Thoughts on “Unite the Right”, Trump, and This Blog

I have some things I want to say about the weekend’s events with the “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia…but it’s mixed in with some other stuff, so bear with me…

Content Note: alt-right, Andrew Anglin, Charlottesville, David Duke, Donald Trump, Jason Kessler, Protest, Racism, Terrorism

Swatika in a bold red circle with a slash through it. Keyword: Unite the Right

Image Description: Swastika in a bold red circle with a slash through it.

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It’s important to me to be fair. I like to try, to the greatest extent possible, to see all sides of the story.

It’s been important to me not only to comment on how Donald Trump and his statements and policies violate the rights of others, but how attitudes toward:

have been ugly and at times hypocritical as well.  Not because I like him – I don’t like Donald Trump at all. But because Donald Trump and the people around him have rights, too.

I feel like I’ve been fair.

But I’ve decided after this weekend that this blog won’t be a space anymore where Trump his administration get protective space. I started leaning that way after his tweet in July about barring transgender people from the military. I see now that he’s pursuing that course of action and I just…don’t want writing a defense of Trump in light of legitimately problematic ways that he and his administration are talked about (like falling back on sexism to criticize Kellyanne Conway) to be mistaken for support for Trump’s policies and how he conducts himself as President.

I’m especially resolved on that decision after his response to the “Unite the Right” protest.

Trump’s Response to the “Unite the Right” is Unacceptable

On Saturday, Trump said:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

It’s hard to know where to start, especially since Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert was (badly) defending the statement on Sunday.

And good for the GOP who are breaking rank and letting the President know that his statement was unacceptable. Credit where it’s due.

Andrew Anglin, a prolific neo-Nazi with a large following, had this to say about Trump’s speech:

“Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides! So he implied the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all. He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

Something that the White House should consider, perhaps.

As for what I need to say on all this…

The Alt-Right Can Believe Offensive Things If It Chooses

I’m not disputing the “Unite the Right” protesters’ right to gather and protest the removal of General Lee’s statue, any more than I dispute the right of the people to counter-protest “Unite the Right.” Not because I believe in what “Unite the Right” stands for, by any means. I think that the alt-right’s beliefs are disgusting and their justifications for those beliefs are ridiculous. I think that it’s pathetic that the removal of a Confederate statue got the movement so riled up. But just because I (and most of America) doesn’t agree with them doesn’t take away their right to peaceful protest. If I’d believed for a second that the “Unite the Right” protesters had actually come with legal, peaceful protest in mind, I wouldn’t have been so concerned when I heard that the protest was in the works.

But, as we all know now (and I think we all suspected),  “Unite the Right” wasn’t intended to be just a peaceful protest of a statue’s removal. Marching onto a university campus at night with torches, yelling racist statements, isn’t peaceful – it’s a terrifying act of intimidation and violence.

They marched up the door of a church where an interfaith prayer service for peace was going on, making people scared to come out.

Counter-protesters reported that they had torches swung at them and pepper spray and lighter fluid used on them.

And that was Friday night; the official “Unite the Right” protest didn’t even begin until Saturday.

Peaceful protest was never the intent.

And I’m aware that the counter-protesters were violent as well. Earlier today, “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler was  escorted away by police from where he tried to speak at the protest, after being  shouted down by the crowd and being pushed and tackled. I’m not going to defend assaulting Kessler. Violence isn’t appropriate, period. It doesn’t get anyone anywhere, and creates an atmosphere where everyone is unsafe.

However, those that are criticizing the counter-protesters for being violent need to acknowledge that the alt-right folks set the tone for the weekend on Friday night when they terrorized the UVA campus.

Their antics that night may not have legally been terrorism, but they were certainly an act of terror in spirit, escalated the next day by an act that was clearly domestic terrorism –  and because of it  19 people were injured and a woman, Heather Heyer, is dead.

As Jake Tapper said to Tom Bossert: “How many people did the counter-protesters kill?”

Headshot of a white woman, 32, with curly reddish hair and amber eyes. She is weaing pink lipstck and eye make-up in blue and purple tones. She has light freckling on her nose, and dimples. She is smiling. Keyword: Unite the Right
Heather Heyer, 32

Image Description: Headshot of a white woman, 32, with curly reddish hair and amber eyes. She is weaing pink lipstick and eye make-up in blue and purple tones. She has light freckling on her nose, and dimples. She is smiling.

Donald Trump Owes America More Than What He’s Been Giving It

Donald Trump refuses to call these things out for what they are or give any compelling argument that he’s committed to making America a place where all people truly are equal, and that makes me sick – because he’s the President, and even if the “Unite the Right” protesters had sat cross-legged in a park in silent meditation all weekend, he still shouldn’t be behind what they believe, or what any group whose philosophy involves restricting the rights of Americans based on race, sex, religion, sexual preference, gender identification, or disability believes.

And he should be prepared to say so clearly and definitively. When David Duke says about the President, “We’re doing this in your name,” a President who truly believes in an America where everyone is equal says, “Stop. Immediately. I don’t want to be associated with what you, your beliefs, or what you do.”

Duke, on what “Unite the Right” represents to him:

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believe in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

I fear for a country whose President won’t denounce hate.  And I don’t want my blog to be a place where he gets anything that can be construed as defence anymore. I’ll be thinking very carefully about what I write about Trump in the future.

I feel like I need to make my allegiances clearer… and that I owe my American friends more than what I’ve been giving them.

I know that none of this is much help to a country that’s frightened and grieving and feeling very divided – but it’s what this Canadian has to give today.

And maybe this, because Trae Crowder always nails it…*foul language – NSFW*

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Trumpcare, Mental Health, and the Goldwater Rule

Back to politics today for  a moment…because there’s something I want to say, and because I’m struggling with something about Donald Trump and the Goldwater Rule.

Content Note: Ableism, Healthcare, Politics, Trump, Mental Health

Senator Susan Collins, a white woman with short red hair wearing a dark blazer, white blouse, and pearls, stands in front of an American flag background. Keyword: Goldwater Rule

Image Description: Senator Susan Collins, a white woman with short red hair wearing a dark blazer, white blouse, and pearls, stands in front of an American flag background.

Although I have Republican friends that I cherish in spite of our differences in opinion, regular readers know that as a group I’m hard on them. I’ve called them out, sometimes by  name (some have told me unfairly.) I don’t believe that I’ve been off-base.

But I also believe in giving credit where it’s due. So, to Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who’ve stood firm in this round of Obamacare repeal deliberations that what’s been included in the proposed repeal scenarios are not good for their constituents, despite bullying from Donald Trump, thank you. Thank you on behalf of my disabled American friends, and the children, families and elderly people of America that not only depend on Medicaid to keep them happy and healthy, but depend on it to keep them alive. Thank you for insisting that America be a country where everyone is taken care of. Your integrity and courage give me hope.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a white woman with short blonde hair wearing a red blazer, a write blouse, and a pendant on a chain, stands in front of some trees. Keyword: Goldwater Rule

Image Description:  Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a white woman with short blonde hair wearing a red blazer, a write blouse, and a pendant on a chain, stands in front of some trees.

