Lest I be thought of as a troglodyte for including television, radio and film as social media, let me explain.
We learn from these sources. Through these we learn social rules, about how relationships begin, flourish, and end. These media are controlled, and censure occurs when media rules are broken, for example by streaking (which caused the 10 second delay rule), outcry for costume “failures” (publicity stunts) and rarely, verbal conduct (seven words you cannot say). Yet, the vitriol, aka hate radio and TV programs seem to be accepted without censure. The lesson: hate, verbally expressed, is socially acceptable.
This week, however, two incidents which crossed lines in my personal (and, I had thought, social) code have received fleeting attention. During Jerry Seinfeld’s introduction of Jay Leno, preceding Leno receiving the Mark Twain Award, Seinfeld made a joke about “the mentally handicapped.” Jay laughed. The audience laughed. Ha ha ha. No one left. No one, protested either then nor later that I saw or heard. The second was Donald Trump mimicking and ridiculing a New York Times journalist, Serge Koveleski’s physical disability. Again, the crowd did not boo, did not begin a mass exodus. Ha ha ha. I did not read about any of the other presidential candidates calling him out for this very un-presidential-like conduct.
Yet, I know, few think about the fact that those without disabilities are only one second away from having a disability. Yep, one second – in which an accident or illness changes the way the body works. Christopher Reeve did not get ridiculed…why not? Is it not OK to ridicule people in show business but OK for those in other higher professions such as Mr. Koveleski?
Where, though, is the outcry? Who is standing up to these bullies who (a) make such remarks and (b) those who accept them? Jay Leno did not. He smiled and nodded. The news covered Trumps egregious mocking of Serge Koveleski’s disability…his supporters did not walk out, boo or exhibit any protest at all. Why not?
In a year in which I have seen money desperately needed for basic living expenses for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities voted down, learned of egregious practices at VA hospitals including ten-year waiting lists for medical services, lack of adequate mental health care, it causes me to wonder at the heartlessness demonstrated by the politicians and celebrities who engage in denigration of people with disabilities. What is the point?
I believe it is the power of the bully. The one who believes that s/he has a right to insult and degrade others…due to the bully’s belief in his superiority and his victim’s infirmity. Ha ha ha.
The more misery the bully can inflict, the better. And, their crowds. Yeah! Our hero! They remain allegiant and supportive.
I wonder if they think—“oh, no! He’s making fun of our veterans, our elders who are experiencing physical and mental onset of difficulties; our children who have or acquire all types of disability. Ha ha ha.
Those on the political rights appear to be part of the gang of those who belittle people with disabilities.
It just creeps me out. I cannot reconcile what the right-wing preachers say in their hatred (of “x” type of person), while purporting to represent “good people” and “good values.” How did hate become a positive value? No wonder it is hard to get funding for basic needs when politicians denigrate them publicly. Not all, of course, but enough to garner votes to deny support for the most economically needy.
Perhaps some reader can explain to me why this ugly trend seems to be increasing. Perhaps someone can explain to me why making fun of people with disabilities is acceptable. I certainly do believe that the Trump supporters who stayed and applauded agree with such conduct. To my knowledge, the only candidate to criticize Trump for mocking someone with a disability was Carly Fiorina.
When I was growing up, I was taught to value (most) everyone, and later learned to increase who was included in this rule. Honoring others, wherever they are on their life path. Am I in some minority? Am I in a different America than I grew up in? It’s not that I am unaware of discrimination and hate. It’s that it is now seemingly acceptable…that is my problem. I do not see bullying, ridiculing people with disabilities as an American value. Do you?
It is noteworthy that just at this point in time the country is celebrating the 25th year of the Americans with Disabilities Act…yet, it boggles the mind that at the same time a presidential candidate makes fun of people with disabilities, and there is no censure, very little outcry. I have seen absolutely nothing from disability organizations demanding an apology from Trump and Seinfeld, nor from the Republican Party or the producers of the Mark Twain award.
I hope someone can help me understand why Trump and Seinfeld supporters, and others who denigrate people with disabilities, are lauded and admired. Please respond to this blog to explain it to me.
I will end with a quote from Judith Herman (Trauma and Recovery, “The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror. pp 7-8.)
“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement and remembering.”
This blog is my action, engagement and remembering. I await the same from others.