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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A True Story: My Gym Encounter the Day after the Election

The day after the election I was finishing up my hour on the exercise bike, pleased I had gotten through level 8 on “random hill” for the first time even though my miles were a bit down at 16.7. That’s not an exact number, as I was quite distracted for the last several minutes of my workout by the man who had sat on the bike to my left.

The mere presence of President Obama on the television screen above us prompted this 50-something white man to seek out what he thought was an agreeable face. The wheelchair in front of my bike apparently meant I didn’t fit the bill, which I was perfectly fine with. My speech disability makes impromptu conversations with strangers extremely difficult, and sucking wind doesn’t make it any easier.

“He’s an idiot, huh?” he said, apparently finding what he was looking for in the 40-something white man two bikes to his left.

Not wanting to play along, the second guy just sort of shrugged and said something like, “I think he’s doing ok.” Certainly I didn’t take notes, but I began writing this post, especially the dialogue as best I could remember, shortly after returning home.

Unsatisfied, Mr. 50-something pressed on. Eventually he said, “Then there’s all the unemployment benefits he’s extended.”

As my blood began to boil, I shared a look with the second guy. He again tried to avoid the conversation. As a woman walked by he even attempted to toss out a classic male-bonding comment. “I try not to get into it. I’d rather just talk to a pretty girl.”

Finally, Mr. 50-something pushed too far. “Eh, he totally ruined the economy. All that money to the banks.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I finally chimed in, rather loudly. “He had to do something.”

Ignoring me, the older man kept talking until finally the second guy had enough.

“The economy tanked because they were letting people buy homes they couldn’t afford. Instead of saying, ‘You can’t afford this,’ they wrote loan after loan. Who was president then?”

“Bush,” I said, louder.

“Exactly.” I wasn’t being ignored any more.

“You can’t blame Bush. That’s the banks.”

“And my son’s been out of work for 6 months,” Mr. 40-something said. “There is no work because everybody’s afraid to move forward in this economy.”

Done my workout, I got in my wheelchair. I honestly planned to just leave, but the true nugget for me of the mindset of those reveling in yesterday awaited me.

“And how about this guy. What’s he supposed to do? Do you work? Or, I guess, you can’t?” asked the younger guy.

“I can work, I just can’t find another job.”

“What’s he supposed to do?” asked the younger guy.

“That’s different. That’s disability. I have no problem with that.”

“No, it’s not different,” I said. I gave the younger guy a half handshake, half high-five, and thanked him as I left.

Ask Rand Paul, who won in Kentucky, if it’s different after he spoke out against the Americans with Disabilities Act in May. Kentucky.com reported:

Paul has suggested the law goes too far, incorrectly describing what it requires for many businesses.

This is what Paul said in a May interview on National Public Radio: "I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator."

However, elevators "are not required in facilities that are less than three stories or have fewer than 3,000 square feet per story, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal," according to the Web site of the U.S. Justice Department, which enforces the law.

The law requires only that public facilities — such as stores, banks, hotels and restaurants — "remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is 'readily achievable,' i.e., it can be done 'without much difficulty or expense,'" according to the Justice Department.

Yahoo! News reported soon after Paul's May statement that the Justice Department and legal experts could not cite any instance of a private employer being successfully sued to install an elevator.
In other words, the man didn’t even know the law or its consequences. He merely knew that it is perceived as bad for business so, as a Republican, he was looking to roll it back.

And the Republicans and those like Mr. 50-something have chosen not to know that the economy tanked long before Barack Obama was sworn in as president. He’s not what they wanted in the White House, and they simply want to roll back whatever he’s done.

They don’t have the problem of paying the bills or not having health care, so they don’t feel a need to deal with it. They prefer to live in the dream world where giving rich business owners tax cuts cures all because the wealth will “trickle down” to the rest of society. And since they don’t really want people with disabilities in their businesses, they have no problem giving us benefits to live on (not that it’s possible to truly live on Social Security) as long as we’re happy staying out of the way.

These are the types of people that just won a so-called victory yesterday.

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