Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Tells us About Living in the West. Recently I have found myself addicted to Chinese philosophy and so the name of Confucius drew my attention. Then I read the back. It is a book about living in East Asia mostly from the perspective of living in Japan. Yes, Japan is in East Asia, but Confucius was not Japanese so the title was misleading. Okay, that’s fine, the book the still seems like it might be a good read. However, using Japan to generalize the lifestyle of East Asia is like using Germany to generalize the lifestyle of Western Europe. There are many similiarities to the way they think and conduct everyday life amongst the different countries, but also many, many differences. Perhaps the book should be entitled A Samurai Lives Next Door because Japanese thought is far more influenced by Samurai customs than by Confucius (or Kongzi). A most important difference between the most identifiable nations in East Asia, Japan and China, is that Japan has been much more influenced by western customs than has China. This is very significant when an author tries to write about a region. Perhaps the book is good, and perhaps the author does take these ideas into account – I have yet to read the book and may soon do so.

Our choice of what is more important and what is less important should not be determined by where we live. The issues of the world have no relativity to our own location. In determining what we believe to be more important, we should first know the truth of the situation. The education we have in school, and the education of reading is not necessarily enough. Take for instance the issue of Tibetan independence, a growing cause amongst people of the United States. Do we as people of the U.S. actually know enough to claim our belief as correct and moral?

It is apparent that the people of Tibet do not have a standard of living equal to the core of China, but we who have no true experience with the culture and the location can be easily deceived. We are presented in media with the Dalai Lama as a pure, religious leader representative of his people. However, further reading into the background of the Dalai Lama creates fuzz around the former perception. Chosen at birth, raised in high regard of the people, can he truly be the “good” person we are presented with in the United States media. Expelled by the “evil” communists of the People’s Republic of China, he is given the benefit of the doubt and a look into history can show he may not deserve such benefit. Then again, what right does China have to claim the land of Tibet? Perhaps, the land, already distinct and semi-autonomous should be given true independence. Yet, who are we, as Americans to say we know the answer.

The United States stole the southern region of the nation from Mexico. There is no outcry amongst the people to return this land to Mexico. Of course, the people of Texas do not have their rights and beliefs limited in the same fashion as the people of Tibet. At one time, it was so. The Latino people of the southern region of the United States have struggled with equality…continue to do so. In Mexico, of importance in such an argument, drug trade, crime, and kidnappings are far more rampant than in the United States. The state of Texas, for example, does suffer from drug smuggling, but the quality of life is far from Mexico, causing numerous immigrants to flea illegally across the border. Would we relinquish Texas to allow Mexico a better economy? If the Mexicans and people of Mexian descent in Texas, Arizon, New Mexico, and California were treated very poorly, perhaps they too would call for independence.

With this outlook—maybe China should just extend the same care for Tibet as it does for the core of the Middle Kingdom. We must consider the other consequences of Tibetan Independence. If they were to acquire a fully independent state, they would need to have a fully functioning government, economy, and other national systems. It could certainy be done. There is also the question of the Han majority who live in Tibet. Is it possible that any possible treachery could be reversed? Why is there no call of indepence for the other four so-called autonomous regions of China? The consequences can be higher than freedom, for Tibet and China.  How is it we can hold ourselves to be of higher morality than any other? Especially when we are unwilling to seek out the truth. I do not yet know the truth. I do have my suspicions as to what the truth of the situation may be, but I am not willing to call out for justice on the premise of a whim.

The United Nations has reported that the number of people killed by AIDS has gone down for the second striaght year. This is, itself, incorrect since AIDS is an “immune deficiency” and other health issues actually cause death. Nonetheless, it shows that the lives of people living with AIDS has been extended, or rather their deaths have been postponed. While this is happening, the total number of infections is still rising. It is good that we are improving medications and treatments, but we are losing the battle that is most important; prevention (citation: reuters). Even in the United States, there are some areas that have been reported to be as bad as some places in Africa. With all the money going towards the AIDS fight, it seems our approach is not working.

While I attended the Summer Medical & Dental Education Program at UVA I wanted to do something to give the program more publicity. It is an excellent program for anyone hoping to enter med or dental school, but very few people know about it. Many of the applicants, including myself, only found out about it by searching the net. The program has more than high enough quality to be recommended by advisors and publicized through schools. I tried to get the local news channel to do a short piece about the program, but that fell through. I should have also tried the newspaper, but I didn’t get around to it. However, I recently realized that a blog entry might possibly reach as many people as any other method I had considered:

There is a committment to the medical field and a service to the health of people, in the present and in the future that constitutes duty beyond expectation. The Directors of the Summer Medical & Dental Education Program (SMDEP) at the University of Virginia have devoted many years, in some cases 2 decades, to the education of future doctors.  The attending undergraduate students have sacrificed six-weeks of the summer to gain knowledge for the benefit of others. They come from all around the country and all over the world to join for a shared cause. Every weekday a minimum of nine hours, and often more, are devoted for learning different subjects, preparing for medical school, experiencing different career opportunities, and focusing on serving people. But the story does not end there. Even though the students originate from aound the world, they were prepared to dedicate their time and energy to Charlottesville and the surrounding community. The feat performed by the students, the directors, the speakers, and other particpants deserve recognition.