An Open Letter to POTUS, on Language

President Trump,

Hello from liberal California. As you can probably guess from my first sentence, you and I are never going to agree on politics. Actually, there’s very little you and I agree on, at least based on what you project in the media and on Twitter. But this is a democracy, and we don’t have to agree. Let’s just agree to disagree.

But here’s the thing: Despite our disagreements, I would like to believe that you’re a decent human being. However, your angry Twitter rants make that rather difficult. Most of the time I just ignore them, but last week I couldn’t. Just couldn’t do it. You see, in your ranting, you managed to slam a group of people who are very, very important to me: the intellectually disabled.

On June 29, you tweeted about Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, saying, “How come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago…”

Stop right there. I don’t even need to read the rest of your tweet at this point. While the rest of America expressed outrage that you went on to make a crass remark about Brzezinski “bleeding badly from a face-lift,” I was focused on your slur about her supposedly low IQ.

Full disclosure: I know virtually nothing about Mika Brzezinski. All I know is that she’s a co-host of an MSNBC show, and that you’re not a fan. I have no idea what your history with Brzezinski is. And frankly, I don’t care. Because this letter isn’t about Brzezinski and what she has or hasn’t done. It’s about you carelessly insulting the intellectually disabled.

You see, when you refer to her as “low I.Q.” Mika, you’re insinuating that this is a negative—that she is to be seen as less than because she has a low IQ. I don’t know what Brzezinski’s IQ is. I don’t care. The point is that when you insult her by saying she has a low IQ, what you’re really suggesting is that people with low IQs shouldn’t be taken seriously and that they should be laughed at—the butt of jokes.

Can I tell you who has a low IQ, President Trump? A legitimately low IQ? My beautiful, amazing son. The light of my life. Sam. He has Down syndrome, which is an intellectual disability. So yes, he has a low IQ. He will always have a low IQ, though he is very capable of learning and, with proper support and encouragement, will not be held back from achieving a good, happy life because of his low IQ.

My son is not alone. Special Olympics estimates that 6.5 million Americans have an intellectual disability. Globally, they estimate that approximately 1 to 3 percent of the population has an intellectual disability—nearly 200 million people.

So do you see what you’ve done, President Trump? When you intended to insult a television personality who you feel is your enemy, you managed to insult 6.5 million Americans. Good people who deserve your respect, not your disgust.

You’re not alone in having insulted this group of people. Far from it. Every day, people toss around ableist slurs without thinking. You know who else did it once? President Obama. In 2009, he made a joke about being a member of Special Olympics because he isn’t a great bowler. It was a tasteless joke, and I didn’t like it any better than I liked yours. But here’s the difference: When the ableism in his joke was pointed out, President Obama rapidly apologized.

You, on the other hand, followed up your tweet the next day by referring to Brzezinski as “dumb as a rock.” Once again, my gripe is not with whatever you think about Brzezinski—it’s with the fact that when you state an insult like that, you’re disparaging the community of people with intellectual disabilities. (And by the way, referring to her as “crazy” is pretty insulting to the community of people who legitimately suffer from mental-health issues. You managed to alienate two groups of people in one sentence!)

I know there’s a contingent of people who think that we liberals are the “language police” and “too politically correct.” But here’s what I call it: common human decency. If it is pointed out to you that a word or phrase is hurtful to an innocent group people, then don’t use it. Because why? There are plenty of ways to express your displeasure with Brzezinski that don’t involve using language that hurts a marginalized group of people.

I have no doubt that Brzezinski will come out of this just fine. She, in fact, is probably experiencing a jump in popularity because people are so disgusted by your remarks. The people I’m worried about are the people like my son, who have done nothing to you but somehow earned an insult from you. You, who holds the most powerful position in the United States. Would you please use that position for some good? ‘Fess up to the fact that your remark was thoughtless and hurtful. Apologize to the community of people you insulted. I know you deleted the original tweet, but go a step further: Make amends to a group that did nothing to you.

Show me your decency here, please. I know you’ve got to have some.

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My son. He has a low IQ but a huge heart. And a healthy dose of patriotism. Please make him proud to be a part of this country, not ashamed of its leadership.

 

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