Thank you also to John McCain, a man with whom I’ve definitely had my disagreements, who came to Washington in spite of his cancer diagnosis, right after brain surgery, speaking eloquently about bipartisanship and the need to work together to craft a plan for healthcare, pushing himself through the week and into the early hours of the morning last Friday night to cast the vote that brought down Trumpcare. Sir, I salute you.

Senator John McCain, a white male in his 70s with white hair wearing a navy blazer and blue dress shirt. stands against an American flag background Keyword: Goldwater Rule
MESA, AZ – June 4: Senator John McCain (R – AZ) appears at a town hall meeting on June 4, 2010 in Mesa, Arizona.

Image Description: Senator John McCain, a white male in his 70s with white hair wearing a navy blazer and blue dress shirt. stands against an American flag background.

I won’t ever forget what the three of you have done for my American friends.

And to the rest of GOP who are struggling with the idea of single-payer as an idea for health care in the US…on one level, I get it.

Didn’t think I’d say that, did you? Well, I’m nothing if not practical. Single-payer isn’t a perfect system. Not by a long shot. Are there wait times? There can be, for non-emergency issues especially. Is it bureaucracy-heavy? Not any more than the bureaucracy created by the American system having to deal with many insurance plans, I’d argue, but I could be wrong. But even though I waited a couple of months for the functional MRI that the AVM Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital needed to decide how to best treat my AVM, I didn’t have to worry about whether my family could afford to have one of the best neurosurgeons in North America specializing in AVM treatment rooting around in my head for 14 hours.

Take our system and make *your* single-payer system better. Show us up. In fact (if it’ll get you moving on this), I’ll bet that you can’t do it. Go ahead and prove me wrong.

Please! 🙂

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Now…why I’m struggling.

Donald Trump, Mental Health, and the Goldwater Rule

Last week, two friends who work in the mental health field, for whom I have a great deal of respect, said that despite their concerns about the Goldwater Rule, they firmly believe Donald Trump has a mental health condition and needs evaluation to determine whether he’s psychologically healthy enough to continue on as President. The American Psychoanalytic Association officially said recently that members shouldn’t feel restricted by the the Goldwater Rule when discussing Trump.

This is a tough one for me. I don’t like Trump at all, simply because I don’t tend to like people that are lying, arrogant bullies.  But I’ve fought hard against the idea that he’s unfit for office because he’s “crazy” because:

  • Even the most qualified mental health diagnostician would need time and access to Trump to make an accurate diagnosis
  • If the policy is that a clean bill of mental health is required to be the President, then Presidents as far back as Lincoln have been in violation
  • It’s ableist. There’s no reason that a President with a well-managed mental health condition should be treated any differently, in terms of perception of ability to govern, than a President with any other sort of well-managed condition.

And I think that ultimately I still believe that the Goldwater Rule should apply to the position of the President, provided that some other safeguards are put in place (because we do know that Presidents have had mental health conditions, and even degenerative brain conditions, that went largely unnoticed while they were in office):

  • Any President (not just Donald Trump) gets his or her mental health evaluated by an independent mental health practitioner on a regular basis. (I don’t know if this happens, or how often.) The Presidency is an extremely high-stress job, and it’s not unreasonable to periodically check at the very least whether that stress is having an adverse affect on the President’s well-being.
  • Concerns about the President’s mental health are treated like concerns about the President’s physical health – they are quickly, and thoroughly evaluated and, if necessary, treated. The President takes time off work if necessary, but the assumption is that he or she will be able to return to work, and that it will happen as soon as possible. The public is entitled to no more information than it would be if the President had a physical issue.

In other words: If the White House properly monitored the President for mental health conditions and ensured that if there were any conditions that were affecting the President so much that they interfered with his or her ability to govern that the President took time off (if necessary) and received the treatment and education needed to ensure that the condition was well-managed and no longer an issue…then I’d continue to stand on the Goldwater Rule and say, “It isn’t up to people who’ve never spoken to President to make a diagnosis. It’s up to the White House.”

But I don’t have that confidence in this White House. They can’t even make Donald Trump stop using his phone. They’re not going to convince him to let someone do even a simple mental health evaluation, or start treatment if that was deemed necessary – and Donald Trump is not a man that would step down. Not for the good of his health. Not even, I don’t think, for the good of his country.

So, I Struggle…

I’ve struggled as I’ve watched mental health diagnosticians openly break the Goldwater Rule since Trump’s election with their pronouncements in the media that he’s got any number of mental health conditions.

I struggle now, wondering if they were right to break the Goldwater Rule the way they did.

I don’t think that a mental health condition should automatically disqualify anyone from any job – I know too many people with well-managed mental health conditions that are in high-stress positions and that do an excellent job. But, like my friend said:

Whether someone agrees or disagrees with the content of his inflammatory statements, that is not the issue. This is not a matter of attributing mental illness because of disagreement with his views/statements. If you go back and view interviews with him from decades ago, he’s still the same big jerk, but his behavior has changed.”

It’s one thing to be a seventy-year-old civilian man with no insight into behaviour change and perhaps the need for help, and with apparently no one around you who will call you on that blind spot. It’s quite another thing when you’re the most powerful man in the world.

I think I know now where I land on this. If the White House won’t take action when there are indicators that the President needs treatment for a mental health condition, other people with experience and knowledge in the field of mental health need to be allowed to speak without fear of what it could cost them. It’s ableism to say, “People with a mental health condition can’t be President,” but it’s not ableism to expect Presidents that do have mental health conditions to work with their staff and medical team to manage those conditions so that their ability to govern isn’t affected.

To be clear:  Mental health professionals who are worried that Donald Trump isn’t competent to lead need the freedom to speak about it. Someone has to.

 

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Just a Reminder that Barron Trump is Off-Limits

There’s so much to say about Donald Trump right now. But there’s also some things I want to say about his ten-year-old son, Barron Trump, that I think we need to remember as we go into the Trump Presidency. Because the fact that the youngest Trump child was mocked on social media for his appearance at the Jan 20 inauguration is bad news, folks.

Content Note: Bullying, Exploitation, Lack of Consent

"No Bullies" in red block type with a black shadow giving it a 3-D effect against a yellow starburst with a bold red border and a black shadow. Keyword: Barron Trump

Image Description: “No Bullies” in red block type with a black shadow giving it a 3-D effect against a yellow starburst with a bold red border and a black shadow.

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Mocking Barron Trump is Not Cool. Period.

Of course, we can’t know the political affiliation of the people who made the mocking tweets in question, but it doesn’t matter that much — I don’t care whether you lean to the right or the left, the minor children of political figures are off-limits. Trump’s adult children chose to get involved the campaign and Presidency — they shouldn’t have to put up with cyberbullying (no one should) but should expect potentially difficult questions they’re held accountable in their roles. Barron Trump didn’t have a choice about whether he’d be involved in this — he didn’t ask for the public scrutiny and shouldn’t have to deal with it. Liberals who’d bully a child aren’t ones with whom I want to be involved.

Barron Trump and the Autism Question

Which brings me to the other thing that’s happening that isn’t cool.

