Friday, March 20, 2009

On my Soapbox Again......

I wasn't going to do it, I wasn't going to get on my soapbox about this, nope, wasn't gonna. BUT! But, I feel I have to to some extent, and I'll explain why.

First of, what am I getting on my soapbox over? Well, this. Click on the orange "this" for all you non computer relatives and friends and you will see President Obama making an appearance on the "Tonight Show". While chatting with Jay Leno, they discuss his bowling prowess, and President Obama jokingly likens it to Special Olympics!.......

Okay.....

UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When I saw this this morning over my bowl of Apple Jacks, well, my tummy sorta dropped and Bill and I were taken aback! Bill, who is hardly ever surprised nor stunned, was a bit! I felt like I suddenly didn't like the President for a few minutes, and wondered if he makes off-handed jokes like this in private too?

How can a man who I have practically idolized since he's come into the public sector say something like this? I luv him, I luv his wife, I love that he's African American and is the president. I love that his name makes people feel unstable, I love that he has a beer at basketball game and doesn't care if anyone sees him drinking it.

I guess his joke hits home because Casey goes to Special Olympics Swimming each Sunday. He loves it, and so do all the other kiddos with varying degrees of some disability or another. Non are a like, but they are a team, a group. When he's done, the older swimmers come in, happy to be there, happy to be with their friends, happy to be part of a team. If you have experienced any sort of Special Olympic event or practice, you know from where I speak. It is truly "special", and not in a goofy nice use of the word for disabled people!

So when you hear someone make such a comparison as the President did, it hurts a little. It all goes back to the fact, I believe, that the vast majority of people feel superior to those with disabilities, so it's easy to make such a joke about them, and unfortunately, it's funny to many.

I don't know if President Obama feels this way. I doubt he does, because I know he is a good person. And I know it's easy to do. I know kids with disabilities have funny gaits, funny ways of speaking, funny characteristics, all which they can't help. I know it's easy to use them as fodder in self deprecation. I have done it myself over and over. I can be the queen of insensitivity!

Which brings me back to why I feel like I have to get on my soapbox about this whole thing. It seems to be happening more and more.

Bill told me of a co-worker, during a discussion on Oscar winners, commenting that Dustin Hoffman should never have won for "Rainman". He didn't understand why someone would get an Oscar for acting like a "retard". I asked Bill if he said anything, considering his office mates know his son has Autism. He didn't.

I was working with my bosses boss this week when he was helping me do a little extra something that I usually do myself. I joked that they need to hire assistants for us and he said "Yeah, maybe we could hire some disabled kids!". Did I say anything? Nope, I did not.

So, is this passivity that Bill and I exhibited the norm? Should we start speaking up when people make such comments, even if it might embarrass a boss, friend or co-worker, or President? I know I've been taken to task for a comment I've made here and there. It did embarrass me, put me on the defense even, but it made me think. It made me be more conscious (especially since Casey was born) of what I say.

Do I stumble occasionally? Yes, I admitted to being the queen of insensitivity!

And so, I am getting on my soapbox to say, with my bullhorn in hand pointing to you my audience, and symbolically to myself, "PEOPLE, THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK! CONSIDER OTHER'S FAMILIES, CONSIDER OTHERS PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES, CONSIDER OTHERS FEELINGS BEFORE YOU REFERENCE A CERTAIN GROUP OF PEOPLE TO GET A LAUGH! THINK!

That includes you President Obama, but I still luv ya!