Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dolts x 2: Charlie Rangel and Saturday Night Live

Two events in the last few days make it clear that we have a lot of work to do in educating people, even very prominent and powerful people, who should know better, about disability issues.

First, Representative Charles Rangel (NY), in an interview with a New York radio station called Sarah Palin disabled:

"Why are the Democrats so afraid of Palin and her popularity?”

"You got to be kind to the disabled," Rangel said.

CBS 2 HD: "You got to be kind to the disabled?"

Rangel: "Yes."

CBS 2 HD: "She's disabled?"

Rangel: "There's no question about it politically. It's a nightmare to think that a person's foreign policy is based on their ability to look at Russia from where they live."

Third time lucky, I suppose.

I don’t know if Rangel just slipped up or if he really meant that Palin was disabled. (He later backtracked quite a bit).

However, what bothers me is that even if he meant to use the term disabled to describe Palin’s lack of foreign policy knowledge, he meant it as an epithet denoting inferiority.

Ergo, disabled means inferior.

Rangel never took that part back.

Rangel made it even worse by observing that we need to be kind to disabled people.

Good move, Charlie: We should look upon “disabled people” benevolently, give them a good-natured pat on the head, and send them off to wherever these curiosities are housed. And, all the while, of course, congratulating ourselves on how kind and sensitive we are to “the disabled.”

How utterly, excruciatingly, patronizing.

Second, was the Saturday Night Live skit about disability that insulted the disability community for cheap laughs and ratings. I’m happy to report that the audience obviously was more sensitive than the writers, as the skit pretty much bombed.

Nevertheless, the skit made the point that Trig had Down Syndrome because of Todd Palin’s incestuous relations with his daughters.

Yeah, real funny.

Here’s what SNL really said to the largest US minority, albeit tongue in cheek:

You are disabled because your parents are perverts.

So much for having come so far in recognizing the rights and inclusion of Americans with disabilities.


Megan said...

Being a young person and therefore part of the targeted demographic that SNL is trying to reach, I am particularly disgusted with the show's skit about the Palin family. I think they have taken for granted that liberal viewers are going to swallow any kind of attack on a conservative political figure, no matter how malicious and inappropriate.

Dr. Mark Mostert said...

Megan, thanks for stopping by. Disability bias knows no boundary of political party, or any other identifier we could think of.

Today it's Rangel and SNL, tomorrow perhaps someone of another persuasion.

That means we certainly have our work cut out for us in advocating for, and with, people with disabilities.

Negativity and ignorance, unfortunately, are everywhere.

Anonymous said...

In the '80s, SNL included skits that mocked the homeless. They are disgusting, and I haven't watched the show since that time.

I suppose I shouldn't be shocked, in 2004 I contacted my senator, Jack Reed (democrat) of RI hoping to get some help. My husband had his rights under the ADA violated when his employer found out that he was waiting for a transplant. He was harassed off the job, and then fired. I fought for a few years and got him on SS and medicare, as by then he entered end stage organ failure (the stress contributed to this), and we thought our problems were over, but the specialists at our public hospital refused to take a patient with medicare, unless they had supplemental insurance (which by that time we couldn't afford, we'd lost our home, and my meagre income wouldn't extend to purchase it. Given that medicare was created to insure that poor elderly (and later disabled citizens) were not deprived of the health care they need, and public hospitals receiving the majority of their funding from the state and federal government, I decided, for the first time in my life to attempt to get the kind of help our democratic members of congress like to claim they care so much about.

When I contacted Senator Reed's office, I was denied any help, that it wasn't a "federal" problem. My response was that medicare IS a federal program, and that the federal government is the largest source of funding for public hospitals, that it certainly was something a senator coul help with. Again, they refused to help.

I fought for two years to get my husband the help he needed, with no help from my elected democratic officials. My husband died in June of '06, from a cancer (lymphoma) that would have been highly survivable had it been caught earlier, and the oncologist told me that had he the specialist he needed, performing the normal blood tests to moniter the progression of his condition, they would have detected the lymphoma easily.

I've watched democrats in congress become corrupted, and indifferent to the wider realities out there. They are not the party they have claimed to be for decades.

Dr. Mark Mostert said...

Anonymous,thanks so much for your observations.

First, my condolences on the loss of your husband. I cannot imagine then incredible frustration and unnecessary that you must still feel.

Your comments also illustrate just how vigilant and vocal we need to be on behalf of all of those with disabilities. There is so much ignorance and prejudice that it's sometimes hard to believe.

Please visit the blog often, I apprciate your contribution.