I have been teaching and working with people with disabilities for over 40 years. When I heard Donald Trump mocking a reporter with cerebral palsy I was sickened. I truly have not seen an adult mock a person with a disability since my childhood. For those who were born before the civil rights legislation of the 60’s you may not be aware of the kind of bigotry that existed at that time.
I wrote the following poem as a reaction to the spectacle of seeing a presidential candidate mock someone with a disability.
Born in the Town of Bigotry
By Joel Ottenbreit
I was born in the town of Bigotry. A place where my neighbors taught me well,
I learned that poor Blacks were lazy and that foreigners often smell.
That a women’s place was in the home cause that’s what made life stable,
They must look their best, care for the kids, and have dinner on the table.
Where people with disabilities are those you pretend not to see,
And if they come to close to you try everything to flee.
To be different. That is bad and truly kind of queer,
Push them, beat them, bully them. You need to make them fear.
In Bigotry, life was large, seemingly as big as a brontosaurus,
To increase the fun, so I could stun, I decided to join the chorus.
I told their jokes and sang their songs that those not like us were dumb,
They had no real place being here with us cause they were only scum.
Though I grew up in Bigotry one day I had to leave,
Tears in their eyes, their screams and cries, made me question what I believe,
I came across a mean and angry boy I knew who recently became transgender,
Instead of a broken person, stood a woman who was quite tender.
I discovered those with disabilities were not given less,
They just needed accommodations so they could be their best.
And those from other cultures were truly not the same,
But the differences they taught me were wonderfully insane.
When I failed to notice the color of their skin, aquaintinances became quite dear,
We could laugh and cry together as friends, from them I had no fear.
That women are our equals and a great part of this nation.
They should not be seen as less, no need for objectification.
I have the one true religion, this is what my priest would say,
Soon I discovered love and compassion from different faiths along the way.
But sometimes in your travels the path will bring you round,
One day I awoke in Bigotry with a new mayor in the town.
He’s loud and brash and full of hate with the old ideas to plate.
Restore what was once ours, we need to make America great.
Mexicans are bad, they’re not sending us their best,
They’re criminals and rapists, they are our new found pest.
Those with cerebral palsy are really kind of irrelevant
They speak funny with poor speech and are truly unintelligent.
And women without big breasts, they are just not right for men
How could you even consider them for they are not a perfect ten?
And those of the Muslim faith we need to ban them from our town
Cause they have some bad ones who want to bring us down.
And those who disagree with me are such a big disgrace,
The best way to deal with them, is to punch them in the face.
The mayor was concerned with numbers and wanted me to join his chorus
But this time my heart had grown and my will was no longer porous.
Instead of singing his praises and telling vulgar jokes,
I stood in line with my protest sign and claimed it was all a hoax.
For now I have to stay in Bigotry and pray it does not become violent,
And encourage good people in the town to no longer remain silent.
And when this mayor is forced to leave the fears of the marginalized will dissipate,
We’ll learn that kindness and love were the true things that made America great.