by Carl Jarvis

It struck me the other day that we blind folks have been going at it all wrong. We've been spending our energy trying to convince ourselves and the world that we're just about as good as everyone else.

All this talk about the "level playing field." It seems that the idea is to somehow manage the environment so blind people can compete on equal terms with their sighted peers. The message is intended to be a positive one. Unfortunately, it implies that without all this effort and control, we really aren't equal at all. No wonder some folks deny they're blind. Who wants to join a club like that?

Think of belonging to a political party and hearing a politician say, "I'm trying to be just about as good as my worthy opponent. I've got some pretty average ideas for making this nation about as good as any other nation." What we need to do is to take a lead from those slick TV ads. It's really amazing. Why, with a little spit and polish, you can sell just about anything.

Take, for example, water. Water! An old Indian chief tells us it dribbled out from under a glacier, hundreds of miles from any human, and we rush right out and pay big bucks for the stuff. Sure, it's untouched by human hands, but does anyone stop to think what else might have been under that glacier?

But just think what we can do if we turn to Madison Avenue for a "New Look." A beautiful young blind woman, barely dressed, is seated in a lovely garden, stroking the head of her golden retriever. A deep voice purrs, "Not all of us are fortunate enough to be blind. But you can do the next best thing. Yes, by befriending a blind person, your life will be more meaningful."

A young, muscular blind man is casually swinging a white cane as he jogs confidently down a crowded street. Suddenly a robber dashes from a convenience store carrying a bag of money. The cane catches his foot and he sprawls face down, spilling the money as several men pounce on his back. The deep voice once again speaks. "Where the blind live, life is better for us all. How can we ever thank them enough?"

Before you know it, big corporations will be begging us to endorse their products -- "Blotto Beer! The official drink of the Blind!" "Wear GEE Whiz Jeans and feel positively BLIND!" "If you can't BE blind, LOOK blind. Wear Stud Sunglasses."

And speaking of that "level playing field," it never was our field in the first place. It belonged to the other guys, and we had to play by their rules. Every time we thought we had one end propped up -- tilt! -- down went another corner. What we blind folks need is our own playing field. And with all the money we make from our endorsements, we can build the finest field in town. Then, with everyone else wanting to be like us, they'll have to play by our rules.

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