[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
Okay, strap yourselves in because this is going to be a long one talking about stuff I have literally thought about my entire life.
Let me start by confessing my biases. I am a disabled person, with learning disabilities, who has personally faced discrimination in his life. I like to think that this gives me an education on issues related to the subject of disabilities and discrimination that you couldn’t acquire in a classroom, but you might reasonably wonder if instead I am biased in favor of my “group” or something like that. I report, you decide.
And let me also write a long preface about my big picture view of how disabled people should fit into society. I mean it is a daily reality I have to face, and if you guys haven’t noticed I try to think about things pretty deeply (or I think too much as some commenters have said) and so it’s only natural I have a lot to say after almost forty years (!!!) of dealing with this. You might believe that there is a contradiction between my being a semi-libertarian conservative and being a staunch supporter of laws like the ADA. But I have long felt that there was a powerful, underappreciated conservative argument for laws such as the ADA that goes something like this.
There are only three ways of dealing with those who are disabled.
The first is extermination–to either kill them or let them die. “Kill all cripples,” Adolf Hitler said, calling them “useless eaters” before a “cripple” (FDR) smote him.* I don’t say that to go all Godwin’s law on you, but I mention it because logically this is one of the options, and because conservatives themselves recognize that this really isn’t an option they would ever consider. This is why conservatives habitually highlight stories like this:
Fifteen-month-old Joseph Maraachli (Muh-RAHSH’-lee) left Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis on Thursday and flew with his family to their home in Ontario, exactly one month after the child received a tracheotomy aimed at extending his life.
Joseph suffers from the progressive neurological disease Leigh Syndrome. Doctors in Canada refused to perform the tracheotomy, saying it was futile because the child’s disease is terminal, and an Ontario court decided doctors could remove the child’s breathing tube.
His family sought help from American hospitals, and Cardinal Glennon agreed to treat Joseph.
(Emphasis added). So that is not an option, but then there are only two other options remaining.
The second option is dependency—which might be dependency on the government or dependency on private charity, such as a church or just the charity of a family giving you free room and board well beyond the age of emancipation. It is a life of consuming goods but contributing little to the society.
And the third option is independence. And that means going out and getting a job and living on that salary. But very often that requires a regime of accessibility and even accommodation of disability, so that the disabled person can go out into the workforce and be a producer and not just a consumer—giving lie to the Hitlerian claim that we are just “useless eaters.” Reagan once famously quoted the proverb that if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but if you teach him how to fish he’ll eat forever. I would mangle that phrase as follows: if you give a paraplegic man a fish he will eat for a day, but if you make the docks wheelchair accessible he will eat forever.
Yes, that does imply government intrusion in the form of accessibility requirements and lawsuits when people refuse to provide reasonable accommodations or engage in outright discrimination. And I am sure that this well-intentioned law, like all well-intentioned laws, can be abused from time to time (I would categorically exclude prisons from the ADA). And those are both features that go against the grain of conservative thought. But it also isn’t terribly conservative to have a significant portion of our population who is capable of working being forced into dependency. Accommodations and accessibility is not only economically efficient, but it grants to those disabled persons the simple dignity that many of us take for granted: of living independently, based on the money you made working for a living.
And that move from dependence to independence is quintessentially conservative.
So that is where I am coming from when I look at how disabled people should fit into society. Now truthfully some people will not be able to be independent even with accommodations. Although even in cases where you might not imagine a person living independently, I have seen it done. I had a friend in law school, for instance, who had a full-body disability so severe he couldn’t even turn the pages of a book without assistance. I never asked, but I assumed he needed help with every physical task, including bathing and using the restroom, too. Now it is true that he will probably never enjoy the independence of handling those everyday tasks without help. But he makes so much money, that he pays for that help. But at the same time, that is because he also happens to be a genius. If a person has the same physical disabilities as he does, and then Down’s Syndrome on top of it all, I have a hard time believing that this person could ever live independently, by the sweat of his or her own brow.
But I believe most handicapped persons can in fact earn a living if only given a square chance. So I believe in a regime of yes, coerced accommodation and accessibility, so that the maximum number of handicapped will be able to earn a living and pay their own way. So with all that background in mind, I turn to this story:
Disabled in the Bullseye
Disabled Americans are substantially more likely to be victims of crime than able-bodied people.
By Bob Boyd
In 2008, people with disabilities were victims of 40,000 rapes or sexual assaults, 116,000 robberies, 115,000 aggravated assaults and nearly 459,000 simple assaults. In 20 percent of these cases, the perpetrator used a weapon. People with disabilities between 12 to 24 and 35 to 49 years of age were nearly twice as likely to be targeted when compared to other people in those age groups. Females with disabilities experienced higher rates of violent crime than males with disabilities. Nearly 15 percent of those victims suspected they were targeted because of their disability.
Criminals apparently know disabled people are less likely to be able to defend themselves during a violent crime, or at least perceive them to be an easy target. The 2007 numbers add emphasis to the urgency of the situation. That year, nearly 47,000 rapes, 79,000 robberies, 114,000 aggravated assaults and 476,000 simple assaults were reported with disabled victims, who were targeted 1.5 times more often than persons without disabilities.
Mr. Boyd says much more on the severity of the problem and it is worth reading the whole thing, but he sums it up by saying:
The ongoing epidemic of crime perpetrated against people with disabilities has remained largely unnoticed by the American people—disabled and non-disabled alike—and ignored by the media.
