Monday, March 29, 2010

Must Read: Stephen's Post at Not Dead Yet.

What is this term disability? And how does it's flippant, inaccurate or egregious use affect the rights of the disabled?

Read Stephen's post at Not Dead Yet. I'm delighted to find that he and I have much more in common than our escalated and un-nuanced online spats have yet determined.

Here are two good clips. He's writing about the call by the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation for disability groups to rise up in support of their boycott of The Family Guy show on Fox for its disrespectful and tasteless skit about Terri Schiavo (on the eve of the 5th anniversary of her death, March 31):

Predictably, the Schindler family reacted. I guess I don't blame them. But in a press release they included this:

The Foundation is calling on all disability rights organizations and pro-life organizations to join us in admonishing the producers and writers of The Family Guy.

To my knowledge, no disability rights organization, including NDY, has chosen to join them.

This hasn't gone unnoticed by June Maxam at
North Country Gazette. In her article "Where Are They Now?" Maxam lists the national disability groups that were involved in fighting the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. She then suggests that the "silence" from the disability community on "Family Guy" is "condoning and advancing the prejudice, bigotry and hatred of the disabled."

The fact is, we're busy with real
crises - and the "Family Guy" skit doesn't come close to being a "crisis." NDY is directly involved with coalitions opposing assisted suicide and euthanasia in 4 states, active in a major "futile care" case in one other, involved with a developing court challenge over guardianship limits in another state, providing technical assistance to disability advocates on state legislation, and monitoring the media for grossly inaccurate reporting on the Final Exit Network and individual homicides of people with disabilities. On top of that, we are working with other national disability groups on other disability rights issues through a national network of advocacy organizations that are run by people with disabilities. The majority of our work isn't that visible -we're seeking change, not headlines.
Speaking of disability advocacy, tomorrow the Family Research Council is hosting a panel on Terri Schiavo's death. Bobby Schindler is on the program, which describes him as follows:
Robert Schindler, brother of Terri; full-time pro-life and disability rights advocate

I'm sure the Family Research Council loves the conflation of disability rights and "pro-life." That's one thing they have in common with prominent "lefty" bioethicists. No one in the actual disability rights community appreciates it, though. And we don't appreciate the description of Bobby Schindler as a disability rights advocate.

During the fight to prevent the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, the Schindlers showed little understanding of disability rights - or of the potential importance of the involvement of national disability rights organizations in the debate. Surrounded by their prominent prolife supporters, they almost never mentioned the disability rights organizations supporting the struggle to save her life. If they'd made a habit of mentioning that, it would have been harder for news organizations - Fox, MSNBC, CNN, the networks, etc. to pretend this was all just one more battle in the "culture wars." Unfortunately, framing the fight in terms of the culture wars suited "handlers" like Father Frank Pavone and Randall Terry just fine.

I wish I could say that I have any evidence that the Schindlers have any better understanding of the disability rights community and disability rights issues today than they did back then. I don't. They are not involved in any of the battles mentioned above - and play almost exclusively to Christian Conservative audiences.

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