Ann Coulter, the foul-mouthed darling of the conservative right has managed to do it again. This time she said she “approved of Mitt Romney’s decision to kind and gentle to the retard”. She was referring, of course, to Mitt Romney, the conservative candidate for President, during his debate with President Obama.
Coulter epitomizes the extremist rhetoric that flows from the extreme conservative segment of the American population. Along with such luminaries as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and the demagogues on Fox News, she has managed to create a vitriolic stream of invective towards a whole range of people.
Her latest attack shows the contempt with which she treats vulnerable members of our population, in this case, those with serious mental disabilities. Instead of demonstrating an empathic attitude towards people who have no control over their maladies, she insinuates with her comments that these people are less than human, or deserve less than people without those disabilities.
To conflate the President with those with mental disabilities insults both the President and the disabled. She insinuates that those with an impairment are worthless, and compares the President to them. This is the kind of contempt with which the President has been treated by conservatives ever since he took office. Even if you disagree with the President on substantive issues, at the very least you should have a respect for the office of the President. Rush Limbaugh and his acolytes, like Coulter, clearly do not.
A young man with Down Syndrome, which can cause severe mental impairment replied in an open letter to Coulter. He wrote thus:
“I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow,”
“I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.”
This young man, through strength of character, wrote a poignant letter to Coulter, in which he asked whether she compare the president to someone who was bullied throughout his childhood by people like Coulter, but who rose above it to succeed in life.
He asked whether Coulter thought the president was someone who has to struggle to think about what to say. Then he asked whether she described the President as someone likely to receive bad healthcare, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a gift.
He asked her whether she believed she could link the president to people like him, on national TV and get away with it.
This young man, despite his disability, still managed to come across as dignified, as well spoken, and ultimately morally superior to the boorish and low-bred Coulter.
The kind of rhetoric that exemplifies Coulter’s writing and TV appearances is unbecoming, the pustule that oozes from the open wound of political extremism that has found popular footing in this country. It is the kind of rhetoric that divides the nation, that marginalizes vulnerable people, including African Americans, immigrants, the elderly, the poor, the unemployed and the sick. It is the kind of demagogic incivility that exploded in Europe in the 1920’s and 1930’s, in South Africa under apartheid, and ends only in extremist xenophobia and exploitation.
Coulter will never apologize, of course. She is playing to the crowd, the kind of intolerance that we heard from Winnie Mandela and Peter Mokaba in South Africa, with their “with our tires and our matches we will take back this country”. It has no place in civil society. That conservatives accept this sort of language as normal, and a right under the First Amendment substantiates the rhetorical depravity that has permeated this nation and conservative ideology.
To the young man with Down Syndrome, you are a hundred times the person Coulter is. You exemplify the spirit of the people, the willingness to be part of society regardless of your disadvantages. This nation needs more people like you.
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