Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why are we so angry at Trump for mocking a disabled reporter?

Hear me out, here, before you start hating on me for the title.

In case you've been living under a rock, let me catch you up.  Last November, presidential candidate (who is now the official nominee for the Republican Party) Donald Trump publicly mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis.  Trump waved his arms around in a supposed imitation of "someone groveling to take back a statement made long ago", however, his actions looked suspiciously like an imitation of the way Kovaleski's arms are positioned due to his disability.

The story "grew legs", so to speak, and was quickly plastered all over the media.  And even though we are faced with a new outrageous Trump story almost daily at this point, this is the story that just won't die.  In a recent poll, more than half of prospective voters were "bothered a lot" (the highest metric of displeasure in the poll) that Trump mocked a disabled reporter.  The incident has been the subject of two PSAs produced by a Clinton super PAC.  Several notable figures, including former President Bill Clinton and Senator Tom Harkin, referenced the incident at the Democratic National Convention.

This isn't the first, nor the last time that Trump has threatened, mocked, and humiliated members of the press.  NBC reporter Katy Tur wrote an extensive piece detailing her experiences on the campaign trail and Donald Trump's numerous attempts to insult her and smear her reputation.  Donald Trump has insulted numerous other minority groups, calling Mexican immigrants "rapists", Filipinos "animals", and of course, calling for a complete shutdown of Muslim immigration to the United States.  So why is the mocking of a disabled reporter, a relatively tame incident for Donald Trump, the number one issue that makes voters unhappy with him?

It's because disabled people are generally seen as the untouchables.  We are weak, childlike, unable to defend ourselves.  Ironically, Donald Trump said it himself: "Who would do that to the handicapped?" While he is more than willing to defend - and repeat - his remarks about other minority groups, when it comes to disability, he backtracks.  Disability - even in a political campaign as charged as this one - is somewhat taboo.  And the nation has risen to the defense of a community that has proven, quite plainly, that we can speak for ourselves.

So let's let Serge Kovaleski go and focus on the real issues.  Disabled people don't need defenders.  We need access to the durable medical equipment we need to survive.  We need healthcare that won't shun us for having pre-existing conditions.  And above all, we need civil rights.  Everything else is just lip service.