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American Annals of the Deaf

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The Deaf Mute Howls
Albert Ballin

Long, loud and cantankerous is the howl raised by the deaf-mute! It has to be if he wishes to be heard and listened to. He ought to keep it up incessantly until the wrongs inflicted on him will have been righted and done away with forever.

Until today he has been a much misunderstood human being, something quite different from the rest of mankind. Even now he is shunned and isolated as a useless member of society, a pariah. His more fortunate brothers contrive to have as little to do with him as possible, and when they cannot pass him by they tolerate him from business interests, policy or unavoidable necessity, rarely from any inclination to take him to their bosoms as an intimate companion or as a close friend.

Occasionally you will come across an unusually bright, intelligent deaf-mute who awakens your interest and sympathy, but the slow, cumbersome difficulties of conversing with him stand as an unsurmountable barrier against free and equal companionship. In consequence, you drive him into seeking the society of his fellow unfortunates, for it is only among this class that he finds himself on comparative equality. When this happens you frown upon him for his peculiar “clannishness.”

His misfortunes are multiplied by the unnatural methods used to thrust upon him a sort of “education,” methods that stunt and warp his character by isolating him, while still young and helpless, in the institutions and schools built for him and his kind.

His peculiarities and grotesque characteristics are created by you—one of the fortunates blessed with speech. They are caused by your ignorance of the real situation and by your unintentional neglect of his crying needs. You must not add indifference to the list of your faults—it would be unworthy of you. In the past you have been constantly deceived by his outward appearance, by sophistries handed to you by so-called experts, well-meaning but ignorant philanthropists, and by parasites who thrive and fatten on his misfortunes. You are also deceived by the quietude of the victim himself who is usually unable to present his grievances convincingly.

I realize the stupendous task I am assuming in raising as mighty an uproar as lies in the power of the very limited language at my command. This uproar has to be proportioned to the enormity of the wrong we, the deaf, suffer. Perhaps the louder, the sooner, heard the quicker our SOS may be answered.

I shall make no apologies for the unpleasant disclosures I am going to make; call it muck-raking if you will, but the muck is of your own spreading, though done quite unconsciously and unintentionally. Most assuredly it is up to each of you to do your part in clearing it out. Nobody can do it single-handedly. All that lies in my power is to call your attention to its presence.

I need not, and will not try, to mince matters or gloss over the festering sores out of respect for false propriety. Neither shall I consider anyone’s superficial sensibilities. In this matter I care neither for approbation nor censure. The need of the situation transcends the personal interests of any individual or group.

You may find comfort in the assurance that now there does exist a REMEDY for the sores—a reliable cure for not only the troubles of the deaf, but for others of the afflicted of mankind. Its existence is my excuse and justification for writing this book.

But for this Remedy, I would as leave think of taking up this ponderous task as flaying myself alive. Without knowledge of this Remedy, I might have accepted the present situation as an inevitable calamity for which there was no help and, like many others, rested secure and complacent in the belief that conditions were the result of an inscrutable Providence. Now I know the Remedy has been close by all the time, but its true value to humanity has never been given serious consideration.

My inquiries and reasoning on this subject led me into other byways, and in meandering through them I discovered many a new marvel promised by the universal application of this remedy--marvels that are simply dazzling in their splendor. It is such discoveries that have helped to put backbone into my zest for this often heart-breaking, thankless work. I am now convinced that the whole of society will be benefitted by this remedy.

The Remedy? What Is It?

It has been a gift of God to the Universe, to all mankind, since before Eternity. It has been used by every living being, both human and animal--perhaps by plants, too--since as far back as man can trace. It has been employed by savages everywhere, by our American Indians, to their credit, and to our discredit. The deaf vaguely appreciate its true value; they use it almost exclusively among themselves, but they seem to have overlooked its greater worth if used also by everybody else.

We all are using it to a limited extent. The only trouble is that we never thought of profiting ourselves of it thoroughly enough. We are using it only by dabs and dribbles. My proposition is that we shall, henceforth, take it in wholesale, wholesome doses.

Before proceeding with an explanation of the Remedy, let me first diagnose the ailments we are suffering from, in order to make known how best to apply with intelligence this blessed cure.


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