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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Republicans Emotional Use of Disability

In the last presidential election when Sarah Palin used her son Trig to establish herself as an expert on disability rights I was appalled. Over the last two months a few people have sent me emails about Rick Santorum, a deeply religious right wing Republican. Why, people have asked, am I not blasting him? He is after all following Palin's disability handbook. That is Santorum is using his daughter who has Trisomy 18 as a emotional prop to appeal to right to lifers, those opposed to health care reform, and so called traditional values Republicans love to talk about. I simply do not take Santorum seriously but when someone sent me the link to the ad on You Tube above I had to write something. Watch this long political ad without either getting angry or sick and you have a stronger stomach than I do.

Based on the reviews posted on You Tube this ad is exceptionally successful. People love it! Sadly this does not surprise me one bit. Emotional arguments devoid of any factual basis about disability always touch the hearts of people who know nothing about disability. And the skeptic in me would estimate that means 90% of the country will fall for the rhetoric in the political ad. This makes me crazy as a quick google search, "disability rights" will reveal a wealth of information. This information will undermine the emotional response the Santorum ad was designed to prompt. Facts people. Facts and politics. Here is a fact Santorum does not want you to think about nor do any other republicans--disability is a valid political issue. Disability has a central place when it comes to health reform, aging baby boomers, and laws such as the ADA that was gutted by conservative justices put in place by former President Bush.

Forget the sentiment, ignore the tear jerking. Lines such as "Some people describe people like Bella as ‘disabled children, I look at her and I look at the joy, the simplicity, the love she emits, and it’s clear to that we are the disabled ones, not her.” People with a disability do not need pretty words and sentiment. People with a disability need equal rights. People with a disability need equal access to education. We need politicians to support IDEA so children like Santorum's daughter will get a good education. But Santorum plans on cutting spending on education. Do I really need to tell readers exactly who will be hurt the most? Santorum is also against the Affordable Care Act. He even goes as far as to suggest people with a disability will suffer and die if it is enacted. He conveniently leaves out the fact the vast majority of disability rights groups support the ACA. The fact is health care reform will help people with disabilities. Perhaps as a Senator he is unaware that access to insurance for people with a disability is difficult at best and financial ruin common. And lest readers think I am simply spewing out anti Republican rhetoric, I am not. I have no problem with conservative politicians. I do however have a huge issue with the way conservative Republicans skew facts and question their ethics since 9/11. We thus have people like Michelle Bachman who thinks water boarding led to the discovery of real facts. So what if it did? The American government is not supposed to sanction much less torture any human being. We are not supposed to detain people without cause or legal representation but we do. We are supposed to be allowed to dissent and have freedom of speech. But when that dissent becomes inconvenient we send in the police. Here I am referring to Mayor Bloomberg who sanctioned the police raid on Occupy Wall Street. That raid took place at 1AM, the media was barred from the area, the park was declared a no fly zone and no one really knows what the police did evicting protesters. Does this sound like democracy? Not to me as I find dissent our patriotic duty.

Let me reiterate. The above is not a rant specifically against the Republican Party or Santorum. He is just the latest conservative politician to use his child with a disability as a political prop. Some of these thoughts were prompted by Steven Kuusisto with whom I will end this post. He wrote: "The more I think about the GOP the more I wonder if ever again the best in our nature will clarify for truly decent conservative people. I happen to know many such folks. That well meaning principles have been sacrificed at the alter of theocratic extremism is terrible news for our republic. This is still a nation of good people. We deserve a good Republican party. Plenty will say I'm sniffing airplane glue." I don't think Kuusisto is sniffing glue. I am surrounded by such conservatives where I live in the wealthy suburbs of New York City. Good people largely even if I do not like their politics.


Phil Dzialo said...

I also watched the ad for Santorum and was frankly disgusted. The Palin and Santorum use of playing the "disability" card is despicable. The truth is that the very same words could have been uttered by tens of thousands of parents of kids with disabilities, many more severe than these. The words of those who care for their kids 24 hours a day, on vents and g-tubes and seizing daily would certainly be more passionate and genuinely sincere. This fact (the kids and words) do not make for a presidential candidate, nor an active advocate for the disabled.
Parents of disabled need real support, money, services, respite; kids and adults need the best services available...funny how this is avoided in the conversation. It's like love the homeless beggar on the corner but don't drop a nickel in the cup?

william Peace said...

Phil, Despicable is apt in this context. Grossly misleading and manipulative in a truly vulgar way. What bothers me the most is this: any discrimination I have encountered pales in comparison to what those with profound cognitive and physical disabilities endure. This never ceases to shock me and I consider it a national disgrace. A dirty secret people like Palin and Santorum should be fighting. Instead they use their kids as political props. Shame on them. And shame on this country that fails to provide the most basic support services for those who are most vulnerable.

Anonymous said...

_Broken Arrows_
How many arrows will sail through the sky
Only to splinter on the sand?
How many brave hearts will meet with their doom
For a cause that no one can name?
How many more, oh how many more, how many more broken arrows?
How many tin soldiers lost in the sand
'Til George takes his toys & goes home?
How many more noble hearts will he break
Before the crusade is called off?
How many more, oh how many more, how many more broken arrows?
How many more soldiers' names will there be
carved on the next wall in D.C. ?
How many more Vietnams must we face
To learn that might doesn't make right?
How many more, oh how many more, how many more broken arrows?
The goal of the arts is not to increase our comfort level; that is the goal of an easy chair.
In my opinion, the rĂ´le of the arts is to interact with the viewers- to speak; fetching & rolling over are optional.

Matthew Smith said...

Something similar happened with our prime minister, David Cameron, before the last election. Although he didn't use his severely disabled son, Ivan, in any campaign poster or video, there was a lot of publicity when Ivan (who had severe physical and cognitive disabilities and epilepsy) died, and Cameron made a big fuss about how much the NHS has done for his family. When the election was over, however, he and his pals suddenly decided that there was a huge debt crisis and that public services had to be cut to the bone, and these included a lot of services that were used by those with disabilities -- in fact, only front-line services and care for media-friendly illnesses, like cancer, are safe.

It's not as if services for PWD in the UK were lavish before -- families had to fight to get equipment their disabled members needed, like appropriate wheelchairs and speech devices, often from obscure sources. Penny-pinching and cost-cutting had been the name of the game under Labour as well, as they sought to prove themselves to the Tory mid-market press.

Jennifer Fitz said...

I couldn't bring myself to watch the ad, I assume it was everything you say and then some.

A small point in defense of Santorum: When his daughter was a newborn, their physician prescribed a lethal dose of a painkiller, and didn't tell the parents. Fortunately the parents didn't use it before they found out.

So when he campaigns against euthanasia, I'm with him.

But torture is a no-go for me, so no way I could vote for the man.

Roger G3XBM said...

With you on this Ruth. God help America if the Tea Party poopers get in.