I don't usually blog on the weekends, but last night I saw video of Gabby Giffords saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democratic National Convention, and I knew right away that I had stuff to say about it. Stuff that's not likely to make me popular, but...I've never worried about that before, so....
Before we get into that, though, some quick words about the DNC. Wow. I missed both Biden's and Obama's speeches because I was talking to a good friend on the phone, but I plan to watch them on YouTube this weekend. But I saw just about all of the other major speeches, and the tone of this convention was, for me, a one-eighty from the RNC. It was energizing, hopeful, focused on Obama's accomplishments instead of ripping on Romney (for the most part), and really just a pleasure to watch. I'm not going to pretend that the party doesn't have it's shortcomings (aptly covered by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" over the course of the week; he's always been good at demonstrating that he can rip into whatever whatever party is in power when they deserve it), but aren't we talking about the lesser of two evils at this point? It looks to me like the Democrats are the lesser by a *substantial* margin at this point.
But back to Gabby Giffords.
Gabby Giffords Pledges Allegiance
Readers may remember that former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head during what was presumed to be an assassination attempt on her in Tuscon, Arizona in 2011. She survived the attempt, but was critically wounded. She has spent the time since the shooting on recovery: surgeries to repair the damage caused by the bullet, physiotherapy and occupational therapy to restore function to her left side, and speech therapy. Gabby Giffords now walks with a cane, has problems with her vision, and still goes to speech therapy to address issues with aphasia.
Her story of recovery is certainly inspiring, and it was great that she could be at the DNC. I didn't Gabby Giffords recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but the clip that I saw and the activity on my Twitter feed told me that people were certainly affected by it. People talked about her strength, her bravery, and how they were crying.
I admire Gabby Giffords too. But I didn't cry. I thought, "So, the Dems paired a person with disabilities with the Pledge of Allegiance to create a "tug-at-your-heart-strings" moment. Looks like it worked."
I realize that it's not quite that simple with Gabby Giffords because she was also a public figure who was the victim of a terrible unfairness and this is one of her few public appearances since the shooting. But doesn't that create even more of an argument for emotional manipulation?
Willing to Admit Crankiness
Not that there weren't a whole lot of moments at both conventions that were designed to play on peoples' emotions. Every time a speaker tried to do the "call and respond" or tried to get people to chant something, that's a big-time play on peoples' emotions. I often found myself in danger of getting swept away by the emotion in particularly the DNC.
And I do admit that I'm a little hot-under-the-collar about using people with disabilities to manipulate public perception this week anyway. I caught a Facebook discussion about a company that apparently gave itself a pat-on-the-back via social media for using children with Down's Syndrome in it's advertising. The person who started the thread was upset because she said that if she'd not read that the model had Down's Syndrome, she never would have known, and that if the company wants to give itself for kudos for using a model with Down's Syndrome it should at least use a model that looks like he/she has Down's Syndrome.
The issue for me was that the company felt the need to point out that they use kids with Down Syndrome in our advertising. Like that makes them a better company? Or like it's a defense against accusations of wrongdoing?
"We're good people...we use kids with Down's Syndrome in our advertising!"
Like they deserve a medal for incorporating diversity in their ad campaign?
Do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it makes you look better.
Democrats, Meet Me At Camera Three
You don't deserve a medal for giving a woman with disabilities such a prominent place in the DNC.
(You do get kudos for Bill Clinton being the first speaker at either convention to mention people with disabilities.)
If you really want to honour people like Gabby Giffords, who have the will to live as full a life as possible with disability (and there are many of us), put policies in place that allow us to, and that allow the people who care about us to assist us to. For all disabilities.
Obama, I'll be watching your speech to see what you have to say about this. I desperately want to believe that you want to help.
(P.S. Miss Giffords, from one person with one-side weakness to another...you look like you're doing great. Keep up the fine work.)
More on Gabby Giffords: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle_Giffords
An interesting blog post on the myth that all people with Down's Syndrome look the same: http://ellietheurer.blogspot.ca/2011/04/myth-all-people-with-down-syndrome-look.html