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What Unity Means to Me in Trump's 'Crippled America'

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With strong divisions in America – red and blue, rich and poor, white and of color – many would describe America as broken, incapable, and ineffective. These deep divides led to an excruciatingly painful election, and surely more pain to come. Donald Trump successfully capitalized on these fractures; exemplified by the title of his book, “Crippled America.”

His book is not about serving persons with disabilities. Instead, “Crippled America” was written by Donald Trump to defend his positions on issues ranging immigration, the Iraq war, and the media. The irony is that Trump is the only candidate from the primaries who didn’t offer a position on disability rights.

In total, I’ve observed two instances in which Trump has made overt mention of disability: (1) Using this politically incorrect and offensive term, “crippled,” to describe how “broken” America is, and (2) flagrantly mocking a reporter for “using his disability to grandstand.” The first example reflects ignorance and poor taste. The second reflects insensitivity, presumptuousness, and intolerance, all of which makes my skin prickle with fear. The only other public statements Trump has made are peripheral, stating that he aims to reduce the overuse of social security and disability. This stance undermines the authentic need for services. And this is all we know about Donald Trump and his perspective on persons with disabilities.

We all have reason to be afraid. So many of you, my friends, loved ones, and allies, have shared how unsafe you feel in the aftermath of the election. With you and for you, I hurt. I, too, feel afraid, disappointed, frustrated, concerned, and ashamed.

Donald Trump has harassed nearly every marginalized population in the country. As a woman, I feel the glass ceiling has been strengthened and my reproductive rights are in jeopardy. As a person with a disability, I feel uncertain how this country will view me and if my government will continue to mandate accessibility. I acknowledge my privilege, as these fears pale in comparison to those fearful for their lives, their rights to stay in this country, their rights to marry. We need to support one another, and have genuine conversations about how to mobilize to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of all Americans are protected. We need to speak up when we hear hate.

These last few days have been somber, difficult, and overwhelming. I have had a hard time processing, and have found it challenging to tear myself away from the media. I hesitated to articulate my profound sadness and outrage; I’ve lacked the words for my grief or the distance to maintain respect for “the other side.”

I am striving to open my heart and open my mind. This openness does not preclude my rejection of hatred. I will protest and use my voice to be an advocate for inclusion. And, I will also hear the strong and inspiring words of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama when they remind us to unite. Uniting means seeing one another, supporting one another, defending one another. Uniting means fighting, together.

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Originally published: November 13, 2016
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