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Monday, December 20, 2010

New York Times Belittle Governor Paterson

The New York Times is at it again. Yes, the venerable paper of record has demeaned and belittled David Paterson. This is not unusual, they have an abysmal track record when it comes to discussing Paterson and the fact he is legally blind. In “Paterson’s Exit Presents Worry with Each Step” (December 20) is a cute play on words. The article begins “He worries about how he will make a living. He wonders whether people will value him once he leaves office”. These are good question considering 70% of people who are blind are unemployed—not under employed—unemployed. But this grim statistic is not mentioned or discussed. Paterson is worried about employment and what else? Well “”how to cross the street”! According to the NYT “a small army of state employees has done for Mr. Paterson what his predecessors did for themselves: they read him the newspaper, guided him up stairs and around corners, fixed his collar when it was sticking up, and even grabbed a quart of milk for him at the supermarket”. The subtext to this passage is clear—Paterson is not self-sufficient and perhaps by extension all blind people cannot be independent. Afterall Paterson had a “small army “of people, state employees no less, support him. The skeptic in me would like to point out all his predecessors had use of such an army but their competence was never called into question.

The NYT does correctly point out it must be hard for high powered and well connected politicians to suddenly leave office and be ordinary citizens. No more packed schedules, multiple perks and large staffs meant to serve. But the NYT relies on hyperbole when it notes that for Paterson “the transition will be extraordinary: after three decades in government, he must now relearn basic routines and rituals of living on his own”. It sounds as if Paterson is grossly incompetent, unable to function without a phalanx of assistants. What strike me as sad, depressing really, is the questions the NYT did not ask. The article mentions when Paterson was a boy his parents were determined not to treat him like he was disabled. This begs the question how do we treat children and adults with a disability? Less than human strikes me as the answer. I also wonder why Paterson defied his doctors advice and never learned Braille, used a seeing eye dog or cane. The NYT notes “Instead, he adapted”. Ugh! People with disabilities are superb at adapting but I wonder why Paterson took the hard road and refused to get a seeing eye dog, read Braille, or use a cane. Could it be he was ashamed of his disability? Could it be he was careful not to be perceived as disabled because it would hurt any political career? None of these questions are addressed. What does the NYT note instead? “His survival skills atrophied when he became lieutenant governor in 2007—and governor a year after Eliot Spitzer resigned.”

To his credit, Paterson plans on taking classes at Helen Keller Service for the Blind when his term ends. He also frankly states he is worried about not only his independence but his money. He does not as yet have a job and wants to work in the private sector. The governor’s job he noted gave him a false sense of income as the perks abounded. I wish Paterson well and get a sense most people in the state do as well. He took over the governorship at the worst possible time with no advance warning or notice. He did the best job he could do under adverse circumstances. In short, I think he was destined to fail—the deck was stacked against him from the second he took office. But articles like the one in the NYT certainly do not help. Yet another opportunity was lost by the mainstream media to discuss issues that affect millions of people with a disability, in this case blindness. Sure the article was touching, Paterson forthright and honest (in particular when he discussed the impact his job had on his family). But why does the NYT and other major media outlets always seem to miss the point. Paterson is like any other man that is leaving office yet the NYT chose to focus on mundane if not demeaning aspects of his life. I am not dismissing the concrete struggles Paterson will encounter but the NYT raised all the wrong issues as it related to his disability. This is why I am annoyed. It was a perfect chance to raise issues that we do not often read about as they relate to being blind. Why are so many blind people unemployed? How does people who are blind adapt? How does one choose to use a guide dog or cane? What reading software is available? And the list goes on and on. I have lots of questions as I am sure do readers of the NYT. Instead, we get the image of a man who is not independent, will struggle, and is looking for work. Demeaning indeed.


ginger said...

Each time I am faced with adversity I wear my pink little old lady sweatshirt and then decide it is too warm for me. Behold, beneath is one of my daughter's or grandchildren's shirts. The shirt that seems to bring the best results is David Lee Roth's, "Eat Em' And Smile".

Becs said...

The Times and SNL have been on Paterson's case from Day 1. I think his slight speech impediment has something to do with it as well.

ginger said...

It is far more productive to look at the ability and knock out the "dis".

ginger said...

Received some good news regarding the power of the ADA. I will not be specific regarding names so I will not infringe on personal people's privacy. However due to a phone call, several employees will not be required to work and be able to spend Christmas day with their disabled relatives.

ginger said...

The New York Times may be justified in criticizing Paterson. Only one day after Paterson was inaugurated, both Paterson and his wife stated they both had extramarital affairs. One affair was with a State employee. There may be far more to the New York Times' story.
"Two cheating hearts" can do a heck of a lot more!

william Peace said...

Becs, Paterson has gotten a raw deal from the media from the get go. I agree with you 100%
Ginger, Paterson admitted to cheating on his wife and drug use as soon as he was named governor. Like all high powered political figures he is a deeply flawed man. I for one gave up on politics long ago--I realized in college the system was hopelessly corrupt.

ginger said...

Merry Christmas!
Have the best darned Christmas and Holiday Season!