A handicapped writer and an alien team up to change the future of humanity. It's the free story that never ends!
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A handicapped writer and an alien team up to change the future of humanity. It's the free story that never ends!

It’s Not Political, It’s Personal

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I’ve been a writer for 40 years and yet it feels strange to be writing this.  I’m not one to blow my own horn.  My accomplishments in life are my own.  I have never felt the need to impress people with them and at 63 years of age, I don’t care whether I impress people or not.  But I could not stay silent any longer.

When then political candidate Donald J. Trump stood in front of a crowd of thousands and gleefully mocked Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter afflicted with cerebral palsy, I could no longer stay silent.  Up until then, he had denigrated Latinos, Muslims, prisoners of war, women – the list goes on and on.  I had watched from afar, sympathetic and embarrassed for them.  But I did not get angry until he attacked me.

You see, I was born with cerebral palsy.  Unlike the New York Times reporter, it only affected my ability to walk.  I say only because, outside of the fact that I was relegated to a wheelchair, my life was normal.  I was fortunate to grow up in a place where I was not bullied because I was different.  I had a lot of friends, incredible parents, and more than understanding teachers.  But as my friends started leaving for college and it became apparent that my parents had done all they could for me, I adopted a win at all costs attitude towards getting out of the wheelchair.

At this point, I should say that this was not the first time that I had attempted to leave the wheelchair.  As a young child, I had been fitted with short-legged and long-legged braces.  In those days, they were a superstructure of steel and heavy leather pads.  I hated them.  In the New York winters, they were cold and the summers made them hot and sticky. The constant pressure of the leather pads on my knees would cause them to become red and irritated.  But I would wear them because I had been told that stretching my muscles, much like stretching a rubber band, would cause the muscle atrophy to release. The doctors said to wear the braces locked for two hours a day.  I wore them locked for eight hours a day.  I wore the short braces, designed to hold my feet in a straight position, when I went to sleep.  My reasoning was that sleep was a wasted period that could be better utilized as therapy.  My parents put an end to that when sleep became no sleep.  In between, there were fruitless surgeries to forcibly release atrophied tendons or muscles.  When all was said and done, I found myself back at square one and still in a wheelchair.

Years later, I was about to transfer to a college 2,500 miles away from home.  There was no Americans with Disabilities Act.  Leaving home for the first time would be difficult.  A wheelchair would only compound that difficulty.  Then and there, I made the decision to either leave the wheelchair behind or “crash and burn” in the attempt.  It was all or nothing.  Six months later, I found myself on a plane to Tucson, Arizona.  My wheelchair stayed in New York.

The next ten years saw me go from braces and crutches to crutches to two canes to one cane and finally, to four years of experimental surgery.  During those four years, I had to relearn how to walk no less than seven times.  The surgeries were successful. And because of them, thousands of young children no longer endure the pain that I endured as a child.  That is my legacy.

I have not told you this story as an ego boost or a play for sympathy.  I desire neither of these.  When Donald J. Trump stood on the stage, in front of thousands of people, and gleefully mocked that New York Times reporter; he made a mockery of my entire life.  I’ve never met the reporter, but I can bet that he and I traveled similar paths.  There are millions of handicapped people in this country.  Some, like myself, have been handicapped since birth.  Others have become handicapped because of accident, acts of violence, or defending this country.  It is hard enough for anyone to live a normal life without being stereotyped by gender, skin color, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or handicap.  When someone running for president of the United States stands before a crowd and openly mocks those not as fortunate as he, when he robs them of their dignity without a shred of remorse; that person will never receive a shred of respect from me.  If I can’t respect Donald J. Trump as a human being, I can’t respect him as my president.  It’s not political, it’s personal.

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