One of the tweets in the linked Bustle article above makes mention of the rumours that Barron Trump is autistic. Speculation along these lines started during Trump’s campaign, and it’s annoying that it’s still going on. Judging by the comments in this article, lots of people are more than willing to, based in the very limited footage of Barron Trump in the media and without the qualifications to diagnose, state definitively that he’s autistic.

As I’ve written before, I find armchair diagnosis extremely irritating (in general, not just when it’s happening to the Trump family.) I think it’s irresponsible, that it has great potential to perpetuate stigma and discrimination, and that the way that both parties used it during the election was dangerous. I wish that people wouldn’t speculate about whether Barron Trump is autistic. That sort speculation often comes with negative messaging about being autistic, and we should all know by now that there’s nothing wrong with being autistic.

In Barron Trump’s case, speculation about an autism diagnosis has also given rise to other unsubstantiated rumours and support for ridiculous demands on the Trump family. Despite acknowledging that there’s been no proof to support that Barron Trump has any sort of health condition, reporter Samuel Alioto writes that “evidence is mounting” that Barron is autistic, citing specific mannerisms and Trump’s parental age, and a tweet and remarks during a campaign debate by Trump about seeing a two-year-old become autistic after receiving vaccinations that many believe was about Barron; “it’s all over social media”, after all.

Crack journalism, that. Not much better than the video that caused Rosie O’Donnell to speculate whether Barron Trump is autistic, using as evidence things like his parents’ assertions that he’s good at computers, loves math and and science, and likes to spend time alone and keep his room clean, coupled with his “strange movements”, and “anti-social” behaviour at the RNC.

Melania Trump sued to have the video taken down and it’s since been re-uploaded, but it’s a piece of garbage and I’m not linking to it. Comments on the video suggested that her insistence on taking it down was a sign of denial or shame on the Trumps’ part, but I don’t agree — I would have done the same thing in her place. No matter how well-intentioned you fancy yourself, you don’t get to insert someone else’s kid into your cause and use footage of them without speaking to the family first. It’s disrespectful and completely dehumanizes Barron Trump in much the same way that Jim Carrey dehumanized Alex Echols when he used his photo without permission in an anti-vaccination Twitter rant.

Alioto’s conclusion that Barron Trump is autistic led him to write:

His parents choices have thrust Barron into the public spotlight, so now the issue must be addressed by his parents. If the story is verified, it would mean that Donald Trump did not tell the public a personal fact about his son that would have engendered public sympathy for him. He put his family’s privacy above political gain, which is certainly laudable. But now that there’s active speculation about Barron, it’s time to come forward.

Uh, no.

Maybe I feel differently about this because I’m Canadian and, honestly, I couldn’t tell you how many children the last three Prime Ministers have had, let alone their names. I suspect that I’m not alone in that. The Prime Minister’s children stay very low-profile in Canada (with notable exceptions, of course — Ben Mulroney and Justin Trudeau blew that theory to bits.)

But I’ve never felt like disabled people in general (let alone those in politics) are required to become advocates just because they’re disabled, nor are families with disabled children required to be poster families. Any disability that Barron Trump may or may not have is no one’s business but his, his family’s, and the people with whom they choose to discuss it, and if Barron is autistic there may be good reasons why the family isn’t speaking about it:

  • Melania Trump may not want added pressure to step into an advocacy/activist role.
  • The family may feel like the extra attention may not be good for Barron at a time when there are a lot of other changes to adjust to.
  • Barron Trump may prefer that the family not speak about it,

If Barron Trump does have autism, there’s nothing to suggest that that the family is staying quiet about it because of shame or denial, and the insinuation is unfair. Unless you’ve got everyday access to the Trumps, you can’t know what goes on in their family.

I loathe Donald Trump

But I’ve got no reason to dislike his kid. Is Barron Trump autistic? None of our business. Go about yours, and if you’re one of the ones mocking him on social media, leave him alone.

Because of nonsense like this, I’m spending too much time writing stuff that feels like uncomfortably like I’m defending Donald Trump. Don’t make me do it again.

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Meryl Streep, We Don’t Need Your Outrage

I blogged about the incident where Donald Trump mocked disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski back when it happened during the primaries, and frankly I roll my eyes a little bit every time someone brings it up as “his most shocking moment” or something equally hyperbolic. If it’s online I leave a link to my blog post and move on. But I’ve just seen on CNN clips of Meryl Streep’s reference to the incident in her otherwise lovely speech at last night’s Golden Globes about the incident, and it truly pissed me off. So here I am.

Content Note:  Donald Trump, Bullying, Nothing for Us Without Us, Ableism

"No Thank You" against a cream-coloured background. A black pen sits to the side. Keyword: Meryl Streep

 

Image Description: “No Thank You” against a cream-coloured background. A black pen sits to the side.

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The captions are very good on this video. To access them, hit the icon on bottom of the frame (toward the right side) that looks like an index card.

While I agree that Donald Trump mocking Serge Kovaleski, and his refusal up to this morning to apologize for it, is crude and tasteless, and that, as Meryl Streep said, Trump does have more “power and privilege” than Koveleski, I take absolute exception to the idea that Kovaleski has “no power to fight back.” He could have spoken out about the incident when it happened. I’m assuming that he chose not to, but I don’t even like to speculate about that, because I’m tired of people assuming that they must know how he feels about the incident.

People have certainly been clear about how they feel, though, and the resulting narrative is that this incident was the lowest point of Trump’s campaign. Not his statement that Mexicans are criminals and rapists. Not his campaign promise to deport 11 million people. Not his proposed Muslim ban, or the comments about sexual assault, or the promise to repeal Obamacare (which will affect many disabled people.)

No, apparently it was the mocking of Serge Kovaleski (again, in extremely poor taste, but are we surprised?) Because he’s a disabled man, and because we all know that disabled people are powerless and can’t fight back.

I do get that Meryl Streep’s overarching point was that when the President bullies people, other people take it as permission to bully people. But I’ve fought hard (and am still fighting hard, with other advocates) to get society to see that disabled people are *not* powerless.

I am *not* powerless.

I do not let people like Donald Trump take my power.

And I don’t need the outrage of people who see me as powerless. Thanks anyway, Meryl Streep.

And you know what else I’m tired of, Meryl Streep? And CNN, for that matter? People not calling this gentleman by his name when they’re speaking about him. His name is Serge Kovaleski. He’s a Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist. Not “a disabled journalist” or “the disabled journalist”. Your outrage rings hollow when you can’t even be bothered to learn his name, especially when you’ve admitted that you’re reading a pre-written speech. Google is your friend.

Have a great day, everyone!

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Trump Wins the Election – Thoughts on What Happens Now

It’s taken me a couple of days to figure out what I want and need to write about Election Night 2016 and Donald Trump’s win.

Beside a country road, yellow diamond road sign says "Donald Trump Ahead"

Image Description: Beside a country road, yellow diamond road sign says “Donald Trump Ahead”

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So, Donald Trump and Election Night 2016.

 I was on the verge of tears for 3 days afterward. I don’t think that this is totally the election; I’ve got some Seasonal Affective Disorder, and while the end of Daylight Savings Time is much easier for me to handle now than it has been in the past, it still does somewhat throw me for a loop a bit, moodwise.

