12 January 2016

Trump's Words Matter

I was minding my own business on the M14A bus yesterday afternoon when a man using a motorized wheelchair boarded. The bus driver asked the people in the disabled seats to get up so the new rider could turn his chair around. Except that's not what the driver said. What he actually said was, "You have to get up. He's going to keep us waiting for half an hour."

The driver didn't raise the seats for the rider, as drivers usually do; instead, he retreated into his seat area, and then followed the man toward the seating area, flicking his chin several times behind the man's back, in a clear gesture of contempt, if not profanity.  The rider raised the seats himself, reaching from his chair while bracing himself with one foot on the floor.

Several of the other riders started muttering. "Look, he can walk." "This is ridiculous." And so on. Finally I said, "You don't know how much pain it causes him, or how much exhaustion, to put weight on his feet." They shut up, thankfully. The man slumped over the handlebars of his chair: physical fatigue? emotional exhaustion? Who knows?

Back in November, Donald Trump mocked a New York Times reporter with a physical disability. "You ought to see the guy," he said, gyrating his arms in an apparent imitation of the reporter's stance. He said he was just gesturing, a claim few believed. And in defending himself, he dug a deeper hole, claiming political correctness is the problem: "a lot of us don't have time to be politically correct."

Trump has brought political discourse to new lows in his contempt for Mexicans, immigrants, Syrians, refugees, disabled people, Muslims, and women. Did this thing happen on the bus because of what Trump said? I don't know, but he's certainly cleared space for such disrespect to flourish.

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Update: When I wrote this post, I also reported the incident to the MTA. Today (Jan. 13), I received an email message from the MTA saying they're going to identify the employee and follow up with his supervisor.