11 November 2016

"And the Union workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"



Everyone’s talking Trump and the election and either it’s a new day in America or the doorstep of Armageddon.

I don’t mean to sound crass, but I predicted Trump would win the day he announced – with the caveat: if he really wants it. My wife is witness to that.

I’ve been an American all my life and if there is one thing I do know, I know my people. And they were ready for someone like Trump.

The only thing that surprised me is that any candidate for public office could so shoot themselves in the foot so often and still win. THAT surprised me – a little.

But what it all comes down for me, is a phrase I’ve not heard used in election post-mortems; at least not yet.

The term is ‘compassion fatigue.’ Remember that?
This happened in 2008. Did anything change? Or course not.

It can mean something different to people who care for the disabled but in the popular vernacular, it means “indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals.”

It was sometime in the latter half of the 1980s when concern for ‘the poor’ in American political discourse was replaced instead, with concern for the middle class. The poor became invisible to the politicians largely because they didn’t vote or contribute campaign cash, and, invisible to many Americans because they were an intractable problem that Lyndon Johnson had failed to solve. So they were done with them. Besides, they kept blocking the sidewalks downtown with their incessant demands for change. 

Remember this song?

Standing in line, marking time
Waiting for the welfare dime
'Cause they can't buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old lady's eyes
Just for fun he says, "Get a job."


I remember an interview with Hornsby some time ago where he recounted that a well-coiffed young lady came up to him and said she really loved his song and agreed that ‘those people’ should go out and get a job.

So this has been going on for some time now but primarily under the surface. 

Skipping through a lot of history since then, we can come to the point where the problem with providing people with basic health care reached a critical mass important enough for the political class to do something about it.

But it wasn’t going to be a Canadian or British-style national health care plan, oh no. Because socialism.

But the President said this:

“Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.”

It wasn’t President Obama. Those were the words of Harry Truman who proposed a universal national health insurance plan in, wait for it. . . 1945.

The American Medical Association (AMA) led the charge to shoot it down, of course. Because socialism.

I was amazed that the ugly chimera that came to be known as ‘Obamacare’ actually got as far as it did. Now it will probably be undone.

Because socialism. Because compassion fatigue. Because you’re not gonna give ‘free health care’ to ‘them who didn’t work for/deserve it.’

The rallying cry of compassion fatigue is ‘not with my tax dollars you won’t.’

Health care for the poor? See above.

Pre-natal or contraception services/abortions for women? See above.

Quality school lunch programs and expanded education opportunities for kids from poor families? See above.

Halfway homes for recovering addicts or those released from jail? See above.

A new generation of jet fighters for an expanded war in the Middle East? Whoa, wait, let’s not be hasty here.

Well, you see where I’m going with this. 

But compassion fatigue, over time, does other things to society. It makes us coarser to those less fortunate than us and we begin to believe that’s because these people didn’t take responsibility for themselves or it was God’s will

We begin to lack empathy for each other when we can so cavalierly dismiss their suffering. These people, the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged, jeez, we’ve been listening to them whine for this and that for decades. We’ve cared enough and paid enough and, gosh darn it, we’ve had it pretty rough too and no one gave us a handout.

Let me speak now for the physically and mentally disabled.

I noticed an attitude of eye rolling when I used to cover city council meetings back in the 90s and early 00’s when the subject of the Americans with Disabilities Act came up. Expensive and ugly ramps we have to build the city engineers said. Parking spaces no one will use. Expensive handicapped restrooms and other modifications to building plans. And yet they want more – can you imagine? My grandmother was in a wheelchair and no one ever built HER a ramp with taxpayer dollars!

Public programs for the mentally ill? Don’t get me started. Ronald Reagan freed the mentally ill from the horrors of institutionalization to the tender mercies of unfunded community care and unaffordable for-profit treatment centers. Why in God’s name do we waste money on people that will add not one dime to the GNP? Now they’re everywhere in public being a nuisance and demanding their rights, just like the cripples. 

Compassion fatigue does horrible things to society.

According to Snopes.com, New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a condition which limits the movement of joints and is particularly noticeable in Kovaleski's right arm and hand.

You know where I’m going here. You all saw what President Elect Donald Trump did in front of God and everyone. He mocked Kovaleski’s impairment.

Funny, right? And so Presidential
People were, for the most part, shocked. I wasn’t. 

I remember seeing it for the first time on TV and feeling nothing except the inexorable inevitability of historical trends. I knew we would get here, because history.

It’s been a while in coming, but I knew we’d get to the point where a candidate for President would mock the disabled, not to mention all the other groups of people that were mocked.

I thought of my son, an adult with autism. His mother, my mother and I had to fight every step of the way for special services for him in a public school. You would have thought we were stealing the Superintendent’s own money. My son used to get harassed on the playground by other kids. I know because once when I was a playground monitor, it happened right in front of me. 

Other parents made their feelings known at school board meetings that too much money was being spent on ‘special education’ to the detriment of their little achievers, bound for the Ivy League.
And my son did the whole hand flapping phase which brought quite a few disapproving looks in public. I had to take him out of church and many restaurants because I didn’t want anyone to get mad at him for ruining their dinner or service. 

The Clinton campaign not only did a political ad criticizing Trump for mocking the reporter but also an ad from a Republican mom with an autistic son who saw her son in that reporter and was aghast at Trump’s behavior.

I would say about 20 years ago, it would have been enough to sink any candidate, but not now.
You’re kid has autism? Too fucking bad, take care of him, don’t ask for any help from us. Life is tough. And hey, when your kid does that flapping thing, it makes my kid nervous, OK? We shouldn’t have to see that. 

Nope. I wasn’t surprised at all. As I wrote, I know my people all too well.

Many, many disenfranchised groups are stating their fears of this Brave New World of Trumpism this week. So, I will chime in and say I fear for not only my son, but for all the people with physical and mental disorders, including the bipolar, anxiety and depressive illnesses I share with countless others. We are now all on notice that we’re officially ‘in the way.’

It’s time to put all of them back where they came from – to the asylums, the work farms and the institutions -- because no one who is a normal, God-fearing, taxpaying, hard-working American has time or money for that anymore. And that goes for ALL the special snowflake, overly sensitive, social justice warriors too! 
 
Right, back you go, out of sight, out of mind
Vince Lombardi (who probably would have loved Trump) was famous for saying that fatigue makes cowards of us all. 

I think compassion fatigue makes heartless ghouls of us all – if we let it.