Angels in the Architecture

After a car accident left me with a chronic ataxia, I was moved from my public school to Michael Dowling School in Minneapolis. In 1971 it was for disabled children. I was on the road to recovering the ability to walk as well as I could, to talk as fast and clearly as possible. The car accident was early that winter. By the fall, after much therapy provided by physical therapists at the University of Minnesota, I remember sloppily chasing a walker. A short decline led into Dowling and gravity knew my pace. Besides formal PT, my dad walked with me almost daily that summer.

The other kids at Dowling, for the most part, did not have the path to ambulation that I did. I maintain, and have seen, that disability is natured as much as it is nurtured, most of the time. Some kids, one of whom I kept in touch with years later, walked with canes or crutches. They had cerebral palsy that handicapped them minimally. However, the kid who comes to mind today was laid up in a reclining wheelchair. From a childhood illness, as the story I was told went, he developed a very high fever. It was somewhere beyond the low 100s — the point at which a fever becomes fatal. At Dowling I recall him laying in his chair in my 3rd grade class. He could not speak and had a green band holding his head in place. One kid was in a tall wheelchair. He had a condition the obviously stunted his growth and left his bones very brittle. Those two examples were on the natured side of disability. Their futures were dependent on the limitations of their conditions. On the nurtured side was a kid who had the capacity for ambulation on wooden crutches. His cerebral palsy, in an independent environment, should have handicapped him minimally. I think of the people with much more handicapping cerebral palsy. Later in life I worked as a counselor at Camp Courage. I saw some of those classmates from Dowling. Some had changed, other were more handicapped either by nature or by nurture. Nonetheless, for most of those adult campers the odds were that some type of medical assistance was in their later years. Some had developmental disabilities, one was a quadriplegic we had to roll each night in his bed.

Regardless of their story, how they walked, what their futures could offer, what their financial needs now may be, the kids I went to school with in 1971 popped into my mind today. I came home today from dealing with trying to get medical assistance to supplement medicare coverage. The GOP is stirring things up and, even if it is in the end more bark than bite, talk of cuts to these programs is very unnerving. It makes dealing with insurance even harder when at any moment the rug might be pulled from under your feet. I come home and look on Facebook and see the disabled. I see what I imagine some of those kids from 1971 might look like after 46 years. I imagine the programs many of those classmates could have been destined to need one day to live. They descended on Mitch McConnell’s office in a show of force, of protest from a group people like the majority leader expect to be quiet. A mix of anger and upsetting wove through my stomach as I scrolled, streamed and listened to the requests to save medicaid.

It is only a bill, shrouded in secrecy. Ironically, it does have the potential to be as destructive and at least somewhat as deadly as the Manhattan project. I really do not see it ever becoming the “law of the land.” I can think of a few reasons why a bill this atrocious was written. Fear factor: Trump love to scare up suckers to appease him, to kiss his ass and distort reality with him. Ego: He won’t be out-presidented, least of all by the first black man to hold the office. After everyone from FDR has tried to revamp the national health care system, Obama succeeded. Distraction: Trump and his posse have seen the movie Wag the Dog too much. Notice how every bad idea out of this WH has, at the very least, the potential of clouding its predecessor. This one, though, the worst bill in history, is earmarked to throw some dirt on the growing fire that’s implicating the president and his men in the Russia scandal.

Being petrified and not seeing were this could very easily go is very hard to ignore. Life’s even more of a bitch when you could die because the rich wanted their tax cut, apparently the only Americans Trump was talking to when he pledged to make America great — again. In a very surprising way we were warned. All those pithy comparisons to Hitler and Mein Kampf bedtime reading have followed him. The mass deportations, and yes, I know Obama deported many. However he lacked the heartlessness of Trump and did not ignore policies designed to keep families together. And the disabled. . . I just watched the video clips and my mind went back to to horrors of 1930s Germany. If all these cuts take effect, see the light of day, it will be as cruel as democracy gets. In a stretch of time, imagination and politics, Ryan and McConnell are, at the end of their constituents’ time, no better than Himmler and Mengele. What they propose to do is simple; deny life-saving assistance to care for disabled populations, to elderly who may have worked their whole lives, or to the grown versions of those kids from Dowling.

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