Disclaimer: I try very hard not to talk politics however, I feel compelled to when it comes to Trump and disability. If you have a problem with that go ahead and skip this blog.
This week, Meryl Streep called out Donald Trump for making fun of a disabled reporter in her Golden Globes acceptance speech. Whether you think that was the appropriate forum or not, it’s sparked a discussion all over social media and got a pretty hot-headed response from Trump. The truth? According to the Washington Post, he did make fun of a disabled New York Times reporter (you can watch the video here). To make matters worse, he knew that Kovalesky had arthrogryposis because the reporter had covered him for years. It’s pathetic and terribly sad.
Trump making fun of disability deeply disturbs me on so many levels. First, he’s an adult and that’s just not socially correct behavior for an adult to exhibit. Second, he’s our president-elect and it’s definitely not politically correct behavior. But, even bigger than that, I am stunned that we can have a person of power exhibiting such poor behavior. Whether or not he ever does it again, he’s just sent the message to our kids that it’s okay to make fun of the disabled and I have a problem with that.
My teenager is disabled. She doesn’t have a physical disability that can be seen like the reporter that Trump mocked, but she is chronically ill and on a 504 plan at school so that counts under the ADA as being disabled. She is different from the other kids her age and can’t do many of the things that they can. It’s not fair however, she takes each day with grace.
The past year, we’ve had a few eye-opening experiences. We had to rent a wheelchair at Disney World, knowing she couldn’t make it through a long day walking through the park. It was an amazing social experiment. Kids stared at her attempting to figure out what was wrong. People actually stood in our way as we tried to navigate narrow paths. When we got to go to the disabled entrances for rides, we got some dirty looks. And, while not everyone gave us a sideways glance, it gave me new perspective on how people view disability. It’s something they don’t understand.
A couple of months ago, Rosie and I went shopping and I actually watched some kids heads turn as they stared at her. She had a feeding tube. And, while she walked through the mall with her head held high, I tried my hardest to not say a word. I was hoping she didn’t notice. She did. The minute we hit the car she remarked that “she couldn’t believe all the people giving her funny looks.” It made me sad. There is so much ignorance when it comes to disability.
Disability is incredibly difficult. If you tried to navigate the world in a wheelchair for just a couple of hours, you’d understand that not only is it hard to get around, it sucks the way some people treat you. Having a feeding tube gets you all kinds of looks, even in the hospital where they’re pretty common. And, navigating high school when you’re different from all the kids isn’t a piece of cake either. Disability is hard enough without people making fun of you.
So, Donald Trump. Shame on you. Not only is it terrible that you made fun of a disabled man, you sent the message to lots of Americans that it’s okay if they do it too. It’s not. We need to teach our kids to be empathetic and tolerant of disability. We need the world to understand that there is a place in it for people of all types even if they are chronically ill. We need to do a better job educating about chronic illness, genetic conditions and all the crappy things that can happen in life because it happens. And, it needs to start from the top down. Be an example. And, one more thing, lay off your Twitter.