If Donald Trump were food he would be Marmite. The world, and America in particular, is divided between those who love him and hang on his every word, and those who still can’t quite believe that this man is the President of the most powerful nation on earth. Whatever your position on Trump, the unavoidable truth is that he is in the Whitehouse and that for the next four years at least he will be making policy that impacts not just those in the USA, but the rest of us around the world too…
So, for this weeks’ ‘Additional Needs Blogfather’ post, what does Donald Trump’s track record in disability awareness, disability statements, and suggestions of future disability policy look like? Is this someone who will be taking office to represent the 19% of Americans who, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012, reported that they had a disability?
Among the blizzard of commentaries, articles, reports and statements about the things Donald Trump has been claimed to say, including those that involve disability, three stand out for me:
Inoculations and Autism
Trump has linked childhood inoculations and Autism for years, evoking memories for many of us of the controversy surrounding Andrew Wakefield’s claims in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. On the Fox TV network in 2012, Trump said:
“I’ve seen people where they have a perfectly healthy child, and they go for the vaccinations, and a month later the child is no longer healthy.” “It happened to somebody that worked for me recently. I mean, they had this beautiful child, not a problem in the world. And all of a sudden, they go in, they get this monster shot. You ever see the size of it? It’s like they’re pumping in — you know, it’s terrible, the amount. And they pump this into this little body. And then all of the sudden, the child is different a month later. And I strongly believe that’s it.”
In March 2014, Trump, using his favoured communications tool, Twitter, stated:
“Healthy young child goes to Doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases.”
He has made further similar statements, including one at a Republican Party debate in September 2015 where he claimed that vaccines were causing an “Autism epidemic.” “People that work for me, just the other day, two years old, beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later, got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”
Making statements like this as a businessman on Fox News is one thing, having them as his track record on this subject as President of the USA, with the power to influence and legislate on vaccination programmes for over 250 million people, that’s another incredibly worrying matter. If you don’t think this matters, look at what is happening in Africa as Polio, almost wiped out as a disease a few years ago, is making a tragic comeback due to misplaced and misinformed fears about the vaccine… The increase of preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough jumped massively in the UK following the fears generated by Wakefield. We should all be concerned about what Trump will do here…
Trump chose a rally in November 2015 to cause ridicule and humiliation to Serge Kovaleski, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter with the New York Times. Kovaleski has arthrogryposis, a condition causing joint contracture in his right arm and hand, and as Trump was arguing a point about a report Kovaleski had written, he said “You’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.'” While saying this, Trump severely bent his wrist and repeatedly flailed his arms about in a seeming impression of Kovaleski’s condition.
Despite widespread criticism of this, Trump has stubbornly refused to accept any wrong in what he did, saying that he was misinterpreted. But what remains is a man who seemingly mocked a disabled man for laughs, and is now responsible for the U.S. Administrations policy towards disabled people.
Obamacare and Medicaid
The Trump team have repeatedly said that they will repeal Obamacare, indeed Trump’s own website clearly states that they want to get rid of it as soon as possible; “On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.”
What implications will this have for the 56 million disabled people across the USA? What do statements about Medicaid, including “blocking grants” and “per capita caps” mean for those who are finding life tough already?
What starts in the USA often arrives on this side of the pond too, and some of the rhetoric coming from Trump and his team have some uncomfortable similarities to welfare reforms and benefits sanctions being brought in by the current UK Government, to the detriment of many with disability.
So in the darkness of all of this, where is the light, where is the hope? In 1 Peter 1:24-25, Peter writes “All people are like grass, all of their glory is like the flowers in the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures for ever…”
Whatever Trump brings to the Presidency, it will not last forever. Whatever harm he might cause, can be undone. In the meantime, we who campaign will continue to care for those we love, and those we don’t even know but still fight for, to help make this a world where everyone, whatever their ability or disability, can belong, can be respected, and can be equal in the eyes of all.
I don’t like Marmite, and I suppose this blog will tell you how I feel about Trump, but in finishing I will say this… I don’t hate him either. Whatever he does, I may not like it, but I will remember that forgiveness is a gift that I have received by the grace of God, and it is a gift that I must pass on.
20th January 2017
Image rights ‘Truth for Teenz’.