And what to say about the election? Like most people, I was surprised that Donald Trump won. And I’ve been heartbroken. And scared for the future of both my American friends, and for the world.

Donald Trump and Conflicting Feelings

Surprised that he won, yes. But not shocked. Not as much as some people were, I don’t think, because I’ve felt for a long time that Clinton’s campaign wasn’t as strong as people were saying it was. Was she the best option of the two of them?

Without a fucking doubt. But was I fully comfortable with her? No.

But I think that Canadians have less of a problem than Americans do with voting someone in with whom they’re not fully comfortable if it means keeps a less desirable candidate out, and I don’t know why that is.

However, I rarely talked about my discomfort with Clinton openly. I felt really uncomfortable doing so around other liberals, especially women. It just wasn’t worth drawing the castigation of her supporters (and that’s what it really did feel like — castigation.)

I’ve read a number of theories now about why the election played out the way it did, and more and more I’m liking the one that talks about the Trump Silent Majority — the voters, mostly rural, with whom his message of an improved economy and more American jobs really resonated. Not necessarily racists and homophobes (although some of them certainly were, from the media coverage that I saw) — but hard-working people to whom even the middle-class struggling to make ends meet looks elite. I’ve lived in a very small town in a rural area for most of my life. I knew immediately what pundits meant when they started talking about the Trump Silent Majority. I can’t speak personally to the challenges that it faces, because I grew up in a middle-class family where both parents had good jobs; even now, as a white, straight, disabled person working, renting in the area and able to pay all my bills each month, and living in a country where my healthcare expenses are covered, I look at all of this from a very privileged position. But I have an idea of what the challenges are. And I can empathize with feeling powerless to change your own life. It does fuel a sort of desperation, particularly when it’s accompanied with economic hardship and the difficult decisions that go with that (I have been unemployed long-term; it was much more stressful than I imagined it would be.)

For whatever reason, these people felt heard by Donald Trump, in a way that they felt the government hasn’t been hearing them. They saw Clinton as part of the government establishment that hasn’t been hearing them, and she just couldn’t convince them that she could. The Democrats should spend some time asking themselves, before the next election, why that was.

Again, for the Record — I Don’t Like Donald Trump

I watched the entire 18 months of Donald Trump’s campaign. I think he’s a liar and a bully, a racist, misogynistic, petty excuse of a man who is immensely privileged in many ways and can’t — won’t — examine it. But he also won the Presidency fair and square and, as Hillary Clinton said herself in her very classy acceptance speech, he deserves the chance to lead. This sentiment has been echoed by Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

It doesn’t mean you have to like him.

It doesn’t mean you have to approve of the action he takes.

Don’t Give Up Your Power

It doesn’t mean that if Donald Trump does indeed start to restrict the rights of American citizens that you shouldn’t make your voices heard. In fact, given that he talked in his campaign about restricting the rights of American citizens, you should probably be planning for what you’ll do when that happens. What non-violent, legal protest are YOU willing to engage in? Who will join you? Reminder: Protest comes in many forms. What are your talents? How can you put them to use?

We’re all angry and hurting right now, but please don’t stay there forever. Take the time that you need to mourn, and then channel that energy into something that will bring about change. Lots of organizations are going to need to more volunteer power than ever to buffer vulnerable people against the changes that Donald Trump’s proposed changes could bring. Again, what are your talents? What can you offer to these organizations? Even a little bit of time helps.

Some liberal women that I’ve talked to have decided, in light of Donald Trump’s talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, to set up monthly donations to that organization. They do a lot for women’s health and could certainly use the money regardless of whether their government funding is stopped.

Here is a list of American pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-Earth, anti-bigotry organizations that need support.

You are not powerless. Please remember that.

Remember the Children

I think it’s particularly important to reassure children who are upset by Donald Trump’s election that there are adults in the country who are committed to keeping them safe. Children have absorbed too much of what’s been said in this election, I think — with social media such a force in their lives from such a young age, it’s hard for them not to. I was exposed to Canadian politics from a fairly young age (CBC radio was always on in my house) and I had an idea before I was 10 years old which federal politicians my parents didn’t especially like…but I wasn’t sure why. I knew broadly that there was big stuff going on with my country — that Quebec wanted to leave, that there were scandals going on within the government…but it wasn’t until I was in my teens that people started to say, “Here’s how these grown-up issues will affect you.” I wasn’t asked to deal with the “grown-up” while I was still a child.

One of Stephen Colbert’s employees told a story on “The Late Show” last week about how his son woke him up on November 9th, asked him if Donald Trump had won, and burst into tears when he said yes. And that me profoundly sad. The kids have been listening much more closely than we thought they were, I think, and were saddled with some intense grown-up anxieties that their psyches weren’t designed to handle. We need to be more careful.

That’s what makes stories like the one that came out of Bret Harte Middle School in Los Angeles on Nov 12 so awful. The teacher in question, who told an 11-year-old student that Trump would deport her parents and leave her here to be placed in foster care, has been fired, but that’s not really the point. This is the stuff that you’re going to need to be prepared to call people on in the next 4 years, and to say to Donald Trump, “We need to know your stance on this, when people use your name to scare children in this manner. “ Whatever Donald Trump’s plans on immigration end up being, an adult that children are told they should trust using this sort of rhetoric in the classroom is inexcusable and an abuse of power, and not something that a President should want his name attached to.

Here’s another good article on protecting our children in the wake of the election.

The father…Colbert’s employee…his response to his son was perfect, by the way. Look for it in the video below, which I’ve also linked to because I liked what Colbert had to say about helping our kids deal with this. He’s been one of the media people that’s kept me sane for the last 18 months.

I hope that all of you are doing okay. I really do.

But While I’m Calling People Out…

If you’re a Clinton supporter and you think it’s okay to call Melania Trump names like “slut” (I’ve seen this in Facebook groups) and that it’s okay to hold up signs at protests that say “Rape Melania”, you need to stop and ask yourself if you really believe that Hillary Clinton would want you to express your support of her in this way.

I truly don’t believe that she would, and it makes me sad and angry when I see Clinton supporters engaging in this sort of behaviour. No woman deserves to raped, and I’m sure that anyone who wants to criticize Melania Trump can find reasons to do so without getting into slut-shaming.

And before you start to criticize her, please ask yourself if your anger is truly with her, or with her husband, and target it accordingly.

That’s all for now…please take good care of yourselves and each other…let’s try our best to stop the carnage.

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Armchair Psychology and Election 2016

So I’ve been working on my post about the Democratic National Convention (which I’m finding very difficult to write, for a number of reasons) and I’m hoping to get it online soon. But something else has come up that I want to talk about: how armchair psychology has entered the campaigning in the 2016 election.
Content Note: Ableism, Mental Health, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Politics, Election 2016
The word "crazy!" on a white cloud against a psychadelic background. Keyword: Armchair psychology

Image Description: The word “crazy!” on a white cloud against a psychedelic background.

***

Now, I’m certainly not the first to write about this and I won’t be the most eloquent. But I’ve actually noticed this happening since the primaries, when Donald Trump likened Ben Carson’s self-described “pathological temper” to the pathological issues of a child molester (in that neither can be cured, Trump said, but that’s not how the public took his comments.) Nonsense with a recent petition put me over the edge.

