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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Streep Follow Up and Suggested Readings

My email box is filled with hate email. Trump supporters are decidedly unhappy with me. I expected some backlash because of my post yesterday but the level of hatred spewed was nastier than expected. I was deemed an "elitist scum bag", a "whiner who balks when treated like everybody else", a "liberal know nothing", a "crippled loser that should run home to mommy", and my favorite an "Ivy League pig who wallows in his own filth". Deleted were a ton of F bombs. What a world we live in. Bullying behavior is rapidly becoming the norm with the President elect leading the way via twitter and 140 character out bursts of petulant anger.

As I look outside, I see a steel gray sky and a mix of rain, ice, snow and sleet. Since this is Syracuse, much of what I see falling from the sky is moving sideways. On a day like this it would be easy to grow depressed. I have chosen to focus on the positive--specifically the many fine essays that have been written in the last 24 hours that address Meryl Streep's speech and criticism of the President elect. We people with a disability and our non disabled supporters have risen to the occasion. First and foremost, I am not alone. Streep's words have been deemed ableist by others. By itself, this is heartening. Second, like others, I hope we can move past the repeated and shallow discussion of Trump mocking Serge Kovaleski and have a detailed discussion about the barriers people with a disability encounter in the post ADA era. Foremost in my mind is the deadly troika--unemployment, lack of adequate housing, and long standing trouble using mass transportation.  These structural flaws lead people with a disability to live in poverty. Worse, our tattered and depleted social safety net demands that people with a disability live on the very edge of social and economic oblivion.

What people with a disability do have in abundance is the ability to adapt and be wildly creative. We are not the meek miserable beings typical others imagine. In the last 24 hours we have had much to say about Streep's speech and the President elect. Here then is a random sampling of essays that resonated for me:

Girlwiththecane, "Meryl Streep We Don't Need Your Outrage", link: http://www.girlwiththecane.com/meryl-streep/ The line "no power to fight back" is objectionable and disempowering.

Kim Saunder, aka Crippled Scholar, series of tweets, link: https://twitter.com/crippledscholar/status/818513044519194626 and a previous post about Trump, link: https://crippledscholar.com/2016/11/19/the-problem-with-paternalizing-disabled-people-to-protest-donald-trump/

A Washington Post article that covered the basics, link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/09/meryl-streep-was-right-donald-trump-did-mock-a-disabled-reporter/?utm_term=.dbdb21a22115

David Perry at CNN, link: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/09/opinions/streep-trump-real-talk-perry-opinion/index.html  Perry, whose son has Down Syndrome and writes frequently about disability rights, suggests Trump's bullying ways need to be replaced by empathy. I share this sentiment but have no expectation this will ever come to pass.

Emily Ladau, "Im a Disabled Woman Who's Not Celebrating Meryl Streep", link: https://theestablishment.co/im-a-disabled-woman-who-s-not-celebrating-meryl-streep-s-golden-globes-speech-8d67173122e7#.u68aexpsx Like me, Ladau tries to maintain a polite tone with regard to Streep's speech but is deeply troubled by just how mild her words were and how they lacked nuance.

Last and by far my favorite essay at Star in Her Eye, "Tumbling in America", link: https://starinhereye.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/tumbling-in-america/  As many people with a disability can attest, social rejection is rampant. In this post, Heather Kirn Lanier writes about how her daughter was social rejected by another child--the first such post election rejection. Placed in the larger social context she wrote it:

is the grade-school playground mockery of a person with disabilities. It is, as Ann Coulter unfortunately worded, “The Standard Retard.” “He was just doing the standard retard,” she argued, and if she is right, it makes matters worse. When our president-elect imitates someone he wants to mock, he sometimes uses his body to call them “retarded.” His limbs become the epithet. He makes his body odd-seeming, out of the norm, less-than-functional. This is ableism at the heart. The fact that he uses a much lighter version of this gesture on non-disabled people doesn’t make him any less ableist, any less offensive, any less cruel. I cannot, will not forget. And I’m grateful that Meryl Streep said the same at the Golden Globes two nights ago
Ableism at heart. Yes! Trump gives every bigot in America free reign to be cruel. Here Streep was spot on. "Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence." People with a disability know a lot about disrespect and violence. We are routinely disrespected. Indeed, disrespect is the norm. Violence too is the norm. Like it or not, we people with a disability are vulnerable. Abuse is rampant and takes many different forms. A month ago it was a cab driver who refused to pick up my colleague Steve Kuusisto with his service dog and was aggressively nasty about it. The same month I was mocked by some teenagers in downtown Syracuse who laughed and called me retarded. Bullies take many forms. Months ago unwanted help was thrust upon me not once or twice but three times by an employee at Liehs and Steigerwald Downtown and this veneer of good will turned instantly nasty and confrontational when such "help" was politely rejected. Instantly, I became a problem. Examples abound and I want to be clear I am lucky. I have not been physically assaulted. I have not been raped. I have not been assaulted by the police. And yes I fear the police. I cannot comply with their orders. I can not exit my vehicle as they would expect and demand. That alone makes me a threat. Kirn Lanier noted we have a lot of work to do. No kidding. What can we do? I honestly don't know. Trump is a serial abuser and bully. He has been elected President of the United States. He is the most visible man in the nation. Frankly, I am afraid. I am afraid of the hate and ignorance Trump generates and how that will play out on the streets, schools, and institutions that dot the cultural landscape. The is a first for me and I fear we will plunge into a Dark Age from which we may not emerge.  While this is a grim assessment, I know there is a vibrant resistance movement among my people. That fact alone is enough to keep my faith in people alive.

2 comments:

Elizabeth Henning said...

Thanks for talking about this for posting the links, very helpful.
Gotta love the Trumpkin insult barrage. It's always the same boring recycled crap over and over again, because like most bullies they don't have a lot of imagination. It also shows the intellectual poverty of their worldview. I think they all have the same set of refrigerator magnets that they use to make up insults when they go out trolling.

G. B. Miller said...

The sad part is that more often than not, Hollywood can't see what's right in from them. Their words are most shallow, aimed squarely at both the choir and enablers. While I haven't experienced the overt hostility towards my mild disability (I currently have C-M-T in my hands and neuropathy in my legs), I have experienced incredibly crass questions thrown in my direction because of it.

People on both sides of the aisle aren't going to change if they don't want to. No amount of talk/action will have any long term effect on changing someone's behavior.