Enemy of the State: Why People with Disabilities’ Rights are in More Danger Now than Ever

Last night, I found myself watching part of a Twilight Zone marathon on the Syfy channel. For the record, I’d like to say: I don’t appreciate the idiosyncratic spelling.

I’d never seen The Twilight Zone before, but was intrigued when, from my computer room, I heard part of the episode “The Obsolete Man.” For those unfamiliar with the series or the episode, it’s from season two. Wordsworth, a librarian, finds himself living in a government construct where The State rules all. You either serve The State, or are “liquidated” as obsolete because you have no function. The State has no books. Therefore, no need for libraries or librarians. Therefore, Wordsworth is considered obsolete–as are ministers, because there is ostensibly no God, or doctors, because there is no illness, just to name a few.

So Wordsworth is called before a tribunal to be handed his fate as the obsolete man and asked to choose his method of liquidation, to take place anywhere from immediately to 48 hours later. Naturally, Wordsworth fights for his right to live. By eliminating him, he tells State Chancellor, “you are denying you can’t get rid of truth by burning pages” (that’s a paraphrase). “I am a human being,” he shouts. But does this matter? No. Wordsworth dies–but his truth doesn’t. More on that in a moment.

In another episode, also from season two, called “Eye of the Beholder,” we are introduced to Ms. Janet Tyler. She’s hospitalized, her face engulfed in bandages. She tells her officiating nurse about being a little girl, about people screaming when they looked at her. She asks if her face can be “fixed.” Based on this–and the fact that, for 3/4 of the episode, we can see no one’s face–we assume Janet Tyler must be hideously ugly in a “normal” world. And we cringe when her doctor tells her that, because this is her eleventh treatment and the state (there it goes again) does not allow more than 11 “experiments” on any given patient, this is her last chance. If there is no change in her face, Janet can choose to be “exterminated” as “an undesirable,” but there are far too many provisos to make this a viable option. It would be better for Janet, the doctor says, if she were transferred to a village for people “of her own kind.”

Janet rebels. Still bandaged, she screams out, “A colony for freaks! The state is not God! What right do you have to make ugliness a crime?” And, still thinking she must be hideous, we agree.

Then Janet’s bandages are removed–and the hospital staff allows us to see their faces in comparison to hers. Janet looks “normal.” Everyone else is grotesque, with pig snouts (get it? They’re pigs), protruding teeth, and twisted foreheads. We realize, with an even sharper chill than before, that in this world–time and place unnamed–ugliness, as we think of it, is the norm. Normality as we think of it is what makes one a freak of nature, one who needs to be “fixed.” And when the leader of the outcast village comes to collect Janet, and we see he too, is “handsome,” “normal”–oh, my.

Because you see, it’s not any fairer to make “normalcy” or “beauty” a crime than it would be to make “ugliness” or “difference” or “disability” one. (Though I wonder what would happen to the disability world if this were the case…I sense a story…)

The truth is, we don’t live in the Twilight Zone–at least not as it was in 1959. But I propose we are in fact living in another, new kind of Twilight Zone. “No!” you would say. You’d never treat “handicapped” people like that–like undesirables. That’s for maniacs like Hitler and Stalin (both of whom were referenced in “The Obsolete Man” as inspirations for the futuristic State). Yet, are we so far off as we think?

Hang on, because I’m about to say something many of you may not like. You might even hate it. But you need to hear it.

The current direction of our country–and yes, that includes President Obama and his administration–would like nothing more than to place America on a speedy trajectory to socialist rule. Socialism is the first cousin of Communism, which is the child of Fascism. Don’t believe me? Take a look–a good look–at Obamacare. Socialized health care, folks. Health care that, eventually, would have you wait in line for days, weeks, months, even years, to be diagnosed and treated. The elderly and “infirm”, and those who are truly, chronically ill, would probably end up dying under such a system. Yet, they are undesirables, are they not?

Want more? Okay, let’s look at education. In the recent decade–and the one in its early childhood now in 2012–education has taken on a very specific bent. From an early age, children are being taught to “go green” in every way possible, even if it means using only one square of toilet paper on a given bathroom visit (thank you, Sheryl Crow). American Girl’s Girl of the Year Lanie’s stories, written just a few years ago, centered around “saving” the environment. So too, Kailey and Kanani’s stories had a similar bent. I am not advocating that we trash or disrespect the planet by any means, but the constant barrage of “going green” information points to indoctrination, starting in elementary school.

And it doesn’t stop there. In the early 2000s, a news report claimed that a high school in Minnesota erected separate bathrooms just for its Muslim students. The use of any Judeo-Christian symbol in any public place is highly questioned, while any religion outside those gets preeminence (Islam, yes, but others as well). Ben Stein’s movie Expelled (circa ’07 or ’08), revealed the fact that oftentimes, professors who speak up for intelligent design at universities are fired or at the least, villified. Eugenics still exists, although in subtle forms. Terri Schiavo, anyone? Let me say this loud and clear: that woman wanted to live. She communicated her desires, including desires for food and water, as best she could. She deserved to live and have those desires met. Yet she was ignored, and thus, murdered. Yes, murdered.

Where does disability fit into all this? My above examples should’ve told you quite a bit. But just in case, I’ll spell it out for you. As recently as the 1990s, my local paper carried an education article that basically stated special needs kids drove down the test scores in my district–a district full of Schools of Excellence. We were drains on the system, in other words. I was, thank God, not segregated in “that room.” I did not receive “special services” to the extent of some classmates (classmates I should’ve gotten to know, but never did, because they were segregated). But the article made me furious. And I was a kid then.

Understand this right now: this post is not a rant against either the Republican or Democratic Parties, liberals, or conservatives. At the core, political leanings themselves have nothing to do with any of this. Philosophy, though, has everything to do with my post. If you embrace any of the things I have given as examples, I warn you now: be careful what you embrace. Take another good look at it. That goes for you guys who bomb abortion clinics, insist on KJV Bibles only, oppose parents’ ability to choose their children’s schools, feed corporate greed when others are starving, and the rest of it, too. Your kind of thinking, no matter which party you espouse, is drving our world, and the talented, worthy, significant humans in it, to a scary, shady, surreal future.

Will you think this over now? Or will you wait until pig snouts, and piglike behavior such as that in those episodes, become such the norm, you can’t even smell yourself anymore?


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