Yes, nonsense.

For Clarity’s Sake

Let me say it again, for those that haven’t heard me say it before: I intensely dislike Donald Trump and just about everything he stands for. I think that he’s a bullying, abusive liar and the idea of him as President of the USA is terrifying to me. Despite having some misgivings about Hilary Clinton that I’m finding fairly difficult to navigate my way around at the moment, I’ll still do whatever I can to get her elected, because the alternative is just unthinkable. (And for what it’s worth, the idea of voting someone in to keep someone out doesn’t create any real cognitive dissonance for me — as a Canadian voter, I’ve had to do this several times.)

But despite my dislike for Donald Trump, armchair psychology in the form of speculation about any potential mental health diagnoses he may have has made me uncomfortable right from the get-go, from everybody but a select group of friends and colleagues that I know have a lot of experience in the mental health sector and the qualifications to diagnose someone given the opportunity to spend adequate time with a person. Not that I’m perfect — I’m not qualified to diagnose, and I can remember discussions with these colleagues where, as we’ve speculated on what might motivate some of Trump’s behaviour, I’ve said that it seems like narcissism or perhaps even sociopathy are possibilities. Even those discussions were ones in which I shouldn’t have engaged in, and I don’t anymore. I should have known better than to engage in that sort of speculation.

But I will say this: the difference between this discussion between me, as a person with education about mental health issues and experience in the field and these colleagues presently working in the field and able to diagnose, and the average person on the internet saying, “Trump is such a psychopath” (or “Could Trump Pass a Sanity Test”, where noted media figure Keith Olbermann evaluates Trump for psychopathy using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist) is:

  • My colleagues and I know that it’s dangerous to toss around mental health terminology in the general public arena with regards to a person’s potential mental health diagnoses, especially if you’re someone with the power to influence the way people vote (another candidate, a speaker at a convention, a media person), when you’re not qualified to diagnose people. Armchair psychology has consequences.
  • My colleagues and I are careful to avoid even the suggestion that a mental health diagnosis makes people unfit for certain kinds of work, because that’s ableist bullshit.

And this, which really should be most obvious reason to end all this armchair psychology, and the reason why the internet petition encouraging the Republican party to have Donald Trump evaluated for Narcissistic Personality Disorder is in particular so objectionable: My colleagues and I know that even if a person has the credentials required to diagnose mental health conditions, it’s unethical to do so without meeting the person and spending time with them.

(This petition is still up, but I’m not going to link to it. It’s easy enough to find if you want to look for it.)

Unethical! And the petition’s creator knows this — she said so in the preamble to the petition. The interesting thing about this petition is that while its creator seems to know why asking people to sign a petition saying “Donald Trump is a narcissist and I think it makes him unfit for President” would be inappropriate, and makes it appear like she’s not asking people to do that…she ultimately really is. And if she is a mental health professional (she doesn’t state her qualifications), that makes the petition particularly egregious.

Let’s unpack this.

The Petition to Have Trump’s Mental Health Evaluated

The creator, stating that she knows that it’s unethical for clinicians who haven’t spent time with a person to diagnose them, is calling on mental health diagnosticians who have observed in Trump’s behaviour (in the media, presumably) the nine diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder as listed in the DSM-V (she then lists them) to endorse the idea that the Republican party should evaluate Trump’s mental health fitness to hold office based on what they’ve seen. The petition was specifically targeted (as you can apparently do with the particular company that she used to create it) to clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

I would imagine that her argument is that she’s not asking anyone to diagnose, but instead asking people with the credentials to diagnose to suggest to the Republicans that they find someone who can ethically evaluate Donald Trump and have it done for the good of the country. But there are a couple of problems with this:

  1. This petition didn’t stay among mental health diagnosticians. I found the link to it in a Facebook group whose members work in all sectors, and a lot of people indicated that they signed. The link to the petition also went out over Twitter using a hashtag that trended. It invited armchair psychology from all over the world.
  2. Even if it stayed in circulation only among mental health diagnosticians, it’s a request with a bias toward the idea that Trump *does* have a personality disorder that will make him unfit to govern. Obviously the creator, despite her acknowledgement that it’s unethical for someone in her position (assuming that she’s a diagnostician; again, she doesn’t state her qualifications) to do so, has decided that Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is asking other diagnosticians to support her (again, unethical.)
  3. Even if we completely ignored what I said in Bullet #2…she’s asking diagnosticians to support a request to the Republicans to have Trump evaluated for mental fitness based on media footage of his campaign. We don’t see or hear what Trump is like at home, church, in his office every day (at least not unfiltered through the media). We see him in only one facet of his life, and a request to evaluate him based on that is unfair. And unethical.

Story time.

The Unfair Assumption That Unwanted Behaviour is Always Due to Disability

I was in a support position for a family where a 17-year-old male had a developmental disability. The parents came to me at one point and asked if I could arrange for an appointment with a behaviour consultant from a children’s support agency.

“His disability is making him disrespectful, argumentative, and very difficult to deal with,” they said. “We can’t get him to do anything we ask.”

“We can do that,” I said, “There’s a waiting list, but I’ll get the referral started. But keep in mind…him being disrespectful, argumentative, difficult to deal with, and unwilling to do what you ask might have more to do with the fact that he’s a 17-year-old boy than it does with his disability.”

My point? Trump could have an off-the-scale case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Or he could simply be in possession of the “healthy dose” of narcissism that psychology professor Dan McAdams told the Toronto Star “most people running for high office must have.” Adams did go on to say that “It does seem to be the case that he’s kind of off the map,” but also said that he wouldn’t give him a mental health diagnosis.

Trump certainly has been described as a narcissist by many people, and this tendency appears to be accompanied by an inflated healthy self-esteem, a tendency to speak off the top of his head and behave erratically, and a strong dislike of admitting he’s wrong. Inappropriate trait for someone who wants to be President just on their own — why, asks David Perry, the need to further pathologize them? The insistence on doing so without evidence that it’s merited reinforces ideas that:

  1. If there’s something “off” about a person, they must be “crazy”
  2. A mental health diagnosis makes someone unstable and therefore unfit to hold political office (bullshit ableism)
  3. The stigma that continues to exist around having a mental health diagnosis is justified and even rational

Armchair Psychology is Dangerous -Especially During Election 2016

It kills me that I’ve spent over 15oo words talking about why Trump needs to be treated more fairly. But this isn’t merely about defending about Trump. *He* also needs to be called out for how he uses armchair psychology diatribes about Hilary’s mental instability. Questioning the mental stability of those who disagree with him is part of Trump’s modus operundi, as pointed out in Vanity Fair (from the preamble to the the results of Keith Olbermann’s afore-mentioned piece about Trump and psychopathy):

“Except that in his year of campaigning, Donald Trump has called Lindsey Graham “a nut job,” Glenn Beck “a real nut job,” and Bernie Sanders “a wacko.” Trump has insisted Ben Carson’s got a “pathological disease,” and asked of Barack Obama: “Is our president insane?” He called Ted Cruz “unstable,” “unhinged,” “a little bit of a maniac,” and “crazy or very dishonest.” He also called the entire CNBC network “crazy.” He called Megyn Kelly “crazy” — at least six times.”

