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Saturday, October 13, 2012

David Cameron's Distasteful Political Rhetoric

David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain, gave a speech a few days ago that reinforced why conservative politicians here and abroad are contemptible human beings.  Cameron is under fire by the opposition party and his speech on October 10 was important.  Like Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, Cameron is a skilled at using his disabled child for political gain. During Cameron’s speech his eyes welled up with tears when he spoke about his son. On many videos of Cameron’s speech the camera moves to his wife Samantha who also had tears in her eyes. It was great political theatre. I should note here the Cameron’s eldest son was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He died in 2009 when he was just six years old.  Camerson stated the highlight of his year was awarding a gold medal at the Paralympics. Cameron stated: “When I used to push my son Ivan around in his wheelchair, I always thought that some people saw the wheelchair, not the boy. Today, more people would see the boy and not the wheelchair—and that’s because of what happened here this summer”.  This is a great line and it had the desired affect. It was well crafted and supposedly deeply touching moment, proof positive Cameron really cares about people with a disability. Too bad the emotional ploy is devoid of reality. What Cameron is hoping people forget or simply will never realize is that last summer’s Paralympian heroes are today’s scroungers.

Disability rights activists were quick to respond to Cameron.  For instance, Richard Hawkes, Chief executive of SCOPE, stated Cameron was “right to recognize how the power of the Paralympics could have an impact on attitudes towards disabled people. But attitudes do not change over night and disabled people have been reporting a decline in attitudes towards them for some time”.  This polite reply will have little sway on a toxic social situation for people with a disability. What Hawkes needed to say with force is that hate crimes against people with a disability are at historic highs in Britain. The number of hate crimes against people with a disability in Britain went up 33% in 2011 according to the Association of Chief Police Officers. There is no question the significant increase in hate crimes is directly related to Cameron’s effort to slash the benefits people with a disability receive. In fact some have compared the social situation in Britain to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Atos, the French company hired to evaluate whether people with a disability are able work, and Cameron have made it clear people with a disability that do not work are lazy scroungers. Anti disability rhetoric abounds. Do not take my word for it, read Sue Marsh work at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger.

Marsh was quoted in the Huffington Post, UK that “It’s so frustrating that this man can stand on stage and lie—downright lie- about protecting disabled people. We are faced with the biggest onslaught disabled people have ever faced”.  Marsh went so far as to call Cameron’s plans to cut benefits a form of “Compassionate Fascist Conservatism”.  See the link:

I hope voters in this country are paying attention. If Romney wins the presidential election he will wage a war on the poor, disabled, elderly and other vulnerable population groups. It will be a campaign of historic proportions and people will die. Too extreme a viewpoint? I think not as this is already taking place in Britain. The template has been created. Hate crimes do not exist in a social vacuum. People with a disability have cleverly been identified as scroungers—people looking for a government hand out. Of course legitimate people with a disability deserve benefits but not the scroungers too lazy to work. And who makes this determination? Atos, a company hired to evaluate a disabled person’s ability to work. Atos relies on a supposedly complex computer program and 15 minute interview to make their assessment. The explicit goal is to provide the justification to cut the benefits of people with a disability. It is what they have been paid millions to do.  Thus Cameron does not utter the word scrounger. He does not acknowledge the animosity and stigmatized identity people with a disability acquired—an unwanted identity he helped create. Cameron relies purely on emotion—he gives touching speeches, lets tears well up in his eyes and has a camera pan to his wife who is equally teary eyed. One and all are touched. This man cares! His son had a disability. He knows what disabled people are like. Meanwhile there is some person with a disability navigating the London streets; an average person going about their day.  There is no compassion for this individual as a passerby will scream “scrounger” at him or her. How bad is it for people with a disability? SCOPE reports that two thirds of people with a disability that contacted them reported being abused or demeaned, often by strangers.

Reading news accounts about the onslaught on disability rights and supports in Britain is depressing. For instance, yesterday I read the government plans to discontinue the Independent Living Fund, a supplement fund that enables 19,000 people with a disability to live independently. I just shook my head in wonder. How can anyone with or without a disability not realize how dangerous these cuts are? The odds are quite good that if you live long enough disability will become a major variable in one’s life. These cuts hurt not just people with a disability but all those that will acquire a disability. In short, it is in the best interests of bipedal people to support all those with a disability who receive some sort of benefit.  I implore people to ignore the emotional rhetoric espoused by politicians like Palin, Santorum, and Cameron. They use their disabled children as political props, something I find distasteful. Think logically, analytically.  Do not be tricked by conservatives who give emotional speeches that contradict policies that directly threaten the lives of the very people they exploit. 


Phil Dzialo said...

Amen!!!! This could not have been said better or with more clarity!

Holden said...

A friend of mine uses a powerchair in the UK and had to do an assessment with Atos, but their office was on the second floor of the (no elevator) building. Thankfully, Atos still hasn't figured out what to do about it.

I hope we don't have to find out what Romney and his team will do to disabled people in the US.

william Peace said...

Atos was hired by the British government to do its dirty work. They were given a clear and concise task--reduce the number of people getting benefits. Despicable.