When I was a kid, I didn’t like the word “disabled.” I don’t use the word often. If you search this website for the word, you’ll find only 39 posts that even contain it, many of which were written by others. During the last 5 years, I have published nearly 1,400 posts; I’ve specifically mentioned my disability in less than two dozen of them, and the vast majority of those posts were concerned with a larger story. All told, less than 1% of everything I have ever posted on this website even mentions my disability. Indeed, I have only published one post that is specifically about my experience living with a disability.
There is a big difference between allowing something to define your identity and something simply informing it.
Again, search the archives. I’ve written about my disability, primarily, as a response to those who believe it’s appropriate to attack, satirize, or lampoon me on the basis of my disability. I’ve remained steadfast: I believe it’s outrageous and hateful. It’s not civil. It’s purposely hurtful.
Frankly, I don’t mind when critics attack, satirize, or lampoon me for my opinions, but when criticism against me is framed or presented in the context of my physical disability, it loses all credibility.
To me, it’s always fair game to call those people out for their simple-minded bigotry, particularly when they couch their bigoted comments by attempting to draw attention to their own physical or mental challenges.
It’s okay for me to call someone else a “gimp” or to claim they’ve only coasted by in life by playing on the sympathies and the pity of others, because, you see, I had a stroke a few years ago, which makes me qualified to make such accusations and exempt from any criticism. It’s playing the Disability Card in order to accuse someone else of playing the Disability Card. It doesn’t work; it’s bogus and hypocritical.
Greg Aymond has written more about the fact that I have cerebral palsy than I have. Last year, he published an entire piece about it, titled “Fred’s Disability” (Mr. Aymond refers to me as Fred or Freddy), after I called foul when JacquesBarack, a blogger whose entire raison d’etre was to support Von Jennings’s campaign for Alexandria Mayor, attempted to spread the meme that I suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. At the time, I said it was nothing more than “cowardly bigotry,” and I stand by that.
I have nothing against Fred for his disability.
What I do have against Fred is his writings on his blog.
To me, that’s fine and fair, though I am not sure why would anyone would ever hold it “against” me that I was born with cerebral palsy. I didn’t have much of a say in the whole thing.
Either way, what is most fascinating to me is what Mr. Aymond wrote immediately prior (bold mine):
Fred White… wrote a post today entitled “It Is What It Is” about his cerebral palsy as a counter to what Jacques Barack has been writing about him. I too do not like Jacques Barack’s constantly referring to Fred as “Fetal Freddie” claiming that he suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome.
I know full well that Jacques Barack could turn his own sickness toward me as I have been disabled too since my October 2008 stroke.
The “sickness” to which Mr. Aymond was referring was the way in which another blogger attempted to attack and defame me on the basis of my disability. Way back in July of 2010, Mr. Aymond recognized that he could also be targeted and publicly attacked for his disability; as critical as he has been of me, he actually seemed to share the belief that the whole “Fetal Freddy” thing really crossed the line.
Needless to say, during the last few months, Mr. Aymond has changed his position. I wrote about it, most recently, on February 17th, after he superimposed a photo of me he mined from Facebook onto a stock image of a person sitting in a wheelchair and captioned it: “Freddy’s Gimpy Little Ass Types More Crap On His Blog.” He explained:
I call Freddy a gimp and place his photo in a wheelchair because he uses his disability for sympathy (no matter what he says). Freddy was probably hired by City Hall for his liberal ways and his disability. It couldn’t have been for his knowledge or experience because he had none. Many of us, including me, have disabilities, but we do not use them to further our own agendas like Freddy does.
You see, Fred only got his job as the mayor’s publicist, at over $50,000 a year, because he fell in love with and supported our mayor’s screw-ball ideas on his blog. Fred has kept that job because he is now the mayor’s attack dog on his on his blog.
Then flash-forward to a few days ago, when Greg Aymond accused me of both “misleading” the people of Central Louisiana and of “continually brag(ging) on his own disability in order to gain sympathy from his readers in an effort to make his lies and hiding of the facts more believable.” He even created an image to back him up: Me in a wheelchair, looking derelict, while being pushed onto a sidewalk by the Mayor. He captioned the photo, “Jacques and Freddy On Their Way To Work At Alexandria City Hall,” and he explained:
First, get over the fact of the picture posted at left. I do not care what you may think of it. Freddy doesn’t mind bragging on his disability so I don’t mind pointing it out either.
For the record, I do not use a wheelchair; I walk on my own, and I live independently. Maybe some people think wheelchair jokes are hilarious. Unless they’re being told by someone who is in a wheelchair, to me, they’re usually hateful and tone-deaf; they subtly rely on the notion that a wheelchair diminishes a person’s dignity, integrity, and credibility.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t write often about my disability, but when I do, it is usually to point out stuff like this— hate speech, ad hominem attacks, things that contribute to a corrosive public discourse. The truth is actually very simple: Greg Aymond perceives my disability as a personal and political weakness. It has nothing to do with anything I’ve actually written; he hasn’t quoted anything that I have ever written that backs him up. It’s a weakness he thinks he can exploit. Here’s what he wrote two days ago, as a comment on a post he titled “A Comment on My Disability and a Response” (bold mine):
I repeat, I, with my disaabilities (sic), am not the mayor of this city, and am not the mayor’s mouthpiece. I recognize my disabilties and have given up the majority of my practice. I don’t not carry on with it.
Of course it isn’t Freddy’s fault that he is disabled. But it is Freddy’s fault that he hides behind his disability with his left-wing and pro-Jacques Roy writings on his blog.
And no my mother wouldn’t givee (sic) me the same advice, becaause (sic) she long ago learned that I am a grown man with my own opinions.
In short, I disagree with you about Jacques and Freddy. I feel that they are destroying my city and I will use every tool that I have left to fight them.
He will “use every tool” that he has. It’s not personal; it’s political. I suppose he is implying that one of the “tools” he can use is my disability. And to some, maybe it works. But the person Greg Aymond believes me to be has never been the person I actually am, and I’ve never been nearly as important as he thinks I am. We’ve never met.
It’s true: I may not possess much respect for Mr. Aymond, but I would never criticize him for being a stroke victim. That’s just not in my DNA. I’ve mentioned his stroke before, to be sure, but only by way of pointing out that Mr. Aymond and I are both disabled. To do so, to borrow a word from Mr. Aymond, would be “sickness.”
Update: Greg Aymond responds:
Freddy wrote that I am picking on him for talking about his disability and even mentioned the few posts he has made about his disability.
What Freddy, a master at failing to tell us the truth, fails to mention is that he has worked his disability into a lot of his posts. Hell, he even wrote about it a few days ago when he wrote about his deceased grandmother.
I don’t like Freddy because he is an egotistical left-wing blogger who is paid by my tax money to be on the staff of that political gang ran by Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy.
But primarily, I have posted two photos of Freddy in a wheelchair because I know that it gets his goat and he will write something in response. I know that I must be doing something right.
I’m glad he made it clear: He’s just doing this to me in order to get my “goat,” with the hope that I’ll respond to him.
Mission Accomplished, Greg.