Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blind Tom Wiggins

Blind Tom is one of my favorite composers. He was born a slave in the South in 1849 as an autistic savant. Unfortunately, the language at the time didn't have kind words or a shred of tolerance for people like Blind Tom. He spent his early life imitating the daughters of his master play the piano. Shortly thereafter, he learned to play the piano and could replicate any piece of music or poetry after hearing it once. I consider myself to have a poetic affinity, but I don't even memorize my own pieces, much less those of others after just one hearing. Blind Tom liked to play, and made his master very rich. In later life, the courts handed Blind Tom off to his mother, and eventually to her daughter-in-law. It's said that he refused to play the piano away from the comfort and custody of his former master. Mental disorders and illnesses don't care about skin color; racism is a poison society gives itself. I can understand Blind Tom's frustration and his refusal to play. Sometimes when I write, I think of Blind Tom sitting in front of the piano, doing what he knows best. I like to think I write in the same vein. Many schizophrenics fall to their disease, and can't pursue their talents for financial and social reasons.

My parents and my brother tolerate and encourage me despite our often conflicted past. Sure, I'd like to live a normal life by myself; however, I know I couldn't do it alone, and that my writing and happiness would suffer for it. My current situation allows for much writing, and poetry every day & night. I'm not a success by any measurement, but I'm doing what I feel I do best. The prejudice shown me is not of my own choosing: the rest of you want me this way. It's easier to put people in boxes, and shackle them to their bedposts when no name is attached. It's easy for society to say I need help and restrictions to keep myself and other safe. It's another thing completely to stand in front of me and say "our decision is to restrict your drivers license to a five mile radius, and mandate that you take the medications we prescribe you." I take my medication and drive quite safely on my own. Unfortunately, I'm in a group that's easily labeled a "them" not an "us;" my humanity rarely matters to people in charge.

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