I decided, for dark amusement, to try and channel what ableist people actually think about disabled people and the disability community. More specifically, I tried to figure out what’s the “Ableist Agenda”, if there is one. Here’s some things I came up with. Feel free to add more in the comments. Remember please, these aren't my beliefs, it's me trying to say what I think ablest believe:
There’s a whole bunch of people nowadays saying they are “disabled”, who really aren’t. They’re either lazy and knowingly trying to get money for nothing and special privileges, or they’re messed up in the head and have convinced themselves they’re disabled because somehow it makes them feel better or feel special or something.
All sorts of weaknesses and moral failings are now considered disabilities. When I was in school, kids who misbehaved were punished, not given an SSI check and put in Special Ed. It’s disgusting!
The other thing disabled people do these days is try to convince everyone that there’s nothing actually wrong with them … that their defects are just “differences”, like skin color. Some of them don’t even really want to get better, which is crazy, right?
They say they want to ban all institutions, but look what happened when we let all the crazy people out of the insane asylums. We got all these homeless people pushing people in front of trains! Even if they don’t do anything bad, what are these poor retarded people going to do, move back in with their elderly parents? End up on the street, taken advantage of?
I know some really sweet, admirable disabled people. But lots of the disabled people I meet are crabby, bitter, and demanding. Nothing’s ever good enough for them, and if everything isn’t perfect, they’re calling a lawyer.
Disabled people have too many special perks and privileges. Maybe at one time it wasn’t such a big deal, but now things have gone too far and they’re crowding out everyone else and getting in everyone’s way. And still nothing’s good enough for them! It's a hard thing to say, but for some of these really badly disabled people, it's just not worth all the money we spend on them. And it would be better for them, even, if they just died naturally. I mean, who wants to live like that anyway?
I’m all for more accessibility, and I’m sure some good disabled people are discriminated against for jobs, but laws like the ADA are just open invitation for ambulance chasers. It’s a feel-good law that doesn’t do any good, just causes a lot of mischief.
What’s interesting is that these are more a bunch of complaints than a policy agenda. One of the side effects of being ableist is that people who are ableist usually don’t know anything about how disability policy works, so they don’t really have a coherent list of actual things they would change. Maybe that’s a blessing.
Of course, there’s a pretty coherent agenda against poor people, a group we overlap with quite a lot. Maybe that’s a separate discussion.
Mostly, ableism seems like an offshoot of the “You kids get offa my lawn!” / “This country’s going down the tubes!” strain of conservative thinking. To misapply Lionel Trilling, ableism today seems to be mostly a set of “irritable mental gestures that seek to resemble ideas”.
Part Two of “The Man He Became” is so packed that I’m having a hard time boiling it down to its essentials, so I’m putting off the next Book Club discussion to next Saturday, February 8. For now, I’ll leave you with a quote from the book, from some un-named Democratic delegate in 1924, after Roosevelt delivers a rousing nomination speech for Al Smith, which did Roosevelt more good than Smith:
“Hell, it’s not legs we want in the White House, it’s brains!”
I think this charismatic young cripple might make a good President someday ...