What if Roosevelt or Kennedy Were Here Today?

By | March 20, 2013 | 0 Comments



Rare photo of Franklin Roosevelt in wheelchair

We live in an “enlightened” age. We are “tolerant” and “inclusive.” We celebrate “diversity.” We have compassion for the “little guy.” Really?
In fact, we worship youth, beauty, and health. Look at your local newscasters. In the early days of TV, an ordinary-looking man − later a woman − would report the news. Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and Walter Cronkite were renowned journalists, but no one would claim they were young and handsome.
Today, the news is likely to be reported by men and women who look to be in their twenties and thirties. They are usually good looking if not frankly beautiful. They dress fashionably – and in the case of women, revealingly. Most of the women have long hair, preferably blond, draped over one shoulder like military insignia. They often stand while speaking, so their full figures are visible. They are never fat or even significantly overweight. Both men and women are carefully made up, with stylish hairdos.
And most important, none − not one − has a visible handicap. No visible scars, no limp, no impaired arm or hand, and surely no cane or crutch. When Gwen Ifill broke her ankle and had to moderate the 2008 vice-presidential debate from a wheelchair, it was an unusual event that elicited much comment in the media. It was tolerated only because the injury was recent and temporary. If Ifill had to use a wheelchair permanently, she might work behind the scenes, but she never would appear on TV, much less on a widely watched program.
I believe the only exception is Charles Krauthammer, a conservative commentator who appears on Fox News. He is quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident, but most viewers do not know this, because he and his fellow commentators sit behind a table. Despite his Pulitzer Prize and obvious brilliance, I believe the fact that he regularly appears on TV is due to the fact that he is conservative.
If Krauthammer were liberal, would he appear on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC or CNN? I doubt it. For a generation, the media have taught all of us to worship youth, beauty, and health, but the lesson was learned best by “liberals.”
● Who nominated a tall, good-looking, well-spoken, youthful Barack Obama for president in 2008, despite the fact that he had served only three years as a U.S. senator − and had no executive experience whatever? On the contrary, who nominated a medium-height, ordinary-looking, plain-spoken, older John McCain for president, because of his decades of experience in the Navy and the Senate?
If McCain were a liberal, would the Democrats have nominated him? I doubt it. He would be too old, too homely, and too disabled for them.
● Who made endless “jokes,” often in the worst possible taste, about how old McCain was? Who called him “confused” and “joked” that he forgets where he lives when he goes out for the paper? Who “joked” that he needs Viagra because of impotence, and diapers because of urinary incontinence? Who ridiculed him for having difficulty using a computer, though it was common knowledge that the function of his arms and hands was impaired by war injuries? Is mocking a partially disabled veteran now considered acceptable?
● Who went so far in their contempt for the disabled as to tell Sarah and Todd Palin that their baby with Down’s syndrome should have been killed? This anger went so deep that “Abort Sarah Palin” bumper stickers appeared in “liberal” neighborhoods. To “abort” a born human being meant to murder her. Is hitting a woman in the face – knocking off her glasses, and knocking out a tooth – an example of normal political dialog?
Is it “pro-choice” or “pro-woman” to threaten to beat up a woman for making the “wrong” choice about her own child? No, it’s anti-choice, anti-woman – and disgusting.
Starting in the 1960s, liberals redefined themselves. I was a liberal. I approved of John Kennedy’s anti-communism and his vow to defend freedom around the world. I endorsed his call to stimulate the economy by lowering taxes.
I resonated with Kennedy’s support for our military, and with his own military service − including a combat-related injury requiring him to wear a back brace to the end of his life. In fact, his wartime injury indirectly killed him. Oswald’s first shot hit Kennedy’s neck and missed vital structures. It was probably survivable. But instead of slumping, Kennedy was held upright by the back brace, a perfect target for Oswald’s second shot to his head.
Having worn a back brace myself for over a year, I empathized with someone who had to wear one for his whole life. Having periodic back pain, I related to someone who had daily pain. And having worked for people who had no empathy and cut me no slack, I admired those Democrats who pushed Kennedy forward, despite his disability.
But things changed. If John Kennedy were alive today, he would be called conservative, because he proposed aiding any friend and opposing any foe to assure the survival of freedom in the world. Read his inaugural address. Today our media would call it the ranting of an extreme, far-right, ultra-conservative − probably in the pay of “military-industrial complex.”
If Kennedy were nominated today, it would be by the Republicans. His views would be anathema to today’s Democrats. But if the story broke regarding his back brace, and his Addison’s disease requiring daily steroid therapy, what would happen? Democrats would question his ability to serve, calling him physically impaired. And when the Democratic propaganda machine – that is, the mainstream media − got hold of the story, can you imagine how they would exploit it?
I can hear Letterman now: Kennedy tries to have sex wearing his back brace. Kennedy is confronted by a crisis and forgets to take his steroid tablets. You fill in the punch lines, but come up with something really offensive.
But it’s not only the physically or mentally handicapped who are viewed with contempt. It’s anyone considered different – for example, Evangelical, or from a rural area like Alaska. If Saturday Night Live can do a skit claiming that Todd Palin is “doing” his young daughters, clearly all standards of decency are out the window. Note that this program was on network TV, not cable. Imagine what these “comedians” would say about Kennedy’s health problems, not to mention his womanizing.
And don’t forget the “jokes” about Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith. Remember the “magic underwear”? Yes, Romney is handsome and well-spoken, but his faith makes him different. Intolerant people have an aversion to the different – whether the difference is manifested by race, religion, physical appearance, or disability. Regrettably, many intolerant people call themselves “liberal” or “progressive.”
When I heard the repulsive “jokes” about John McCain’s age and health, I imagined John Kennedy resurrected and put in the same position. I imagined the painful insults that he and his wife Jackie would have to endure.
But if that is not enough to turn your stomach, imagine that the liberals’ idol, Franklin D. Roosevelt, were resurrected. Imagine him with his paraplegia from polio. Imagine him in his wheelchair. The media of his day hid it from the public, but think of what today’s media would do. I can see an empty wheelchair on the cover of Time, with the caption, “Can he do the job?”
I can hear the “jokes” on Letterman and the “comedy” skits on Saturday Night Live. Surely the 10 pounds of steel braces Roosevelt wore on his legs as he walked a few steps with assistance would provide plenty of material for “humor.” And then they could start on his wife Eleanor. Imagine the side-splitting, knee-slapping “jokes” about how she and Franklin made love: (“Pass the oil can, dear…”).
When you hear nasty, offensive “jokes” about politicians, especially Republicans, try to imagine what these “humorists” would say about Kennedy, not to mention Roosevelt. Then you will gain some insight into how low we have sunk. Youth, beauty, and health are qualities to be desired, but they are not virtues to be admired. Those who lack youth, beauty, or health are to be empathized with, not held in contempt and subjected to ridicule.
Virtues include courage, loyalty, good judgment, and steadfastness in adversity – which have absolutely nothing to do with youth or beauty. Virtues also include compassion, something the “humorists” know nothing about.
Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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