Friday, May 04, 2007

The Idiocy Sufferer

Quite simply, “idiot” is not a nice word to call somebody, and I find myself asking, as Mr. Welch did of Senator Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” Throughout my life, I have had to struggle to keep from thinking of myself in the limiting way that word implies. So, for the record, I would like it known that I am not an “idiot.” I am a person who suffers from idiocy. Nobody knows what it is like to deal with crippling bouts of idiocy while trying to lead a normal life. The last thing I need is for somebody to make it harder by pointing out what an “idiot” I am. [...]

Those of us unfortunate enough to be afflicted with idiocy are not grotesque caricatures or figures of fun. Idiocy can strike anybody, from the man who says he cleaned your chimney to the President of the United States. Very few of us conform to the old stereotype of the guy in the dunce cap sticking his finger in a light socket. (My wife notes, just parenthetically, that I did stick my finger in a light socket once.) Recently, I was reading a book by Dostoyevsky that I thought dealt with some of these issues in a sensitive way. It’s called “The Idiocy Sufferer,” and I am happy to report that in this new translation the terms that cruelly objectify people like me have been updated more inclusively.

-- Ian Frazier, "What I Am", The New Yorker, May 2, 2007

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