I got an email the other day filled with rage at a couple of TV talkshow hosts. According to this email, the hosts in question were spewing hate-speech, being disrespectful and patronizing, calling people with disabilities “the handicapped,” and were making fun of every kind of disability, leaving noone untouched. They were bashing the ADA and calling it bullshit. This email was demanding that everyone approach disability advocacy groups and get these horrid men off the air. The email also mentioned that there were videoclips up on YouTube of this disgusting display of disrespect. That made me too curious, so off I went on a YouTube search to see this for myself.
It didn’t take me too long, since the email mentioned the cohosts’ names were Penn and Teller. Weee! Jackpot! here, here, and here. It’s all the same 30-minute or so show, just split in 3 parts with no attempt to split in logical spots, just splat! in the middle of a word.
I watched all three parts. Were they disrespectful? Sort of, but that’s just their style. That’s the way they act for their audience. Oddly, I got the feeling they were trying to tone some of it down. Did they use the words “the handicapped?” Sure, but I could give two shits about the word they used. I believe it’s the sentiment, not the word, that counts. Were they mocking every disability? I didn’t see it as such! Sure they mentioned lots of disabilities, but that’s the point of doing a show on the Americans with, um, disabilities, act. If they didn’t mention certain disabilities, I would bet money that people would be pissed that their group was excluded. Was it hate-speech? Absolutely not! They were trying to make a point, and doing it in their loud-mouthed style.
Yep, they called the ADA bullshit, but not in the way that the email claimed. They felt it went too far, was too vague about what a disability was, and they felt it made it too easy for people to sue people on the grounds of not being accommodated under the ADA. They spoke to people with disabilities who didn’t like the ADA, they spoke to a few who were in favour of the act, and they made a huge point of one dude who used the ADA as an excuse to sue the asses off of anyone he could. They made some good points about how some things that sound ridiculous are classified as a disability. They talked about how it was a good idea, but now it’s gone out of control.
Do I agree with everything they say? Hell no. They think that the government should not be forcing public places of business to be accommodating because if they want the business of people with disabilities, they’ll just do it. Obviously these folks have no grasp of how many barriers there are out there, how long they have been there, and how slooooowly they are being taken down. They say that it should be up to the people with disabilities and their families to advocate for what they want, case by case. A fine idea, in theory. If they truly put it into practice, they might run smack into a wall. They talk about how people can get sued under this law and get threatened with it all the time. Um, that’s the case with any law. The ADA is no different. And there’s one statement that kind of mystifies me. Maybe I’m missing something and someone can help me out here. At one point, Penn says that ADA advocates compare the fight of people with disabilities to the fight that Rosa Parks had to have a seat on the bus. Then these same advocates say that at the end of her life, Rosa Parks had to fight for her ability to get on the bus using her wheelchair…except, he says, that never happened. And Rosa Parks was kept off the bus because of Jim Crow laws of segregation, where as people with disabilities are being kept off the bus because of Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of Physics. So what is he saying there, that the two shouldn’t even be compared? That Newton’s laws of physics is a more justifiable reason to keep people with physical disabilities off the bus? I hope it’s the first, in the sense that I hate it when advocates for any cause whip out the Rosa Parks card. They have to realize that it just makes people mad. It doesn’t help. But he didn’t make it clear what he meant, so I was left trying to process what he’d just said for a while.
So should these so-called assholes be dragged from the airwaves kicking and screaming? No! They have the right to express their views as much as we do. We may not agree with them all, but that’s the way things go. Sometimes, people get way too protective of their point of view. Chill out, people! Use your energy to fight a real battle, and let this go.