I Take Offense to the Ableist Jokes About President Trump
“TrumpWearsAdultDiapers”: It’s a hashtag I first noticed trending in the United States on the morning of June 14. And I remember looking at it with mixed emotions.
On one hand, I think it’s a small sign of progress toward greater accessibility that the hashtag’s written in a sort of “camelCase” or “PascalCase” — a style of hashtag writing that allows screen readers and text-to-speech programs to properly read hashtags aloud instead of spouting them out as gibberish.
On the other hand, the hashtag is in pretty poor taste for both the aged and disabled communities, and everyone should be able to recognize that. This isn’t about politics, it’s about decency.
The context for this hashtag seems to be a few images of President Donald Trump’s backside compounded with a video clip of President Trump unsteadily walking down a ramp at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — an event some have coined “#RampGate.”
Since then, the Twittersphere and armchair physicians have parsed over these clips and photos and many have come to the conclusion that “#TrumpIsUnwell.” And some have relentlessly ridiculed Trump for it.
While it is understandable and important for folks to be concerned about the health of a world leader, ridiculing someone for the way he walks or for the supposition that he uses an adult diaper is a worrying sign of how little progress we’ve made in terms of looking at the disabled or aged population with compassion.
When I watch those clips and look at those photos, I feel something different. The clip of Trump walking down the ramp at West Point and the clip of him shifting his weight, seemingly trying to balance, particularly remind me of myself. After all, it isn’t uncommon to catch me walking downstairs one step at a time or taking it slow on a ramp. Sometimes, it feels like even a small gust of wind is enough to knock me off my balance.
It’s hard not to take these jokes a bit personally. Although folks are indeed “punching up” when they ridicule a president, this time, some are doing so by resurrecting old, narrow-minded ideas of the disabled community; intended or not, it’s a potshot.
I know some folks who ridicule President Trump like this are trying to be funny, not hateful. And some may say that complaining about these ageist and ableist jokes is me being “too sensitive” or “too politically correct.” But when the punchline to these jokes is simply that someone is different than most able-bodied folks, I don’t think it’s particularly funny or clever.
Poking fun and satirizing those in power is a good and healthy thing. However, when it comes to our politicians, it’s best when we focus on policy, calling out hypocrisy, and the general absurdity of the political circus rather than who can or can’t walk down a ramp with ease.
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