I am a proud woman with cerebral palsy. I want to write a movie. It's called "The Purple Hat Gang." A dozen crips driving around in our wheelchairs and scooters, all over Oakland and Berkeley. We will terrorize the neighborhoods by spray-painting cars parked in front of curb ramps, and block in cars that are parked in the blue handicap-access zones.

The women will wear tight leather pants, and long earrings, and be sexy; the guys will wear leather jackets and ride big, powerful motorized wheelchairs referred to as Big Macs.

The purpose, of course, will be to destroy pity and replace it with powerful, sexy, hip images.

I, for one, am sick of the person with disability who is always viewed as angelic! Barf! Who needs that?

If Spike Lee wants to contact me about doing this film, let him have my e-mail address!

--- Tamar Raine




Great commentary, but you forgot about one crucial element: Jerry Lewis is a pretentious jerk. For literally decades he has been observed condescending not only to the handicapped but to everyone in his path.

Let's just do the right thing this one time and put this appallingly outdated individual out to pasture.

--- Linda Riley




Lorenzo Milam hits the proverbial nail on the head in his commentary on the backlash against Jerry Lewis' comments regarding the M.D. sufferers he raises money for. They are, indeed, cripples. They do invoke both pity for them as well as infinite thanks that we're not in the same boat.

As I watch the left- and right-wing militants seek to sanitize the English language toward their own political and social ends, I can't help but feel we're losing something important. "Differently abled" is a term designed to make people think that really nothing's wrong, that it's all OK and that maybe the person's just happy the way they are, when we know that for these kids with M.D. that simply isn't the case. "Cripple," however, evokes a vivid image, rouses a concerned community to action and thus provides increased volunteer action and research funding.

We've euphemized the meaning out of our language. Instead of wife beating, now we talk about spousal abuse --- not necessarily because the two terms have different meanings but because the former forces us to envision bloodied noses and bruised legs, an image we might be forced to act on. When Lewis refers to cripples, he's forcing us to look at the reality of a painful existence cut tragically short, something some of us just don't want to see, and it's dramatically effective.

--- Gregory Dyas




Your subheading states: The veteran comedian is in trouble with the militant disabled for using words like "cripple" and "pity."

Have Salon and Milam fallen for the false notion that disability rights activists are in a tizzy because someone used a word we don't like? Please.

Lewis' vocabulary is not at issue. His opinions are: "You don't want to be pitied because you are a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house." This from the man who, in 1991, referred to wheelchair users as "half-persons."

With friends like these ...

Yes, people in wheelchairs evoke pity. Yes, even in our day, people who have black skin evoke emotions ranging from distrust to fear and hatred. Would anyone claiming to be a champion of civil rights consider exhorting blacks who wish it were otherwise to become prisoners in their own homes? Such advice would be defined as obscene. I'm not sure which is more obscene --- Lewis' bigotry or Milam's exoneration of it.

--- Chava Willig Levy

Note: Most of these letters appeared at

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