When I heard about Donald Trump publicly mocking a journalist’s physical disability, I didn’t want to give the man any more time or any more space in my head. Outrage, however, took over.
I’m both a disabled adult and a teacher. I’ve taught long enough to notice that a person’s character shows in his interactions with those he considers his inferiors.
That’s a line from a post I wrote in 2012, a reaction to reports that the young Mitt Romney had bullied classmates who differed from his norm and tricked a visually impaired teacher into colliding with a door.
When I heard about Donald Trump publicly mocking a journalist’s physical disability, I didn’t want to give the man any more time or any more space in my head. Outrage, however, took over. If a friend or coworker acted like this, I would not let it slide. If local or state officials made similar prejudicial statements, I’d call them out on it. If a student showed this kind of prejudice toward another, that student would face major disciplinary action. Trump’s impulsive, thoughtless, and downright rude words and actions are no different.
My handicapping condition is a progressive hearing loss, one that has worsened with time and will continue to change as I grow older. This loss is due to nerve damage, and hearing aids are the correct and only treatment.
I’ve never kept my hearing loss a secret from employers or coworkers or my students. In fact, when I taught at an elementary school that housed the program for deaf and hard of hearing students, I stumbled into the position of role model. When I showed the class my hearing aids on the first day of school, my three hearing impaired students sat up straighter in their chairs; their teacher was one of them. They were thrilled to see a college graduate and full time professional wearing hearing aids. My existence in their lives expanded the possibilities for their futures.
That’s not to say I’ve traveled an easy path. I’ve faced college professors and school administrators who presumed I was less competent or less intelligent because I had less than average hearing. I’ve had to rise above the hurt to prove myself capable. However, those who accept me, hearing aids and all, are now in the majority.
My disability might not be physically obvious, but Mr. Trump could certainly mock it if he tried. And frankly, that action would say more about Mr. Trump than it would about me. In this case, I’m the professional. I’d rather not dignify Trump’s childish misbehavior by giving him what he wants: attention.
Tracy Ostwald Kowald is a teacher by trade and writer by nature. She started blogging in 2006 as a way to express herself and deal with everyday stresses. Using the blog as an outlet, she documented her journey through a deep and frightening clinical depression. She continues to blog as a supplement to therapy and an outlet for the creative writer that still raises its hand now and then and says, “Me! Call on me!”