Here are some recent comments from him attacking Clinton’s mental health status:

This armchair psychology needs to end. We also need to call out people like the speaker at the RNC who explicitly talked about Clinton being unstable (I wish I could remember who this was; I’ve tried to find the clip, but I can’t. Does anyone remember who I mean?) and individuals from the far, far right media crowd like Info War’s Alex Jones who have made “Hilary Clinton is crazy” a stock part of their message.

The campaigns, the media, and people who seek to influence voters need to work in the world of facts, not ableism and messages that contribute to stigma.

Because that really is bullshit.

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Thoughts on the Republican National Convention

I watched the Republican National Convention last week. Not all of it. But I caught the high points for three of the four evenings and some of the daytime coverage on CNN.

Content Note: Donald Trump, US Election 2016, Anti-Immigration, Ableism, Terrorism, Racism, Classism, “Law and Order”, Campaign Rhetoric

"Your Vote Counts" street sign illustration. A red street sign says "Your Vote" in white block letters. Below it, pointing in a perpendicular direction, a blue street sign says "Counts!" in white block letters. Keyword: Republican National Convention

Image Description: “Your Vote Counts” street sign illustration. A red street sign says “Your Vote” in white block letters. Below it, pointing in a perpendicular direction, a blue street sign says “Counts!” in white block letters.

***

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get down exactly what I wanted to say about the Republican National Convention.

And then Jon Stewart came onto Late Night with Stephen Colbert last Thursday night and in less than 30 seconds he (pardon my language) fucking nailed it.

“The Republicans appear to have a very clear plan for America…they articulated it throughout the Convention:

  • One, Jail your political opponent.
  • Two, inject Rudy Guiliani with a speedball-Redbull enema.
  • Three, spend the rest of the time scaring the holy bejeezus out of everybody.”

John Stewart went  even further, and it was glorious. But I want to talk about the Republican National Convention.

My Third Republican National Convention.

Why put myself through this ordeal when I can’t even vote in the US election?

That’s a good question, with ultimately a simple answer (as it has been other years, for the most part). I follow US elections from the outset. America, I am addicted to your politics, including your tortuously protracted election cycle. Sometimes staying engaged makes me as frustrated as all-get-out. Sometimes it makes me (again, pardon my language) fucking furious. And the odd time it’s made me absolutely inspired. But it’s never been anything less than thoroughly entertaining.

“It’s some of the best entertainment going,” I’ve told friends who ask me why I follow American politics so closely.

The stories like Elliot Spitzer in the elevator and Anthony Weiner all over Twitter? I didn’t *know* until I started following American politics that politicians did such stupid things.

And with this Republican National Convention, I was promised a show…Clint Eastwood and the empty chair times twenty said one media person the week before it all started. And I can’t say that I didn’t get it – a line-up of endorsers including Scott Baio and underwear model Antonio Sabato Junior, Rudy Giuliani screaming “All Lives Matter!” like his life depended on it, Melania cribbing part of her speech, Ted Cruz (starting his 2020 campaign early, apparently) using his invite to speak at the Convention *not* to endorse the guy who invited him…great material. It should have been fabulous.

But the most fabulous part of the Republican National Convention this time around was watching Stephen Colbert skewer the day’s proceedings each night. The proceedings themselves? I’m not even going to apologize for swearing anymore. Fucking scary. Not entertaining. Not annoying. Not even infuriating. Just downright terrifying.

And I think to make my case for why, I need to talk about what I saw…so apologies to those of you who lived through it with me.

“One, Jail Your Political Opponent”

As I was tweeting while I was watching the first night  of the Republican National Convention(the theme of which was “Making America Safe Again”) someone posted on my timeline about how disgusting it was that Patricia Smith’s grief over the death of her son Sean in Benghazi was being used for totally political purposes by making her a speaker – she said that she blamed Hilary Clinton directly for her son’s death and called for her arrest, a commonly-held position within the GOP despite the fact that none of the party’s investigations into Benghazi have found Clinton indictable for what happened.

But Smith’s speech set the stage for the real theme of the entire Republican National Convention – what a crook Clinton is, how she needs to be stopped, and how she (or Obama, as the one who made her Secretary of State) can be directly blamed be a myriad of things, including the rise of ISIS. The tools that Trump used to forge party unity during the Republican National Convention (and he needed it; the GOP is still clearly divided on whether he’s an appropriate candidate, with party notables including the entire Bush family, Mitt Romney, John McCain and John Kasich electing to miss the Republican Party Convention rather than indicate even implicit support by showing up) are not just Clinton’s unsuitability for President, but her criminal culpability for acts for which she hasn’t been found guilty.  Both Lt. Gen Michael Flynn and Chris Christie encouraged the crowd to chant “Lock her up! Lock her up!” during their speeches.

That any candidate would sanction hatred (and I don’t believe that “hatred” is too strong a word) of another candidate as a way to “rally the troops” scares me.  It’s not Presidential. It’s not classy. It’s the perfect example of “divisive”.

You deserve better, America.

“Two, Inject Rudy Giuliani with a Speedball-Redbull Enema”

This one is kind of self-explanatory. You won’t need to watch the whole video if you’d rather not. It doesn’t take long to see why Jon Stewart made this observation.

“Three, Spend the Rest of the Time Scaring the Holy Bejeezus Out of Everybody.”

Where to begin with this one?

Let’s start with this observation (and I’m far from the only one saying this): If you were dropped into last week’s Republican National Convention with no prior knowledge of what American life is like, I’m quite confident that you’d have come away with a picture of a lawless, dystopian landscape, with its entire body of citizens under constant threat from people that were never their allies; people that once were their allies, but are no more; and countries who claim that they are American allies, but just aren’t pulling their weight. You’d think that America is in a war that permeates the lives of every one of its citizens at a visceral, everyday level, with an enemy that the current administration refuses to even acknowledge, let alone protect its citizens from. And you’d think that the only way to continue to protect American citizens as this war is fought is to get a bunch of folks out of the country and seal the borders off so tightly that they and and other dangerous folks like them will never, ever get back in.

The message was that protection of  American citizens is the primary goal – and that all lives matter in America, whether they are Black lives, White lives, Hispanic lives, Asian lives, Muslim lives, Male lives, Female lives, Gay lives, Straight lives…all lives matter because you, my American friends, are ALL AMERICANS, Giuliani said (loudly.) And Donald Trump said in his speech on Thursday night, where he accepted the nomination to be the Republican candidate for the Presidency, that he will be the one to protect all American lives from the people out in the rest of the world that want to take down America and that are inherently bad…the people that he’ll keep out with his wall and his strict policies on immigration and his focus on law and order.

You know…bad guys like Hispanics, Muslims, the Serbians that “my opponent” (not “Crooked Hillary” for once, but we’ll see how long that last) wants to bring into the US, and the people that shoot law enforcement officers in the street. That will stop the day that he becomes President, Trump assured Americans. Because you are all Americans, my American friends, and you need to be protected from bad guys…like you…lest you become one of the “victims of illegal immigrants” (those are the words used in the official Republican National Convention schedule of speakers) that spoke on the first night of the Convention. Because despite the fact that Republicans don’t like “victim mentality” or politicizing tragedy, they apparently won’t hesitate to take political advantage of people who’d experienced a crushing loss at the hands of people who, as a group, are no more or less likely to be violent than anyone else in society.

