Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The New Yorker’s “Little Strangers”

What starts out as a preview for an 800+ page book, as usual with the New Yorker, turns into a critique, a delving into the psychological aspects of what it is to be the fruit that falls far from the tree or as it is in the article  horizontal identity with one's parents. The norm, if there were such a construct in reality would be a vertical identification where the child would indeed, not only look but have the intelligence level of the biological parents. What happens when the child is autistic or a dwarf, or deaf or even gay? He brings in the concept of horizontal identity, which cuts through the parents and child's identity to challenge the capacity for understanding and communicating. The author, in analyzing his own personality goes into what it is like to look at your child and see not a similar reflection of what you are/ were, but an  Other, which will challenge the parents to limits that society often condemns and criticizes. He mentions the case of a complicated childbirth that delivers to the mother a child so ineffable, that she can only give it up for adoption. It has no cerebral cortex, no intelligence, no ego, no self. It is a shell of a human without the defining 'self' that characterizes what it is to be human.  "The beautiful mosaic of multiculturalism" becomes broader and broader as the inclusionary tendencies of post feminist intersectionality, regard the one in each of us composed of a myriad of identities that overlap and change with time and exposure to other changing identities. It is a dance of personalities interwoven to reveal a tapestry of layers and colors. The article goes on to attempt to define identity and how the term has changed in American culture. Finally, turning biographical again, he mentions his own horizontality and how it defined his life as well as that of others he has known of with the same problem. He ends by mentioning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed in 1999, and the more recent ADA amendments of 2008, (it seems from the dates that Bush might have inherited  and chosen to leave for posterity such policies). The author forgets to mention that in the middle of the night perhaps not on his watch, the laws applying to ADA which did not include mental illness, with substance use and abuse were sneaked among a larger, much larger Bill that little had to do with this matter. It is an interesting article that could easily be turned into a book or a thesis. As it is, it falls short of its attempt to define what indeed is horizontality, how it  affects parents and society and how the efforts done to alleviate the burden of individuals and families is sometimes seen as over diagnosing and others as lack of empathy.


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