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Monday, November 7, 2016

Rob’s Rants: Donald Trump and “The Hand Thing”

I had no intention of writing an election rant. I’m as tired of Donald, and Hillary, and, locally, Katie McGinty and Pat Toomey, and the commercials, and the e-mails, and the rest of the nonsense, as anyone else.

Then my phone rang on Saturday morning.

Someone from the Republican party asked, “Will you be able to make it to the polls, and will you be supporting Donald Trump?”

I don’t know why I didn’t just hang-up, but, instead, I replied, “I’ll be voting, but certainly not for Trump.”

“You will be voting for Trump?” the woman asked.

I do have a speech disability, so I could understand why she might not have heard me correctly. But then I thought, I do have a disability that the woman had clearly picked up on. And, well, I couldn’t resist. “I have a disability,” I said. “Why would I possibly vote for him?”

“Ohhh, the hand thing,” came the response.

The hand thing? Really?

She presumably was referring to the campaign rally in which Trump stood in front of a podium, speaking to a large audience of supporters with TV cameras trained on him, and imitated a reporter who lives with a disability. Trump shook his hands and body, and sort of drew out his words, in imitation of the effects the disability has on the man.

Trump used a story written by Serge Kovaleski, a reporter who lives with arthrogryposis, which affects the movement in his arm, to substantiate his claims that Muslims celebrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The reporter said he wrote about allegations of celebrations, and that he never heard anything about the level of celebration Trump claimed.

Bottom line, Trump didn’t like what Kovaleski said, so in typical bully fashion, he mocked the guy.

Trump wasn’t caught on an unseen mic. He wasn’t speaking to friends in a private moment.

The Republican nominee for President of the United States deliberately mocked someone’s disability in front of an audience because he didn’t like something the man said.

It was nothing short of the “cool kid” in high school doing the exact same thing to get some laughs from his buddies.

To my knowledge, Trump’s never apologized. In fact, again in typical bully fashion, he denied what was obvious to see and hear. He claimed that he wasn’t mocking the reporter’s disability, and demanded an apology from the New York Times, which criticized him for his actions. At one point, in defending his record on disability issues, I suppose, he made a point to say that his buildings were accessible, as if that was some grand gesture instead of what it actually is—a legal requirement.

I’m not voting against Trump tomorrow because of this one issue. There are plenty of reasons I won’t be voting for him.

However, I did think it was telling when Republican officials and candidates lined up to revoke their endorsements of Trump after his disgusting comments about coming on to women were made public.

Why, exactly, did these people need to withdraw their support at that point? Why were they supporting him after he mocked a person with a disability?

Because for many of them, and certainly for Trump, it was just that hand thing.

There is still a mentality among many that says, yeah, yeah, we’ll be nice to the handicapped, but we don’t want to hear from them, and, if we crack a joke or two at their expense, well, too bad.

Don’t agree? I knew that some Republicans expressed outrage at Trump’s actions in mocking the reporter. So, I googled the subject because I wanted to be fair and mention them. Instead, I learned that, according to the New York Times, not one official from the party actually withdrew support from the nominee over the issue.

I don’t vote based on my party. I never have. In fact, I was hoping to vote for John Kasich in the general election if given the chance. Yet, Trump’s actions and the lack of substantive response from Republicans, say a ton about how they regard the disability community, not to mention our vote, in this election.

It was different with Trump’s comments about women. Republicans had to distance themselves from Trump after video was released of him saying, basically, that he could force himself on women. Women are seen as a voting bloc. They can sway elections. Besides, many Republican men have a wife and daughters, as they kept telling everybody when they withdrew their support. (Although, apparently, some Republicans were only kidding about not supporting Trump.)

The disability community doesn’t get the same respect. We’re not a voting bloc, nor do I think we should be. We are too diverse. Cable networks don’t talk about how candidates can get our vote. Very few, if any, of us have the power to influence votes enough for candidates to care about our opinions.

But, tomorrow, I at least have the power of one vote. Tomorrow, I get to confront a bully who treats people with disabilities, and pretty much everybody else, as little more than a nuisance.

On Election Day, I’m going to do my own hand thing—maybe I’ll even use my middle finger—and not vote for Donald Trump.

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