US Presidential Election 2016

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Don't Tell Her What She Can't Do

An open letter to Dr. Ted Noelle on his discreditable performance in "Hillary Clinton Parkinson's: Detailed Debate Analysis" as posted on YouTube by Webtech Vidzette

You may remember the TV show, Lost, and its middle-aged, balding character, John Locke. Locke was a paraplegic before the plane crash on that magical island, when he miraculously recovered and displayed the best survivor skills in the group. "Don't tell me what I can't do!" became his catchphrase. It's also a worthy catchphrase for anyone who believes in themselves but is prevented from achieving their dreams by others who see only their limitations.

Though at times it may seem like it, the race for Presidency of the United States isn't a TV show. And Hillary Clinton isn't John Locke – it isn't even certain that she has any disabilities or physical problems aside from the customary problems associated with aging – but the meme still applies.

Attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton's fitness for POTUS because you believe she's weak or disabled--or because she's a woman (it isn't entirely clear whether some don't find these equivalent)--is dangerously unenlightened. Not only are those who make such arguments infringing on her rights, they're discarding the value of a great many people who have given or would like to give something of benefit to the world.

Doctor Noelle, you imply in this video that you're a medical authority, yet, fail to observe the fundamental ethics commonly used in the practice of medicine. You publicly speculate on the physical condition of someone you've never examined, and arrive at a diagnosis the subject has never requested, based solely on "clues" you've derived from her appearance. You attempt to publicly shame Hillary Clinton because of her perceived physical disabilities which, you believe, disqualify her from being president. (...and with such malicious glee, as if a fellow human being having Parkinson's disease is a win for your team.)

I'm well aware of Donald Trump's tendency to disparage people with disabilities, but I'm surprised that someone claiming to be a medical doctor would do the same. Trump asserts that anyone who directly opposes him is his inferior in strength and stamina (and sexual attraction), and uses their physical attributes to ridicule them. He's boasted of his physical superiority over Clinton on many occasions and has grasped at any evidence to cast doubt on her ability to perform the duties of president. I suspect part of this derives from his operating supposition that women are only useful if they're young and beautiful.

As far as I know, the office of POTUS is not won through a wrestling competition. Perhaps Trump envisions something like the late Andy Kaufman's challenge to beat any woman in the ring as an Oval Office activity if he were to win the presidency. But physical prowess is not one of the requirements of holding public office. People with disabilities don't lose their rights or citizenship with their diagnoses. They're working in all areas of employment and hold office in every level of government, all over the world, as well as in the United States.

In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed 15 members to a newly formed independent federal agency, The National Council on Disability, and the U.S. Senate confirmed it. The Council published a paper called Topical Overviews: Enjoyment of the Right to Participation in Political and Public Life by Persons with Disabilities, of which the following is an excerpt:

"The right to participate in political and public life is a fundamental right that forms one of the foundations of any free and democratic society. The ability to exercise this right directly impacts the degree to which people with disabilities are able to fulfill their civic rights and responsibilities, and the degree to which they can be active and included members of their communities. Draft Article 18 of a proposed UN convention/treaty on the human rights of people with disabilities specifically addresses participation in political and public life, and incorporates several key concepts, including: accessibility of voting procedures and facilities; the ability of people with disabilities to vote by secret ballot; participation on a basis of equality in the activities and administration of political parties and civil society; and participation in decision-making, particularly concerning issues relating to people with disabilities."

Our society has progressed to acceptance, no longer imposing the barriers people with differences used to be trapped behind. In the United States, this acceptance is also law. When someone with disabilities has the determination and ability to continue working, they're usually admired, not scorned.

Physical limitations at work are determined by the patient, with the help of their doctor. They're not assessed by their employer or the general public, except in the case of specific job-related duties such as lifting an object weighing more than 20 pounds, for example. In this country, only those who are unable to work are assessed by others, for example, when applying for disability benefits.

If Hillary Clinton has Parkinson's disease--and your speculation does not a diagnosis make--only the following medical limitations apply to her: "the extent to which Parkinson's disease may affect your ability to work depends on the type and severity of your symptoms and the extent to which those symptoms interfere with the duties of your particular job. There are some Parkinson's patients who are still working 20 years after diagnosis. Others have been unable to continue in their jobs after a year or two. For example, if you are a house painter and have balance problems, climbing a ladder may be dangerous. Generally speaking, most people can expect to be able to work for several years before Parkinson's disease substantially interferes with their ability to function." -- Parkinson's and Employment

Michael J. Fox, whose name has become practically synonymous with Parkinson's, has continued to work for 25 years, since he first learned of his condition in 1991. He didn't even disclose his Parkinson's diagnosis until 1998. There are too many others to list who have overcome physical problems to have stellar careers, but following are a few from the world of American politics:

Franklin D. Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921 and became completely paralyzed from the waist down, but continued his career as a lawyer, became a New York state senator, New York state governor, and was elected POTUS in 1932.

Injuries to his spine caused John F. Kennedy chronic pain every day of his life and required 2 surgeries. Illness since childhood left him with "celiac disease, Addison's disease, thyroid disease, and severe osteoporosis" but after his discharge from the Navy and a stint as a journalist, he was elected to public office as a Congressman, a Senator, and finally, as President.

Bob Dole served in both the House and the Senate before running for POTUS in 1996, despite injuries in WWII which rendered him unable to tie his own shoes, cut his own food with a knife, or pick up his child to hug her. Yet, he served as the longest-serving Republican leader of the Senate and at age 93, is still living – and employed.

Senator John McCain has chronic pain and is still unable to raise his arms above his shoulders from injuries sustained from being shot down over Vietnam and tortured while he was held prisoner from 1967-1973.

Greg Abbott, a Texan, became a paraplegic when a tree fell on him while he was jogging in 1984, yet he went on to become a Texas Supreme Court judge, Attorney General, and in 2015, the Governor of Texas.

Dr. Noelle, your insinuation that Clinton has a disease which automatically renders her unfit to be president is wrong. The Trump campaign is constantly challenging Clinton's trustworthiness and asserting that she has a lack of transparency. Perhaps Mr. Trump could also be more transparent and say what he really means: "Hillary Clinton is a sick and weak, and besides, only boys can be President, you stupid-head."

Articles and Links:

Hillary Clinton Parkinson's -- Detailed Debate Analysis | Horrible fact

Locke Walkabout. Don't tell me what I can't do

Hate Crimes Against Individuals with Disabilities

Medical Experts: TV Doctors' Diagnoses Of Clinton Are Dangerous And Unethical

Donald Trump's Worst Offense? Mocking Disabled Reporter, Poll Finds

People with "Invisible" Diseases Struggle for Resources, Understanding

Enjoyment of the Right to Participation in Political and Public Life by Persons with Disabilities

The Social Security Administration: Disability Facts

Parkinson's and Employment

Disability Trivia: Presidents with Disabilities

FDR and Polio

The Myth of FDR's Secret Disability

JFK's Hidden History of Chronic Pain

War Wounds Shape Life, and Politics, for Dole

History: John McCain

10 Quotes: Abbott On His Disability

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