Friday, March 20, 2009

Say It Isn't So, Mr. President

Actually, I know it is so... Last night on Jay Leno the President of the United States bemoaned his poor bowling skill saying that "it was as if he were in Special Olympics or something."


And sensing there had been a gaffe his staff stated to somebody that the President really respects Special Olympics.

Sigh again...

See, here's the deal Mr. President,

I know it was off hand and unintentional. I know you nearly never make disparaging remarks about races, genders, creeds, sexual orientations or other differences. I know that you support people with disabilities in many, many ways. And you never talk about diversity without including those with disabilities.

And that's the point.

Ableism is so ingrained in our society that even our FRIENDS don't recognize it.

It's not that this was the worst gaffe in the world, and heaven knows it wasn't the worst we've ever heard--nor will it be the last, I'm sure.

It does, however, have more.... cachet... shall we say, coming from the president.

I am only speaking for myself when I say this, I am willing to forgive, but I do have something to ask:

Do something about this that matters.

There are a ton of opportunities this month alone to take a stand that could turn this negative moment into something that makes things better in our culture for people with disabilities.

Leverage this error into opportunity. Please.

Tomorrow is 3/21, World Down Syndrome Day, a day to celebrate Down syndrome, (also know as Trisomy 21.)

Too soon?

That's ok, there's plenty more:

3/31 is Spread the Word to End the Word day--a day to unite to ask for respectful language about disability--specifically to teach about the hurtful effect of "the R-word." It is sponsored by Special Olympics and there are cool t-shirts!

There are bills coming before congress soon with the power to build new possibility for those with disabilities like the Community Choice Act (scheduled for 3/24 last I heard), the CLASS Act... and others.

The president of the AUCD gave testimony before the HELP committee yesterday about the value of the University Centers of Excellence on Disability and the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental (and related) Disabilities programs that they run.

And that's just what I can come up in my bleary early morning state.

Make a statement, not an apology to a program--great though it is--make a statement that brings recognition and respect to people with disabilities.

Help the disability community by turning this stumbling block into a stepping stone (or better yet, a ramp!)

Picture from here.


Wheelie Catholic said...

Great, positive post. Lots of things that can be done to change what is to what can be - a better future for all our kids.

william Peace said...

This is indeed a great positive post. I have commented about this at Bad Cripple as has Steve Kuusisto at Planet of the Blind. We are more cranky than constructive. I am disheartened that even our supports don't realize how ingrained ableism in the fabric of society.

Reaganite Republican said...

And WHO is surprised by this gauche and downright cruel comment? No different than his classless cheap-shot on 90-yr-old Nancy Reagan in his first presser.

Trouble is that the REAL Barack tends to leak-out when he's not hard-wired to a TelePrompTer-

Narcissists are often callous- and even ruthless. They tend to lack empathy and/or a conscience. This is evident in Obama's lack of interest in his own half-brother who lives in poverty in Kenya, or his aunt found living in public housing in Boston.

Obama's almost certainly a pathological narcissist... the most dangerous charismatic leaders are, comes from an insecure childhood (like Barack's).

Indicators include control freakery, grandiose self-importance, feeling "above the law", interpersonally exploitive, inability to handle criticism, lack of empathy, arrogant behavior, surrounds himself with sycophants... sound familiar?

Obama is a mess- and his insecurities, bad childhood, and irresponsible, far-left-wierdo mother are now all OUR problem, too-

william Peace said...

Reaganite, Yikes, the sort of comments you make about Obama are not just mean spirited but counter productive. Sadly, this is all too common.

Terri said...

Thanks Ruth and Bill, I haven't hit the blogosphere yet to see what's out there... but there is potential from this if ableism becomes recognized.

Reaganite, heaping on the bad feelings does not do much to improve outcomes in my experience...

Patrick @ Caregivingly Yours said...

Terri, insightful entry and the links are appreciated.

I watched the "Tonight Show" appearance and in context the remark heard 'round the world was a blib in banter between President Obama and Leno.

I say this NOT in defense but as a spouse caregiver of 19 years for my wife disabled with progressive MS. For the last half year we have also opened our home to a family living with a severely austic teen. Additionally, I have actively been involved with Special Olympics for over two decades.

Over the years, I have heard words used and misused for a lot of reasons including ignorance and/or to hurt.

Actions that help, actions that enable are what should be doing the talking.

Again, thank your for such an entry.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

Pro said...

He has hurt many families in America. He needs to say he is sorry in the public, not to some organization.

During the campaign for the White House in 2008, the media criticized Palin for being ‘common,’ and ‘not presidential.’ However, compare Sarah Palins attitude in this video created three weeks ago for the Special Olympics in Boise, Idaho.

You decide the more ‘presidential’ among them:

Terri said...

Patrick, thanks for your support. I agree, actions are what we need.

Pro, I am pretty sure anyone we put in office, now or ever will make a misstatement or gesture at some point...just like everyone else on earth. As my dad told me, most of a person's character is found in what they do when things go wrong. So, we shall see...

I have been told, though I haven't looked it up yet, that Sarah Palin issued a statement calling people with disabilities "precious."

Well, that's a stereotype too. One no adult would want to live in--with or without a disability. One that makes being seen and treated as an adult very difficult No one hires the cutesy-wootsie, or sells them a house, etc.

Now, I am sure her son and all the kids in his EI group ARE precious, because they're babies. But using baby terminology for adults--or even teens--does them no favors... and she will learn this as her son grows up.

Big Noise said...

Great Terri!!
I got two more for ya: My 16 month old granddaugher asked me to write it for her. And 2:
One of my best friends has become a new blogger: Left of the Moon, writes about it at:

It's hard to temper your excitement about him, but he too, like the rest of society, fall by to the stereotypes of ableism, and cliche language.

A teaching moment? hope so.