And it makes perfect sense. If you are going to rob someone, you are going to target someone who you think can’t fight back. And it even makes sense that they might be ashamed to highlight the significance of the problem. So, you might think that this is going to be another plea for a government program or something like that, right?
Well, not quite. Instead the author declares his independence:
In the coming months, I’ll be writing a series of articles that address self-defense for the physically disabled. Topics will include awareness, mindset, coping with physical disability as it pertains to concealed carry and defensive-handgun training, things to consider when selecting a handgun for self-defense and concealed carry and more. So if you’re physically disabled, know someone who is or are concerned about an aging family member living alone, spread the word.
Having cerebral palsy since birth, I realize my disability makes me a tempting prospect for those cowardly, less productive members of our society who prey upon those they surmise are easy targets. Unlike most though, I work for Shooting Illustrated and have attended a variety of training courses. Moreover, I have firearms and I’m willing to use them if necessary.
So perhaps I need to amend my mangled metaphor. Give a paraplegic man a fish, he will eat for a day. Make the docks wheelchair accessible so he can gather his own fish and a gun to ensure that he can keep what he gathers, and he’ll eat forever.
And gun ownership by the handicapped also taps into another big philosophical belief I have about the handicapped. In a very real way, humanity is the disabled species. Think about it. Compared to other species, we are slow, weak, blind and deaf; we have little sense of smell, our teeth and “claws” are weak, etc. If left naked in the wild we would be easy supper for the other animals out there. And yet we dominate the planet for one simple reason: our brains. And those brains have allowed us to create tools that in turn makes up for our deficiencies. So we can’t run as fast as a cheetah, but we invented motor cars that allowed us to move even faster and for long periods of time. We can’t see like an eagle, so we invented the telescope and can see things no other creature can. Our brains haven’t just leveled the playing field between animal and man, but in fact gave us a critical advantage over them which is why we rule this planet and no longer have any natural predator (except ourselves).
And in no area has our brains been more critical in making up for our psychical deficiencies than in combat. Now we might suspect a few tough souls like Chuck Norris or Todd Palin** could take on a grizzly bear with their bare hands, but for most of us, if we don’t have a gun we are SOL (and from my understanding, even with a gun they are hard to kill). Our only option is to run.
So to tell a disabled person that they can’t use artificial help goes directly against the grain of what we have done as humans. For instance, I have difficulty writing by hand. But it only affects my ability to write by hand, so I buy a computer and I am rendered “normal.”
Likewise, Mr. Boyd has cerebral palsy. I have known people with that condition and it almost certainly impairs his ability to win a fistfight. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but it’s almost certainly harder. Now, the anti-gun approach would tell him tough and that he would just have to remain defenseless and hope that if someone attacks him that he cops get there in time. But the second amendment allows him to say, “screw that,” and defend his own life and safety as need be.
Now yes, obviously there are some disabilities that make it unacceptably dangerous to carry a gun. We should at all times be reasonable about this and I expect as Mr. Boyd writes about this as promised, he will describe how he and others can safely operate a gun. And I would be surprised if a blind man can ever safely operate a gun. But at the same time we shouldn’t be too quick to assume a person should not own a gun..
For instance I don’t believe the modern military would ever consider letting a deaf man serve. But a history lesson shows that this might be an unwise position. As you might know, for a brief window of time, Texas was its own country, with its own currency and everything. Here’s what their five dollar bill looked like.
That portrait on the right is of Erastus “Deaf” Smith, who was also honored by being given a state funeral and having a county named him. He was one of the heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto where Texas won its independence and received this eulogy in The Globe (a Washington paper):
This singular individual was one of the few men whose names alone bear with them more respect than sounding titles. Major, colonel, general, sink into significance before the simple, ordinary name of Deaf Smith. That name is identified with the battlefields of Texas; his eulogy is inseparably interwoven with the most thrilling annals of our country, and will long yield to our traditionary [sic] narratives a peculiar interest.
Disabled people have real deficiencies that they struggle to overcome. That shouldn’t be ignored or swept under the rug. But at the same time we must be careful not to overestimate their effects, either, or underestimate the quintessentially human ability to devise ways to overcome those shortcomings. For instance, one cardinal rule I teach others is never to assume a thing cannot be done by a handicapped person until you talk to a person with that handicap who has had some time to put some thought into it. If I am typical (and in my experience, I am), disabled people think about how to get around their disabilities all the time, habitually, and we become much better at forming solutions than a person with no disabilities.
Hopefully as he writes about the subject of handicapped people and firearms, Mr. Boyd will share some of the surprising ways he has overcome his disabilities.
So in this article you see something of a conservative ideal. The left likes to call anyone who is poor “less fortunate” as though it was a matter of pure luck that they ended up where they were. Well, when Mr. Boyd was born he really was less fortunate. And yet if his life is threatened, he will not be dependant solely on the government to save his life. His ability to keep his life, liberty and property will not solely be a function of governmental largesse. Instead, he declared his independence.
And good for him for it.
* I do think FDR’s disability is relevant, there. I look at what FDR did prior to WWII, and I think bluntly he understood Hitler’s evil better than most Americans and was doing his best to get us into WWII by stretching the concept of neutrality to the outer limit. And I think he understood that evil primary as a function of recognizing his mortal enemy.
** Yes, I am joking, riffing the “Chuck Norris Facts” meme. I even saw a version of that with Sarah Palin substituted for Norris, the hilarious part being that every now and then they mixed in a true fact that was almost as outrageous as the silly ones, particularly citing how Todd Palin famously broke his leg in a dog race and still finished fourth (if memory serves), which is why I mentioned him.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]