Donald Trump would likely dispute that, given the statistics on crime and immigration that he used in his speech. Fact-checkers disputed many of those statistics.

Read the full text of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech (last night of the Republican National Convention.)

Members of the CNN panel that convened immediately after Trump’s speech were divided about it, mostly along racial lines. White pundits thought that the speech was realistic and representative of what America is facing;  Trump apologist-to-the-end Geoffrey Lord was prepared to go out swinging about this. Van Jones and Ana Navarra were appalled at the speech’s dark tone, and at what a terrible speech it was for people of colour (as they both are.)

And rightly fucking so. This discussion really is interesting – it starts 4 minutes into the video.

And despite the fact that disabled people were only explicitly mentioned during the Republican National Convention once that I heard, in a promise made by Trump’s son Eric that Trump will increase support to to families with disabled children, I wouldn’t recommend that disabled people rest easy should Trump win the election (even white disabled people.) I’d be willing to bet money that the only reason that disabled people didn’t come up in Trump’s speech as a “subgroup” of America (Representative Peter King) with whom the rest America should regard with fear is that he’s given them so little thought as a group that he hasn’t considered the ways in which he could perceive them as as threat to either America’s national security or economic well-being. But that might not last:

Disabled people have nothing to gain from a Trump presidency, where the repeal of Obamacare is a campaign promise, and that may just be some of what they lose. So to my disabled American friends especially, you get out there and vote and make sure you get the right person in! #CripTheVote

Bottom Line

Hilary Clinton was not my first choice.

I’m impressed by Tim Kaine, but I’ve heard some stuff that gives me pause. I’d rather have seen Hillary choose Elizabeth Warren as running mate.

I know that, as in the past, there will be things about the Democratic National Convention that I won’t like and that may even make me angry.

But the stakes are high for this election. I feel it here in Canada, right down to my bones. There’s not a thing about this election that’s entertaining for me this time around. It’s deadly serious, and I have loved ones in America for whom I’m very afraid.

And I have two beautiful nieces and a gorgeous nephew here in Canada, and I’ll be damned if they live up to eight years of their young lives in world where Donald Trump is leader of the free world without me doing whatever I can to stop it.

It really comes down to this for me now:

Picture of a a tweet by @theonlyadult: "I don't give a fuck if you don't like Hilary Clinton. Hold your nose and vote. There's a Nazi at the gate." Keyword: Republican National Convention

Image Description: Picture of a a tweet by @theonlyadult: “I don’t give a fuck if you don’t like Hilary Clinton. Hold your nose and vote. There’s a Nazi at the gate.”

#I’mWithHer. Won’t you join me?

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“Virtually no-one has spent more money in helping the American people with disabilities than me.” – Donald Trump and Serge Kovaleski

Because no one’s heard nearly enough about Donald Trump, let’s talk about him a bit more. Someone asked me this week why I wasn’t blogging about his recent public mocking of disabled journalist Serge Kovaleski. I said that I’ve been filing things away on Trump that I want to address and that this would certainly be one of them, and we talked about the story a bit.

Content Note: Donald Trump, US Election 2016, Ableism, Sexism, Racism, Mental Health, Bullying

Campaign Logo - Cartoon visage of Donald Trump, "Trump" in blue below it, "2016" at the bottom. Three red stars in a pyramid next to slogan. All on a beige background. Keyword: Serge Kovaleski

Image Description: Campaign Logo – Cartoon visage of Donald Trump, “Trump” in blue below it, “2016” at the bottom. Three red stars in a pyramid next to slogan. All on a beige background.

***

You know, this election’s crop of GOP contenders makes me miss Mitt Romney. I remember thinking in 2012, “Ugh, the next four years will be unbearable if this right-wing extremist gets in,” but I look at who’s running now and I think, “These guys make Romney look liberal. The next four years will be terrifying if one of them gets in.”

And the prospect of Trump being President scares the shit out of me. I don’t want that for you, American friends, I don’t want that for me as a resident of a country neighbouring America, I don’t want it as a world citizen. You keep him out at all costs.

He’s a liar, he’s a loose cannon, and he’s an abusive bully, and the world doesn’t need any of those things in America’s leader.

Now that I’ve made my feelings on Trump clear. 🙂

I understand why disabled people are upset about Trump mocking Serge Kovaleski, but I really think that disabled Americans need to look at this for what it truly is and then evaluate how they can work it to their advantage, for several reasons:

Reason #1: Donald Trump is a Bully

Let’s first focus on the fact that Donald Trump is truly a bully. Whenever someone doesn’t agree with him, especially when they challenge him, they’re:

  • “incompetent” (New York Times)
  • “a total joke”, “loser”, “dopey”, “all talk no action dummy” (Karl Rove, political analyst)
  •   “…one of the worst Presidential competitors in history. Can’t debate, loves Obamacare – dummy!”, “a total failure” (John Kasich, GOP Presidential candidate, Governor of Ohio)
  • “…one of the worst reporters in the business…wouldn’t know truth if it hit him in the face” (Jeff Horwitz, journalist)
  • “A wacko” (Scott Walker, GOP Presidential candidate, now dropped out of race, Governor of Wisconsin)
  • “…worst mayor in the United States” (Bill Deblasio, Mayor of NYC)
  • “dopey”, “boring”, “broken down” (George Will, political analyst)
  • “a total loser” (Graydon Parker, Editor Vanity Fair)
  • “failed”, “a clown” (Martin O’Malley, GOP Presidential Candidate, Governor of Maryland)
  • “lightweight choker” (Marco Rubio, GOP Presidential candidate)
  • “one of the dumbest political pundits on television”, “dope” (Christ Stitwell, political analyst)

Those are just the really blatant insults from his Twitter timeline…for November.

Other points from the highlight reel include:

  • The first GOP debate, where, when asked about his contentious relationships with women, he made a joke about long-standing feud with Rosie O’Donnell and the names that he’s called her. This led to some terribly inappropriate and sexist post-debate comments about reporter Megyn Kelly being on her period.
  • The news piece where he insulted fellow candidate Carly Fiorina, implying that she’s too ugly to be President.
  • Two occasions where he’s called fellow candidate Ben Carson  “pathological”, likening mental health issues in Carson’s past to those of pedophiles. Trump supporters argue (correctly) that he didn’t say that Carson is a child molester, only that his “pathological” issues are, like those of a pedophile, incurable. But the media picked up on the impact of the comparison (as, I’m sure, did people like me who have experience in the mental health field and find it inappropriate and downright dangerous when unqualified people start diagnosing other people as “pathological”.)

I’ve worked in schools with disabled students who’d cry over things that were said to them in the halls. We’d talk about how what bullies thought of them didn’t matter, and that if they needed something to think of to remind them of that…

“When that person calls you a name, think of them as a bug on your shoulder and just flick them away so that they can’t bother you anymore.”

