Nov. 8, 2016 left me in awe of the America I thought I knew. I thought we would be better than to nominate President Donald Trump as our nation’s representative, the man who oversees us all. Surely, we were smarter than this, I thought.
I thought wrong.
My name is Katie Schroeder, and I was born with Spina bifida. I walk with a limp, which is disguised when I am stationary.
The election brought out the worst in Americans, as Trump functions as the lighter which has ignited the flame of bigotry and hate in the nation. Trump’s mouth seems to know exclusively idiocy and ignorance — as was evident throughout his campaign.
In one of his press conferences before the election, in late 2015, Trump openly mocked a disabled reporter on national television.
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How that did not shock, scare or infuriate the masses is beyond me. I know able-bodied people mostly do not have a lot of regard for disabled people, but they always know, at the very least, that making fun of a disabled person is wrong.
Unless, of course, your name is Donald J. Trump and you’re a presidential candidate.
Then, by all means.
I work in retail. I work for a lot of insensitive customers, who ask me things such as, “You got a bum hind leg?” or, a personal favorite, “Do you have muscular sclerosis?” (This, by the way, does not exist. It is a combination of muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis).
One of my worst experiences as a disabled person in my workplace, however, came from a Trump supporter.
The woman who would eventually buy makeup from me had a large “Make America Great Again 2016” button on her lapel. I was scared for my life and security at work — I knew she would say something.
At first, our conversation was steady, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then, she asked me something I will never forget for as long as I live.
“Now, you’re young, you’re beautiful, but you’re limping. Did something happen to you? Do you have polio?”
I felt like Trump himself came up to me and spat in my face.
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Her asking me if I have polio really speaks to the ignorance and complete lack of compassion Trump and his supporters demonstrate. It is not that Trump has to actively do anything himself — instead, when his outward verbal bigotry toward any minority or marginalized group is not professionally reprimanded, citizens take that to assume his actions and words are acceptable. Now they can follow in his footsteps. This has created a new breed of hatred, felt especially by disabled people.
Trump was the worst thing to have happened to our nation, and I fear the havoc he will continue to wreak on the disabled community. Most of all, I am beside myself that his open mockery of us, if nothing else, did not prevent the American people from casting their vote. So I fear the country I live in itself.
To my fellow disabled people: Stay strong. He will not divide us.
Katie Schroeder ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in creative writing.