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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jerry Fucking Lewis!

Last night before I went to bed I was browsing the news online when I came across the headline "Jerry Lewis No Longer MDA National Chairman". This news delighted me. I do not mention Lewis much on this blog. Suffice it to say in spite of all the money he raised on behalf of the MDA, I consider him one of the foremost destructive forces in terms of disability rights. Even as child I found the MDA telethon, all telethons, tawdry. The MDA telethon was just the worst of the worst. The cloying use of pity, the pathetic tear jerking song Lewis sang at the end of the telethon always seemed antiquated and wrong. I suspect what bothered me was I knew he was using children with disabilities. The message was clear: life with a disability is a fate worse than death. You people, Lewis implored, meaning those fortunate enough to live life without a disability, should give money to the pathetic creatures on stage. This worked for decades. Pity as a fundraising technique simply works. It still does even though telethons are now largely a thing of the past.

Thanks to people like Mike Ervin and Cris Mathews in Chicago, Laura Hershey in Denver and Harriet McBryde Johnson in Charleston protests against the MDA telethon and Lewis in particular spread. People with disabilities had enough. Offensive comments made by Lewis over the years began to be seen for what they were--deeply hurtful and bigoted. Still, the MDA resisted and now 21 years after the ADA was passed has ever so slowly begun to separate themselves from Lewis. Hopefully 2011 will be the last year of the abridged version of the MDA telethon. Lewis' resignation from the MDA can only be perceived as a good thing. I suspect his departure from the MDA was unpleasant, perhaps forced. I have no inside information in this regard but the carefully worded and terse announcement by the MDA provided no explanation for why Lewis will not appear on the upcoming telethon. According to MDA Chairman of the Board R. Rodney Howell Lewis "will not be appearing on the telethon" and "we will not be replacing him as MDA national chairman".

I am sure I will get more than a few nasty emails in response to the title of this post and critical words about Lewis. For those unhappy with me I suggest reading Harriet McBryde John's wonderfully witty chapter in her book Too Late To Die Young about her protest of the MDA telethon (Honk if You Hate Telethons). I will end with a quote from McBryde Johnson that highlights exactly why the telethon was so destructive:

"My mother thought telethons were tacky. She said no when we were asked to appear. She tried to distance me from them, but my own eyes told me the MDA thon was about people like me... The poster children looked just like us: we were all literally the same flesh... Together in the crip ghetto, my friends and I watched the annual parade of our little dopplegangers being publicly sentenced to death and saw one another through with gallows humor. Later, having moved on to the mainstream world, I wanted to go to law school, qualify for scholarships, get a job and car loan, start a business. But dying children aren't allowed to do such things; they can't be trusted to fulfill their obligations." Yes, the ordinary is beyond the crippled. And this my friends is why the fact Jerry Lewis is no longer associated with the MDA is a positive development.

5 comments:

Ruth Madison said...

Hurray! Good news :)

Cait the Wild Guitar said...

It's about time they got rid of that racist, homophobic, anti-semitic male chauvinist pig! He's a walking PR nightmare! He says inappropriate things all the time. My only question is why they didn't fire him 40 years ago. He was irrelevant, offensive, & not funny even back then. They should have dumped him for George Carlin, who would, of course, have completely changed the program's image & fund-raising strategy. He was funny, & he wasn't an offensive, hate-filled jerk.
I thought Jerry Lewis was mean, condescending, & snotty, & I also thought that he used fear to raise money. Good Riddance!

Rachel said...

I've never seen evidence that Jerry Lewis is anti-Semitic. He's Jewish (I'm ashamed to say, as I'm also Jewish). I have no argument with the rest of the epithets, however. Glad they dumped his ass.

GirlWithTheCane said...

No critical comments here. I'm glad to hear that he's gone, however it came to be.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Huzzah. IT is not like he was shy in his statements about life in the 'iron cage' - he even hated the kids he used, who later protested against him, and threatened to try to take their wheelchairs away. A man who pimps children should be put away, and that's what he did, and not even ones under the MDA umbrella (but then so does Rick Hansen, our own Canadian fucker, who raises money for 'all wheelchair users' but only gives it out to one specific group (traumatic non-head injury included spinal cord injury), showing that pimping children is an equal opportunity depravity).

Goodbye Lewis and thank goodness!