Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ick Ick Ick

It’s been bothering me for days. It shouldn’t be because when I first read it I responded right away. I waited for the comment to go through the approval process and saw that it was indeed published. That should have been the end of the whole thing. But I haven’t been able to let go of it … something about it gave me the icks. Every time I read the damn thing, it bothered me more. So I guess I’m not done with it yet.

“It” is an article that I found referenced on Patricia Bauer's powerhouse blog. A column had appeared in the Los Angeles Times about the upset over the SNL (Saturday Night Live) skit about the Governor of New York, David Paterson. The skit focused, not on policy or personality, but on blindness. They showed the Gov as a blumbling blind fool, as if bumping into furniture was high comedy and ‘Helen Keller’ jokes the height of hilarity. Now, I need to state right off that I have never got SNL and have never much watched it. It was always on at a time where I was in bed and if not in bed in a bar … as such it didn’t fit into my lifestyle.

But I am afflicted, as I imagine you are too, with friends who love to describe to me the funny goings on in movies and television shows. Through them I heard of SNL and never really found any of it funny. So be it. When I first heard of the ‘blind skit’ I went to YouTube and saw it. Beyond being offensive, I simply found it deeply unfunny. So when I saw a column on the issue on Bauer’s blog, I went to read it and found something written by a guy named Michael McGough.

I was pissed by the end of the first few lines of the article wherein Michael McGough describes childhood dinner table conversations wherein he and his family would wonder aloud which disability would be worse to have. What wonderful parenting that is! Let’s sit around and fuel our sense of superiority by titillating ourselves by imagining all the freaky ways to be disabled. I wonder if on alternate days they had discussions that began: “Thank God we’re white, what would be the worst race to be?” The smugness of those who breathe a more expensive brand of air than the rest of us has always annoyed me. But even more troubling is to have someone talk about ‘superiority discussion’ without realizing that such discussions have led to policies of social exclusion, social disaster, and social extermination.

But that’s not all. Then, then, THEN, Michael McGough goes on to say that when he was young a misdiagnosis of a vision problem led to a few sweaty hours of worry about loss of sight. This, in his mind, QUALIFIES HIM AS AN EXPERT IN DISABILITY ISSUES. I was so offended I almost choked on my tongue. In my response to him I stated, paraphrasing here, that the fact that he coulda, mighta, had a vision problem (but without experiencing one moment of blindness) does not give him an ‘in’ into the idea and experience of disability. As a wheelchair user if someone told me that they ‘get’ my disability because they once had a sore toe, I would feel my experience trivialized to the point of absurdity.

Michael McGough never, for a moment, discusses the issues about the rampant unemployment that people with disabilities face. The blistering statistics on bullying and teasing that people with disabilities experience. He ignores that HATE often targets disability first, others later. No, No, No. Not here. Here he is IN HIS ROLE OF DISABILITY EXPERT, saying that SNL’s skit was just funny, not offensive.

After he establishes himself first as a bigot that titillates himself with difference and a fool who cannot tell the difference between seeing and not seeing, why should we care what he has to say. Except, he’s saying it loudly, in an organ that reaches millions more than my poor little blog here. Well, I put my voice up against his …

And Michael McGough, I want you to go home and imagine (it’s a game you seem to love to play) what I’m doing with my hands around your ego.


FridaWrites said...

Wow. I was almost in a wheelchair once. And I'm not disablist. Some of my best friends are disabled. :|

amymdmom said...

Well said Dave! Did you happen to put a link to your blog in your comment to the "expert?"

Dave Hingsburger said...

amymdmom, the comment section is found right at the bottom of the article in the Times.

FridaWrites, thanks for making a comment there too! Anyone else who leaves a comment there, let us know here.

Anonymous said...

Let me start by saying I love your blog!
We used to have conversations at dinner about the same type of thing, but it was not 'fueling' anything as horribly perverse as you described, but it did fuel a sense of compassion at our house. I remember struggling with which of my senses meant the most to me and how I experience life and what I was willing to give up. I remember thinking how it must feel to not have a choice and have sight taken away, or hearing, mobility etc.
I guess the direction of the conversation and the outcome on the children participating, depends on the parents who are leading the conversation...and their motives. My parents motives were to teach us acceptance and how to put ourselves in others shoes. For me, it has worked.

As a side comment, I will never forget the time my then 3yo saw a woman in a motorized wheelchair for the first time. He said "Mom...what's that?" "A wheelchair", I responded. "Why does she need a wheelchair?" he asked. "I don't know, Joe, but..." and before I could finish he said...
"I bet it goes 'zippy zippy vroom vroom!!! Do you think she can pop a wheelie??"
I told him that he would have to ask her himself!LOL!!
The lady in the wheelchair was laughing so hard, she couldn't answer!