American friends, be angry if you need to be, but don’t give away your power to this man and his childishness. He doesn’t deserve any space in your head.

I can’t get a good read from media accounts on how Serge Kovaleski is reacting to this (although he seems to be taking it in stride, and good for him). If I was in his place, and people were asking what I thought about what Trump did, I hope that I’d be able to say, “I haven’t thought about it. I’ve got far more important things to think about.”

I’d hope that I could flick that bug off my shoulder. Because I wouldn’t want to give my personal power as a disabled woman away to Donald Trump, and I’d certainly be resolved that my reaction to the whole thing wouldn’t carry me any further toward only being remembered as the disabled reporter that Donald Trump mocked.

I’m better than that, and even just a cursory scan of his career accomplishments indicates that Serge Kovaleski is too – far better:

  • He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for breaking news for his work as part of the team that covered the Elliot Spitzer scandal for the New York Times. He was also a finalist in the same category for a story that he covered with a team in 2008.
  • He covered the Boston Marathon Bombing and  the Aurora, Colorado shootings for the New York Times, and has done investigative reporting for NYT across the US and in the UK
  • He’s worked at The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Money Magazine, and The Miami News.

No one’s talking about those things, are they? Make Serge Kovaleski known for his accomplishments – let’s not let the reason that he becomes a household name be that he was the poor disabled journalist that Donald Trump, in a move that only a monster could make, publicly mocked (because what could be more heinous than mocking the disabled? Please read my heavy sarcasm, in case it’s not coming across).

In the interests of explaining this line of reasoning further, I’m going to make this post extra-long and include a Facebook post by disability advocate Cara Liebowitz, which she’s given people permission to share. She says it much better than I can:

This is not so much about politics as it is about how Donald Trump has inadvertently shown what society really thinks of disabled people, and so I will not be debating the relative merits or lack thereof of candidates.

No one said Donald Trump’s campaign hit an “all time low” when he implied that Megyn Kelly was on her period because she dared to ask him tough questions. No one said it hit an all time low when he said that Muslims should wear special ID badges and then was unable to say how that was different from Hitler’s policies. Yet he makes fun of a disabled person and suddenly the world is up in arms, saying his campaign is at an all time low and this will hurt his chances.

You know what? I’m an actual disabled person and I’m not offended that Donald Trump mocked a disabled person. Do I think he’s disgusting? Yup. Do I think he’s the biggest asshole to ever walk this planet? Absolutely. Am I continually puzzled as to why he’s leading in the polls? You bet your ass I am. But I’m not offended that he made fun of a disabled person, because he makes fun of everyone else. Disabled people should be no different. I’d be more offended if he made fun of everyone BUT disabled people.

What DOES offend me is people’s outrage over this, which is much more than outrage over any of the other bigoted things he’s said. Berating a disabled person is seen as morally reprehensible not because we’re people and people shouldn’t be berated, period, but because we’re seen as weak, incapable of defending ourselves, and on par with a small child or a fuzzy animal. We’re objects of pity, not diverse human beings with our own lives, goals, and ideas. We’re certainly not a voting constituency.

If Donald Trump’s poll numbers go down because of this, when they haven’t gone down because of anything else that comes out of his bigoted mouth, I will actually be disappointed, as much as I despise the man. Because it will show that the American people think disabled people are so special that they’re the one untouchable group. It shows that America thinks it’s totally A-OK for a presidential candidate to abuse and berate women, Muslims, immigrants – but not disabled people. And it shows that for those of us who straddle multiple marginalized identities, disability is the only one that’s ever going to matter.

People, get a grip. Donald Trump is a hateful bigot in the worst way, but at least he’s equally bigoted towards pretty much everyone. The least we can do is be equally outraged.

Bravo, Cara. Bravo.

I also like Bill Peace’s take on Trump and ableism.

Donald Trump is Abusive

Trump’s gut reaction is to belittle, especially when he’s defensive. Later, if it looks like what he’s said is really going to do him damage, he comes back and makes a claim about what a hero he is:

  • He may have called Mexicans rapists and criminals, but clearly he was misunderstood, because no one has more respect for the Latino community than he does.
  • A #BlackLivesMatter protester may been beaten at one of his rallies, but that was about the protester, not the cause – no one has a better relationship with the Black community than he does.
  • Women? He cherishes them. He’s committed to meeting their needs, even when a woman has got blood coming out of her “whatever”.
  • He doesn’t know who Serge Kovaleski is or what he looks like, but “Virtually no-one has spent more money in helping the American people with disabilities than me”

Clearly, we misunderstand what we’re hearing when we’re insulted by what he’s saying, and that makes us wrong and worthy of his scorn.

That’s how an abuser behaves.

I’ve worked with young disabled adults in abusive situations. If they said, “I need out and I need your help”, that became my first priority for support for them – find a way to get them out and safe, deal with the rest of it later.

You’re not in this abusive relationship yet, America – make it your priority to be sure that you stay out of it, because Presidents tend to sit for two terms.

Reason #3 – This Is About More Than Disabled People

I’m going to piggy-back on what Cara has said.

I’m upset that Donald Trump mocked Serge Kovaleski. But not because Serge Kovaleski is disabled.

I’m upset that Donald Trump mocked someone, period. A Presidential candidate should not be running a campaign where his knee-jerk response to disagreement from anyone is belittlement and abuse. If you’re going to be outraged for Serge Kovaleski, you should also be outraged for Megyn Kelly.

And George Will.

And Karl Rove.

And the other Presidential candidates, most of them a great deal more politically experienced than him and who will presumably remain his colleagues should he, God forbid, win the election, that he’s personally maligned. I may intensely dislike what the GOP candidates generally stand for, and I’m all for fair criticism of an opponent’s ideas during a political campaign. But name-calling over Twitter and cheap shots during debates makes a mockery of the political process and takes space away from the table (especially in this election, where how well a GOP contender is doing determines whether they get to be at the big evening debate or the earlier one that gets less attention) for a person with more qualifications than having the money to fund his or her own campaign.

Reason #4: Thanks to Serge Kovaleski, Trump’s Attention is On Disabled People

American friends, harness your anger and use it – you’ve got Trump’s attention. During a rally in Sarasota, Florida on Saturday, Trump really tried to backwalk on mocking Serge Kovaleski.

Here’s all you really need to hear from that article:

“People that have a difficulty, I cherish them. These are incredible people, and I just want to put that to rest.”

Blecch.

Leverage his feeling that he’s made a mistake on this and make him *run* this one back by getting him to come out to the National Forum on Disability Issues (assuming that it’s convened for the 2016 Election – hopefully it will be). Truly, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass if he’s there, and neither should you, but if he comes out, the other candidates will follow – Republican and Democrat. Count on it.

And you want them to know what your concerns as disabled voters are. Disabled Americans are a significant voting demographic, whether the candidates want to acknowledge it or not. When you add on concerned loved ones and caregivers and advocates, it’s a demographic ignored at any candidate’s potential peril. You get Trump even pretending to listen to you, and they’ll all listen to you – they can’t afford not to.

Conclusion

You’ve got power. Use it. Don’t let Donald Trump, of all people, take it from you.

Please.

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