Thursday, September 02, 2004
The morning after
Whew! My head is still spinning from last night. And what a night it was! It was a night of meat-- good, juicy, fleshy meat, not like those tofu-and-Belgian-endive nights you get at the Democrat conventions. I thought we got our message across loud and clear: George Bush has a spine of tempered steel. John Kerry has a spine of arugula. Bush will protect your family and smash terrorism. Kerry will sell your family into slavery in the Sudan because he thinks American troops are occupiers instead of liberators.
But then I wake up and check out the liberal media, and what do I see? Nothing but whining and whinging, coast to coast. “Oh, Zell Miller looked so angry,” say all the girlie-men in the press. “I think maybe he was a little over the top.” Hell yeah, he was angry! Damn straight, he was over the top! He was angrier than a Georgia chicken in a bread pan without any dough! Jeezus Christmas, you’d be angry too, if Chris Matthews asked you a question! Here’s this Matthews fella going on about “when Democrats come out, as they often do, liberal Democrats, and attack conservatives, and say they want to starve little kids, they want to get rid of education, they want to kill the old people” and Zell is supposed to sit still for that? How dare Chris Matthews ask the Zellster a setup question about how nasty liberals are! Zell should have taken him out right there, from ten paces. I know I would have. And now all you’re going to hear from the liberal media is “oh, oh, I think maybe Zell Miller is too ‘hot’ for television, ouch, he burned my hand, I need one of those Democrat Band-Aids with the little purple hearts on them.” Listen up, liberal media. When the devil comes down to Georgia, you bet your sweet ass he’s too “hot” for television! Fire on the mountain, run boys run!!
And what’s all this crying and moaning about how the Republicans don’t have an agenda? What, you people weren’t listening? Exactly how loud do we have to shout it out tonight? You want an agenda, we’ll give you an agenda. Take out your little girlie-man pencil cases and start writing it down in your little newspapers:
On health care: we will knock Democrats’ teeth down their throats!
On jobs: we will kick Democrats until they die of internal bleeding!
On education: we will show America that John Kerry is even more liberal than Ted Kennedy!
On the deficit: John Kerry looks French!
On the environment: John Kerry’s wife is a rich foreigner! who is insane!
On corporate crime: John Kerry shot himself to get out of Vietnam! and he was never there! and he didn’t even know how to fire a gun!
On intelligence and security: John Edwards is a pretty boy!
On nuclear proliferation: John Edwards is a trial lawyer!
On Iraq: Democrats are traitors!
So. You people want to debate the issues, we’ll give you “issues.” Tonight, our leader brings it all home. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Almost forgot! Back home in State College, Pennsylvania, three guys have smashed in the storefront window of the Centre County Democratic HQ. Now there’s a platform we can build on: A Brick For Every Democrat!!! Way to rock, boys!
Saturday, June 12, 2004
The morning after
I do hope Ronald Reagan rests in peace. And I have great sympathy and admiration for anyone who cares for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, though I also think that George Williams has just about the right take on this. As we reflect on Reagan’s mortality and ours, I thought it might be useful to suggest that while we in the disability community have good reason to support anyone with a degenerative, debilitating illness (and his or her caregivers), we also have an obligation to all our fellow humans.
With that, I turn you over to James W. Trent, Jr., author of the remarkable book, Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States:
“In January 1967, Ronald W. Reagan, the newly elected California governor, ordered all state agencies to eliminate 10 percent of what he characterized as ‘fat’ from their budgets. More specifically, he insisted that state hospitals and institutions for the retarded cut their budgets by $17 million. This cut, Reagan insisted, would eliminate 3,700 state jobs, close fourteen state-operated outpatient clinics, and begin a process of community-based care, with communities taking greater responsibility for the guardianship of their ‘mental patients.’ Angered by reaction to his proposals, Reagan remarked that state hospitals (and prisons) constituted the ‘biggest hotel chain in the state.’
“Nine months later, Niels Erik Bank-Mikkelsen, the director of the Danish national services for mental retardation, visited the Sonoma State Hospital, a large institution for the retarded in California. Even before Reagan’s proposed cuts had fully taken effect, Bank-Mikkelsen found conditions in the institution dreadful. He told a reporter: ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was worse than any institution I have seen in visits to a dozen foreign countries. . . . In our country, we would not be allowed to treat cattle like that.’ What he had found were wards of naked adults sleeping on cement floors often in their own excrement or wandering in open dayrooms. Not uncommon were ‘head bangers.’ Many residents were heavily medicated, existing in a pharmacological daze, a daze exacerbated by the constant shouting and screaming around them. In its defense, the California commissioner of health and welfare insisted that the state’s treatment of the retarded was ‘the most advanced in the nation.’ Bank-Mikkelsen feared he might be right.” (256)
Now, let’s be clear about one thing: Reagan did not create those conditions. In fact, you could argue that under such conditions, policies of “de-institutionalization” and “community-based care” are thoroughly humane-- but then, you’d have to argue that Reagan actually provided the resources for humane de-institutionalization and community-based care, and you shouldn’t try, because you’d hurt yourself with the strain. No, the only thing Reagan is liable for here is that brutal and quite gratuitous crack likening the state’s prisons and mental hospitals to a “hotel chain"-- and the insistence that the “fat” in the state mental health budget had to go.
That was almost 40 years ago-- but then again, it was a few years after New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s 1965 attack on the inhuman conditions of the Rome and Willowbrook State Schools. Draw from this what lessons you will, and let’s hope we all learn to do better by those with cognitive and developmental disabilities from here on in.