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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Talking back to Palin about Disability

I was really irked by Palin's self serving speech about being a friend of "children with special needs' in a year when we have had to fight to have the Americans with Disabilites Act renewed intact. As a person with a disability and occasional activist in the Disability Rights Movement I wanted to write something in answer to her speech. Like what if her child with Downs Syndrome-such individuals known for their even tempers and ability to learn- had a much more severe disability, one that needed hourly care, suctioning and tube feeding and injections and no communication skills. What would she and her husband-because he's a part-of this be doing?

So I was reading the disability studies blog from Temple University and found my reply and thanks to the kind blogger at Temple:

Some notes about this passage in your speech last night:

"And children with special needs inspire a very, very special love. To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House."

1. We're not friends. We may have some things in common--motherhood, kid with a chromosomal diagnosis, age give or take a coupla years, race, messy dark hair, glasses, check check check--but we've never had a coffee together, or watched each other's kids, or worked on an art project together. And I don't see any of that happening in the future, either. So cut the "you've got a friend" line. I grew up in a state where that sentiment was on every license plate, and it means nothing when used in such a wholesale, consequence-free way. Worse, it devalues the real worth and work of friendship. I like and need friends. You're just not one of them.

(BTW, I also bristle at agency literature using words like "partner"--uh, no. Unless you're willing to take a 3am shift whenever kids are sick, you're not my partner in this.)

2. I don't think "very, very special love" qualifies as a policy. My kid doesn't need your "special love." He needs to have his rights recognized and protected; he needs the appropriate school education the law says he's entitled to; he needs accessibility to make living in the community a reality instead of a goal, and not just when he's a kid, but his whole life. I expect a vision with policy specifics. Hey, there's one!

3. Unless you started being a disability advocate long before your youngest son was born in April of this year, you're not in any position to use the term "advocate" for yourself. It's presumptuous to claim otherwise. You're still learning. Keep learning. Gotta say, I'm glad there were no reporters writing down my every word when my son was four months old--I'm sure anything I might have said about disability back then would have been a bundle of contradictions and confusion, because I didn't have near enough experience to speak otherwise on the subject. (And I'm still learning every single day, after thirteen years.) Presenting yourself as the stereotypical "kn0w-it-all mom" who is (rightly) dreaded by many in the disability world is not doing the rest of us parents any favors, so please rethink that pose.

4. Truth is, I was never going to vote for your ticket anyway, no matter who the VP choice was. But you're sure making me more secure than ever about that position.



Auntie Knickers said...

Excellent addition to the discussion! My problem with the Republicans is that they haven't yet figured out: people with disabilities are people. Black people are people. Indians are people. Lesbians, gays and transgender people are people. Welfare recipients are people. Muslims are people. Atheists are people. Yes, even criminals are people. And all people were endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are not privileges, "special treatment," or nice things bestowed because Lord and Lady Bountiful wish to do so. Rights.

Penny L. Richards said...

Hi Processing Counselor--glad it worked for you! I spent a day or so writing comments at other blogs before I finally had to assemble all my points into one post at DS,TU.

As you emphasized and Auntie Knickers agreed, it's about RIGHTS. That can't be repeated enough this season, or any season.

mompriest said...

The Republican stance is that rights of individuals for things like aid (of any kind) belongs in the public sector not the government. Thus the entire burden falls on community agencies without the need for the goevernment to set the standard for any kind of consistency (fairness) in response. One of the main reasons (well, among many other) that I am a Democrat is because Dems know that the government has to set the standard and be involved. We need the federal government to say that ALL PEOPLE are entitled to the same rights of the Constitution.

That's my rant this morning. Yup. I agree with all that has been said here.

Barbara B. said...

excellent thoughts -- thanks for sharing this!!