Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate and the mother of a young son with Down syndrome, said she was "shocked" by the "degrading remark about our world's most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world"
-- From Telegraph.co.uk
Personally, I think all this brouhaha over President Obama's off-the-cuff remarks during his TV appearance this week, supposedly exposing his hidden insensitivity to people with disabilities is just downright retarded.
But what do you expect from those retards in the media, the GOP and even some who should know better? They have been salivating in wait for their first chance to pounce on the new President for any public slip of the tongue that can be hyped as offensive to somebody. After eight embarrassing years of Bush, he still has some highly placed apologists who are desperate to see the mentally challenged ex-president somehow vindicated for that constant barrage of idiocies that sputtered out every time he opened his damn fool mouth without a script or teleprompter. Do they actually think that catching Obama in anything that can be made to seem like an objectionable gaffe gives them ammunition in their futile battle of wits? You would think that such stupid tactics would only work on the witless.
Obama's supposed gaffe came during a light night TV appearance and was the kind of self-deprecating assessment made routinely by most people of normal intellect and tact -- those who aren't so arrogant they cannot admit their own short-comings. Remember when Bush drew a blank when asked to name a single mistake he made during his disastrous two terms in office?
The big Obama "gaffe" was in comparing his own facility at the "sport" of bowling to that of a contender in the Special Olympics. We all got the joke because we all made the joke amongst ourselves, in one way or another - often in ways that really are offensive to people with disabilities.
But Obama's comment was not offensive. It only became a gaffe when someone deliberately twisted it that way. Personally, being the relatively able-bodied middle-age lunk that I am, I suck at all sports myself -- always have. I was born without a trace of the Jock gene (drives my jock boyfriend mad). I am sure the only way I would ever have had a shot at coming near winning in any kind of sport would be in competition with people who have disadvantages of their own, physical, mental or otherwise. If I acknowledge this does that make me offensive to people with disabilities?
If Obama's mention of bowling and the Special Olympics was offensive, it should be noted that it could have and would have been worse coming from Bush. Had he been talking about golf, he might have had a chance to double his offensive entendre by referring to his own "handicap," a now-disparaged term in the disabled community. This would be the kind of inopportune phrasing that Bush would have been expected to mangle, even if he were talking about bowling instead of golf.
A more grievous faux pas we can easily imagine coming from a cretin like Bush would have been referring to the "Retard Olympics" or some other objectionable misnomer for the competition. That would be offensive coming from anybody.
The whole ordeal raises once again the question of using the word "special" in reference to people with disabilities and moreover the officially protected use of the term in reference to the Olympics. How is it not totally offensive to the physically or mentally challenged community to allow such a condescending term in reference to them and their abilities?
What is so special about having a recognized disability?
According to the Telegraph.co.uk report, even Sarah Palin's carefully worded objection to Obama's remarks makes it clear that it is not the individuals who are considered special: it's their "needs" ("she hoped the president's comment did not reflect his true feelings about the special needs community"). In this context the word "special" clearly pertains more to the egotistic feelings of people like Palin herself who take responsibility for someone with such disabilities rather than to the individuals in their charge. Not to say that any care-giver does not act sincerely out of love, but in my experience, the people I know and love who fit the description of "disabled" consider their needs to be basic, not "special." What's so special about having to rely on someone else to take care of your basic needs?
If you are like me you just take for granted such things as getting yourself out of bed, feeding yourself, talking and getting around on your own, wiping your own ass and cleaning up after yourself. We would be be more honest to recognize that we are the ones who are "special" in that we do not (yet) have to live necessarily resigned to the indignity of having others do these basic things for us.
It is blatantly disingenuous for someone like Palin to pander so to what she calls the "special needs community" when she and her ilk regard the needs of other disadvantaged communities as "special" only in a pejorative sense. They champion reform of attitudes, customs and laws that may limit opportunities and the full participation of people with physical or mental disabilities in society. But the struggle to reform societal and legal prohibitions against people who face disadvantages imposed by equally ignorant attitudes, customs and laws held by the majority is dismissed as an unreasonable demand for "special" rights rather than for equality. In the case of marriage equality for same-sex couples in particular, it is really people like Palin who feel entitled to the quality of "specialness" they wrongly ascribe to our basic rights and needs.
On another level, the legally sanctioned exclusivity of the term "Special Olympics" is little more than an instance of high-profile institutionalized pandering to people with disabilities, with unintended demeaning results. In 2000 the US Supreme Court upheld the United States Olympic Commission's right to impose sanctions on any organization or business that might use the word "olympic" in any public reference. The basis of their decision was in trademark regulations which the commission has famously but selectively enforced since 1910, even bringing action against mom-and-pop pizza parlors after they hung out a shingle bearing their chosen name "Olympic Pizza." When a group of people from the LGBT community came together to create the annual event now known as the "Gay Games" they were hit with a ferocious lawsuit to prevent them from using their preferred "Gay Olympics" name. At the same time, no action was taken against the "Police Olympics" or even the "Nebraska Rat Olympics."
Mainly, though, the USOC today allows only one other use of the term over which they legally own all rights: the "Special Olympics." I would never demean any athletically inclined person who wishes to take part in sports competition with others on a level playing field, but it is clearly well-known what the Special Olympics is all about and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. One unintended result, however, of the fact that we have only the Olympics and the Special Olympics in our current frame of reference is that anyone who is not mentally challenged can make such self-deprecating remarks about our own athletic abilities as Obama did and have them interpreted as offensive to the people who are serious competitors in those games. However, even by their own admission, the Special Olympics is not primarily a venue for competitors to gain recognition of athletic supremacy. It is an organization and movement that works to bring attention to "the value and unique gifts of people with intellectual disabilities." In this it is a noble cause and provides a very valuable experience for those who are eligible to take part.
As little footage as I have seen of actual Special Olympic events, it appears to me that the overriding attitude of the participants is far different from the sometimes cut-throat Tanya Harding rivalry among competitors in the World Olympics. Rather it always appears that Special Olympic contenders are genuinely enthused with the sheer joy of being together and playing the games, no matter how they might score. As I listened to Obama's comment and attitude on the YouTube replay it seemed to me that he was reflecting this admirable aspect of the Special Olympics: that he could take part in the game and enjoy himself regardless of his lack of bowling prowess.
I understand the need he felt soon after to clarify his nuanced remarks in order to appease those idiots who would exploit them to their own evil advantage. But I wish Obama had not apologized for what he said. It is just plain disgraceful of all those washed up douche bags and bimbos like Palin to jump on the media-fired bandwagon and add their own self-serving, worthless comments to the manufactured storm of outrage. I would love to hear Obama's spokespeople demand an apology from all of them for their attempted character assassination of the President.