The events that occurred around Election Day last year amazed me as a first-time voter. The extreme measures taken by the former president were terrifying. Two weeks before Election Day on his campaign trail, Trump elaborated on what he could do with his cult-like support.
“You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of fifth avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s, like, incredible.”
This quote was concerning enough. However, what infuriated me the most was when representatives mocked President Biden’s stutter. They used a speech disorder that he does not have control over (with no intellectual impact) to degrade his candidacy. Sure, plenty of political figures want their party to win. But, the drastic measures taken to ensure that outcome were truly appalling.
President Biden’s stutter
From a young age, President Biden dealt with a stutter. He described it as “the single most defining thing in [his] life.” As a child, he was completely dedicated to improving his stutter. Although he did not receive professional help, he would practice in the mirror every day, reciting poetry to improve his speech. Normality is key for him; he referenced the film The King’s Speech for useful practice tactics.
Even though this condition was completely separate from his intellectual abilities, his educators treated him as less than. One of his teachers bullied him when reciting a speech at his grade school. When giving his speech, she called him “Mr. Buh-buh-buh Biden” in front of his classmates. In fact, he detailed that no other experience “stripped [him] of [his] dignity as quickly and as profoundly and as thoroughly” as his elementary school. He was again reminded of that childish behavior during his presidential campaign when Trump mocked him at a 2016 rally. Ridiculing beyond belief, Trump exclaimed:
“Biden is angry. Everything is anger, sheesh. ‘Aaaah’ [imitating Biden], that is what happens when you can’t get the words out. No, it does. You get angry when you get the words out. That might happen to me someday. Man, would I be a bad guy? I’d be the meanest man in history.”
During one of his rallies, he also mocked a reporter at The Washington Post with a disability called arthrogryposis, which affects the joints. He imitated the individual by declaring,
“Now the poor guy — you ought to see the guy: ‘Uh I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember!’ He’s going, ‘I don’t remember! Maybe that’s what I said.’”
An ableist man that uses fifth-grade level English lashed out at Biden for something he cannot control. He knows that he can because his followers will defend him no matter what. They continue to spew hateful words, hiding behind his shadow.
Ableism in politics
Trump followers are still rampaging after Trump’s loss, holding on to the “stop the steal” claim. Laura Ingraham from The Ingraham Angle did just that to criticize President Biden. On Fox News last week, Ingraham mocked President Biden’s stutter in his town hall, saying:
“He did like to say a lot. I’m-I’m-I’m not being facetious. I’m not kidding. Look-look-look- I’m going to get myself in trouble here.”
Ingraham is a well-educated woman. She attended an ivy-league institution. But instead of using her position to educate others, she humiliates those she does not agree with. Their tactics are on a level of embarrassment so extreme, it shocks me that they keep promoting this behavior. One thing is for certain: ableism should not have a place in politics.
Greatness with a disability
Franklin D. Roosevelt is regarded as one of the greatest presidents in United States history. From the creation of ‘The New Deal’ to co-founding the United Nations, his accomplishments permanently changed the course of history. Despite his diagnosis of polio during his political career, he contributed greatly to the American people. He was widely known as the president who helped American citizens “regain faith in themselves” during the Great Depression.
Stephen Hawking conducted breakthrough research on the scientific fields of quantum mechanics. Some of his accolades include co-discovering the four laws of black hole mechanics, Hawking radiation, and his book A Brief History of Time. He accomplished all of these things while being paralyzed from motor neuron disease.
Emily Blunt struggled with a stutter since she was young. CBS News detailed that no technique truly worked for her, despite seeing many specialists. Finally, one of her teachers asked her to use different accents for the lines she memorized, and that did the trick for her. She detailed this about her acting experience:
“It’s ironic that I’ve ended up in a job where you have to be able to speak…my stutter sort of showed me the way.”
These figures show that intellect has nothing to do with physical condition. Their hard work and perseverance were what truly mattered. Although President Biden’s stutter is not similar to Hawking and Roosevelt’s disabilities, their experiences do not define them.
Ridicule used for compassion
Despite the treatment he has endured for so long, President Biden is known for his compassion. He understands loss from the death of his first wife and daughter due to a car crash and his son Beau Biden from brain cancer. He’s learned to rise up from grief and can withstand outside ridicule from his stutter. His sister Valerie Biden Owens spoke on his internal strength, saying:
“Trump is a bully, and Joe [Biden] has been standing up to bullies his entire life. Joe’s stuttering, I think, is one of the principal reasons — a major, major, major reason — that he is the good and compassionate and kind man that he is.”
More compassion is needed in politics. Additionally, I believe that the need for benevolence is far greater than what we can comprehend. Those who ridicule others for a disability only reveal the quality of their character. There will always be people like Ingraham and Trump who try to bring others down, but they cannot be given the power they crave so desperately.
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