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The Problematic Message We Send By Judging Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump By Their Health

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Unless you aren’t involved in politics (which is difficult at this point) you’ve probably seen that Hillary Clinton recently collapsed and was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was cleared later that day and was seen walking out of her daughter’s apartment, seemingly fine. The media exploded and her opponents took this opportunity to talk about her vulnerability and subsequent weakness due to her pneumonia. Somehow this situation prompted another feud and conversation about who is “healthier” between the two. In fact, Donald Trump even brought recent physical results to Dr. Oz to analyze on his show. Media outlets are speculating on cholesterol counts, activity levels, any underlying conditions, cardiology conditions and related concerns, arguing that this is all important information in this election.

I believe this is anything but relevant to the current election, and is just another example of ableism that is quietly being endorsed, supported, and more frequently plaguing society and those of us that live amongst the disabled community. Now, I’m Canadian, so I’m not sure how much that constitutes me to be able to have a say in these things, but when I see any form of discrimination I will involve myself no matter what the injustice. The last time I checked, a perfect physical free of ailment and risk was not a requirement to run for president. So why is this becoming such a serious issue?

Some of the greatest presidents of the United States of America have face disabilities both visible and invisible: Abraham Lincoln is believed to have had depression, James Madison may have had epilepsy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt had polio. All of these men made significant contributions to American history despite their illnesses and I encourage you to read up on them.

When will this world stop trying to categorize people, and then deeming them less than their equal?

Making a spectacle of the health of the respected candidates tells society that if you are ill or disabled, you are no longer an equal to your opponent. You are no longer an equal to the general population. The message it sends out is that having diseases and disorders we can’t control, or even a simple case of pneumonia, means we are less capable than others.

I live in a world where I already struggle to be accepted and taken seriously due to my invisible disabilities. Now this platform that is being broadcasted virtually around the world is spreading the word that your health depicts your abilities. I am tired and frustrated of hearing people tell me that I am limited because of the body I operate, and I refuse to have this message become mainstream.

We are humans. Humans get sick. This is natural, and it will happen. It will happen before the election, it will happen during their time in office, and it will happen after. It is not up to everyone else decide what you are capable of. You are capable of succeeding at your own discretion and you don’t need anyone’s approval.

We, as individuals with a whole variety of visible and invisible illnesses, are just as capable as anyone else and I am angry that once again being ill is being seen as a weakness. Our worth will not be defined by our red blood cell count, what our nutritional status is, how much exercise we partake in, or whether you rely on mobility aids or not. None of this is relevant to who we are as people and none of this is relevant to our potential. Truthfully, if anything, I believe it enlarges our potential because our drive and passion for life is frequently beyond those not facing medical conditional.

Think about it this way: the Olympians and Paralympians compete in the exact same sports, with the exact same countries — the only difference is the method of partaking in these activities. There isn’t only one way to be successful.

Health does not equal success. Health does not equal power. Health does not equal potential. We are still capable of big things.

I am a nanny to two beautiful little girls. I face chronic conditions that will be part of my life until my days’ end, but there is never a symptom or blood value that prevents me from loving them, cherishing them, teaching them, and learning from them.

So for those of you following the election or even those part of it, I beg you not to consider your options based off of the candidates’ lab results or cholesterol levels. We are in the 21st century and it’s about time that we stop alienating those with illnesses and disabilities, and start acting upon inclusion.

Follow this journey on #SimplySabrina.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published: September 16, 2016
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