You can Google up one of those lists of famous people who are or were crippled, and there she is. It says she has diabetes and that counts as crippled, so we’re claiming her as one of our own, whether she likes it or not. And there is also Lucille Ball. According to one of the famous cripple lists, she had rheumatoid arthritis as a young woman and was unable to walk for two years. So we’re claiming her, too, dammit! Sorry, Lucy, but you’ve been outed as a cripple. There’s no going back in the closet. It doesn’t matter if you got better. Being crippled is like being Catholic. Once you’re crippled, you’re always crippled, no matter how much you try to insist that it’s a dark episode from your past. It says so in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In fact, according to these lists, there have been so many famous crippled humans that it’s impossible to create an inspiring crippled Mount Rushmore honoring the top four crippled role models of all time. There’s no way to narrow it down. So we have no choice but to construct several crippled Mount Rushmores representing the role models of the many many subspecies of cripples.
Like for instance, there could be a One-eyed Mount Rushmore. It would feature Sammy Davis Jr., actors Sandy Duncan and Peter Falk and glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Chihuly lost an eye in a car accident. I imagine his first project after that was to sculpt himself a new eye. Another candidate for the One-eyed Mount Rushmore could be Quintus Sertorius, the ruthless Roman general who died in 72 B.C. Who says Mount Rushmore has to be limited to four heads?
On the other hand, when it comes to the One-armed Mount Rushmore, there aren’t a whole lot of candidates. U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye lost an arm in a war, as did American geologist and ethnologist John Wesley Powell. I suppose you could throw in Bob Dole. He didn’t actually lose his arm in a war, but what was left of his arm wasn’t much good. A fourth popular choice might be The Fugitive’s nemesis, The One-Armed Man, but he’d probably be tossed out by the selection committee on the picky technicality that he’s fictional.
We have the same problem with the Mount Rushmore stutterers. There’s only singer Mel Tillis, actor James Earl Jones and that British king they made a movie about. We could complete the stutterers Mount Rushmore by throwing Julius Caesar up there. He doesn’t actually appear on any lists of famous stutterers, but so what. Who’s counting?
But wow, when it comes to the Learning Disabilities Mount Rushmore, there are enough famous people with learning disabilities to make three or four of them. They include Albert Einstein, Whoopi Goldberg, Leonardo da Vinci, Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Edison, sculptor Auguste Rodin and fairy tale guy Hans Christian Andersen. And who could forget Diane Swonk, chief economist and a senior vice-president at Bank One Corporation and author of The Passionate Economist: Finding the Power and Humanity Behind the Numbers?
And when it comes to the Depression Mount Rushmore, don’t even get me started. There have been tons and tons of famous people who were depressed. Poet Theodore Roethke was depressed, as is every poet. Playwright Eugene O’Neill was depressed, too, as is every playwright. Some other role models for the depressed are funnyman Rodney Dangerfield, actress Vivien Leigh, composer Robert Schumann, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln.
Some famous cripples are double dippers. Composer George Frideric Handel was both blind and depressed, Ludwig van Beethoven was deaf and depressed, and Olympic diver Greg Louganis is HIV positive and learning disabled. Poet John Milton is listed as blind and only blind, but you can’t tell me that guy wasn’t also depressed as hell.
And there are also many famous cripples who are throwbacks, which means they are nefarious characters that we’d just as soon throw back. How about racist icon George Wallace? Wacko British despot King George III? Not nefarious enough for you? How about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner? Still not nefarious enough? How about Tom Cruise!?