Why Trump’s White House Can’t Say the Word “Disability” in this Crisis

No one can tell you how to live with fear. Those pretending to know are frauds. We live inch by inch and blind or sighted we’re in the dark.

As for me I’m fearful not of fate but of the social constructions of physical difference. In this time of pandemic we’re seeing how people of color, the disabled, the elderly, indigenous people, queer and trans folks, impoverished women and children are variously indexed and denied access to essential health care. They always were. But now whether they live or die is under the spotlight. Health care workers and doctors are called upon to make snap judgements about whose life is worth saving. The history of disability suggests we’re not on the list.

So I am afraid. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life arguing in print and on the lecture circuit that disabled lives are lives worth living. But I’m no match for Neo-liberal medicine with its “hospitalists” who crunch numbers to determine which lives have potential value. That was happening before the pandemic and now the unseen hand of the economy is in even fuller play.

Yesterday Donald Trump told the nation “there will be deaths, lots of death” as if he was describing a surplus of zucchini at the state fair, his words offered with no empathy or evident concern. I remembered how he once said he didn’t need to put Braille signs in Trump Tower because no blind people would ever live there. The “deaths” that Trump doesn’t care about are precisely “those people” who he judges won’t be living in his building. I’m not on the list.

In all the fatuous, inane, self-congratulatory hours of lying to come from this White House you’ve not heard the word disability once. Disability is a true word. They won’t speak it.

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