One of the many e-mails I received concerning the president’s Special Olynpics “joke”:
Thank you so much for your blog post about Obama’s Special Olympics comment.
I’d like add to what you’ve said by pointing out that the President’s
insult runs much broader than against the set of citizens you’ve
identified, the people with Down’s Syndrome.
I’m the father of a beautiful, young, 12-year-old girl (quickly
growing into a young lady) named Emily. She’s smart — an avid reader and books-on-tape listener — and she’s excelling in school. But Emily also has cerebral palsy, which affects practically all of her physical abilities. Her speech is affected as are her limbs. She relies completely on a motorized wheelchair to get around.
I might sound overly sensitive when I say this, but the President’s
Special Olympics comment is deeply insulting to anyone, I believe, who has any kind of significant disability. It reveals a coarse insensitivity to the plight of people with disabilities. His comment is every bit as demeaning as some of the most racist and sexist things that have been said in public in recent years by politicians and celebrities. While I’ve sensed in some commentators a rush to excuse his comments as unintended and inconsequential, and therefore hardly worthy of rebuke, I believe such an attitude reveals a double-standard in the way our society views and treats people who are disabled. Those in the public eye who have made racist and sexist comments of equivalent offense have been rightfully pilloried.
I have found myself to be angry — not in my sometimes knee jerk,
emotional way — but in a deeply disappointed way. I can still hardly
believe that an orator of his ability, one who ardently claims to
defend the disenfranchised, could make such a blunder. I fear it
reveals an attitude of arrogance and elitism that portends trouble for the way he will govern.
My only consolation is that perhaps the backlash to his comments will have a positive effect in raising the awareness of the subtle but
troubling way some in our society treat people with disabilities. I
also hope that the President will make a sincere and full apology for his insensitive remarks.
To those who do not live close to the life of a person with
disabilities, my remarks may seem overly dramatic. But living every day with the effects of a severe disability is a tough road. And it’s very disappointing to have the President so flippantly poke fun at a group of people who deserve — more than most — a greater degree of compassion and respect.