Sunday, October 30, 2022

Ableism: The Next Taboo


 John Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, recently sat down for an interview with Dasha Burns of NBC News. During the interview, Fetterman used closed captioning on a computer screen so that he could better understand the questions he was asked, an accommodation made necessary due to the serious stroke he suffered approximately five months ago. Yet he still appeared to struggle to interpret the questions and communicate his thoughts during the interview, though he insisted doctors have told him he has "no cognitive damage."

Following their discussion, Burns noted: "[I]n small talk before the interview, without captioning, it wasn’t clear he was understanding our conversation.” She added, “Myself, my producer and our crew did find that small talk before that captioning was difficult because of those auditory processing issues."

This prompted Gisele Fetterman, John’s wife, to embark on a verbal rampage. She joined Molly Jong-Fast on the cleverly named podcast Fast Politics Pod to discuss her reaction to Burns’ interview with her hubby, during which she implied that Burns should face professional "consequences" for her "ablest" comments.

She stated: "I don’t know how there were not consequences, right? I mean, there are consequences for folks in these positions who are any of the -isms. I mean, she was ablest and that’s what she was in her interview. It was appalling to the entire disability community and, I think, to journalism.”

She went on to excoriate NBC News, saying that it should "have to take accountability" for instances of ableism…which she pronounced "ably-ism." She also suggested that NBC and/or Burns should offer her family-- and the entire "disability community"-- an apology.

“Ablest,” huh? Ableism. Whereas I truly feel for Mr. Fetterman and everyone who has suffered through trauma and/or disabilities, to some degree we all have. And, if we are going to universally smear and perhaps even cancel the able, the competent, and the talented, the result should be too obvious to require elaboration-- to paraphrase Paul Harvey.

Is ableism as regards, say, doctors, soldiers, students, athletes, business leaders, astronauts, auto mechanics, etc., etc., a bad thing? Would you rather others accused your surgeon of “ableism” or of malpractice? Misgendering someone?

If we regard ability as something to be wary of, and tolerance as the greatest virtue, we will be unable to maintain a civil society, functioning economy…or any semblance of freedom.



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