Beano is an over-the-counter product containing a natural digestive enzyme – alphagalactosidase that aids digestion of gas-producing foods thus preventing bloating, gas, and flatulence. It works extremely well.
I know this because my scientifically-minded friend Mark tested the efficacy of Beano by making a ferocious concoction of every food that gave him gas, cooking it into a shocking slurry he aptly called Flatulence Stew as a challenge to Beano.
Flatulence Stew had expected ingredients – beans, cabbage, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, hot dogs. But Mark also threw in tuna. Tuna? Before the addition of tuna it was a marginally edible, vegetably chili basically. Tuna? I did not know tuna gave folks gas. Apparently it does Mark.
Beano convincingly kicked the arse of Flatulence Stew.
This week, Fox News-Business television personality, and syndicated political commentator, John Stossel published Longing to be a Victim which appeared in numerous publications. When I read it, I was reminded of Mark’s Flatulence Stew.
Mr. Stossel wrote,
These days, being seen as a victim can be useful. You immediately claim the moral high ground. Some people want to help you. Lawyers and politicians brag that they force others to help you. (Emphasis in original.)
Although Mr. Stossel does not provide his reasoning, I understand him to say that having a portion of his tax dollars used to provide basic support to disabled people makes him feel forced to help. In fairness to Mr. Stossel, the reason he does not want to help is that he believes the help does not … help. He believes it is better for folks to overcome their “disabilities” and figure out ways to succeed despite their shortcomings.
Agreed. It is better when a person succeeds despite challenges! On this, Mr. Stossel and I agree. On this, Mr. Stossel and the whole wide world agrees.
Marlee Matlin, deaf, Academy Award-winning actress; Michael J. Fox, actor with Parkinson’s Disease; Professor Stephen Hawking, a brilliant scientist and mathematician paralyzed from a motor neuron disease … Helen Keller, a deaf and blind author and political activist – these people are heroes, and are held up as exemplars of pushing through difficulties. They are to be commended and emulated to whatever extent possible.
And many ordinary, non-famous folk also push through to success too. They rise above all manner of challenges, adversity, physical and mental impairments – and they succeed.
Even my severely disabled clients push through adversity to success. It’s just that their successes are measured in acts such as not soiling oneself in public, getting out of bed despite debilitating depression, carrying a grocery bag up a flight of stairs. Small victories, but victories and achievements nonetheless.
I don’t mean to minimize rising above, but honestly, it is so common, it can fairly be described as a part of human nature. Rising above adversity is as much a part of human nature as adversity is a part of life. Every person who has achieved anything has overcome something in so doing.
So, here’s what folks don’t understand about people with disabilities – there are hierarchies of disabilities, just like there are hierarchies of … abilities to … sing, say.
So on one level there’s the person who can passably sing Happy Birthday in a group without too much embarrassment, then there’s the person who rocks the Karaoke bar, then there’s … Adele, singing Make You Feel My Love, Bonnie Raitt, singing Love Has No Pride, Lea Michelle, singing the Beatles’ tune, Yesterday, Whitney Houston, I Will Always Love You (of course), Lyle Lovett, singing She’s No Lady …. These singers consistently fill concert halls with people who pay money to hear them sing. Then, there’s the “Random Girl in the mall blows everyone away at the karaokemachine” that – for good reason – has gotten over 3 million views on the You Tubes.
There’s singing, and then there’s singing. Seriously singing. Well … there’s disability, and then there’s disability. Serious disability.
Stuttering can be extremely severe. I do not minimize that problem categorically. I do not know the severity of Mr. Stossel’s prior stuttering condition – it may have been quite severe, or quite mild. I don’t know. But the fact that he overcame it well enough to be a successful television personality – while wonderful – is irrelevant to whether another stutterer is also able to overcome it. And, it has absolutely no bearing on whether a person with a brain injury, or schizophrenia, or a torn disc, or Crohn’s disease, or whatever – could also overcome their conditions. John Stossel might just be the Stevie Wonder of stutterers – especially gifted. And, good for him!
This is why it is so important that Social Security’s judges look deeply into individual claimants’ individual functional capacities to figure out if he or she particularly is considered “disabled” by Social Security’s stringent definition. There are no shortcuts.
Mr. Stossel further surmises that “[h]ad today’s disability laws existed when I began work … [I might not have overcome my stuttering problem because] I might have demanded my employer ‘accommodate’ my disability by providing me a job that didn’t demand being on-air.”
Although Mr. Stossel’s overarching theme is criticism of the ne’er do wells on Social Security disability, he takes a swipe at working disabled people who are covered by the “reasonable accommodation” language of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Mr. Stossel throws in Social Security disability, the Americans With Disabilities Act, a bit of this, a bit of that, beans, peppers, “disability-industrial complex,” hotdogs, “demanding” accommodations, cauliflower, “judges awarding benefits” … tuna … and stirs it all up into a ferocious, confused mess of … Flatulence Stew.
It’s clear Mr. Stossel has strongly held opinions, but his articulation and support of them in writing resembles what could be the result of the spastic colon of one who ate Flatulence Stew … with no Beano! Maybe Mr. Stossel is being accommodated in his job as a pundit while being unable to make sense!
Mr. Stossel supposes that had he been able, he would have demanded accommodation by being provided a non-on-air job. Huh? That doesn’t make sense. In a non-on-air job your stuttering likely wouldn’t have mattered – no accommodations necessary. I think the accusation you meant to make was that you could have demanded to be on-air despite your stuttering. You could have forced an employer to help you because you held the trump card of “disability?” Was that what you meant?
Honestly, what Mr. Stossel wrote is such a pot of incomprehensible Flatulence Stew, I don’t know what he meant, but … let’s talk about the level of disability addressed in the Americans With Disabilities Act – and differentiate it from the level of disability in the Social Security Act – just to clear it up.
Just like there’s singing and there’s really seriously singing …. The Americans With Disabilities Act covers disabled people who are able to work, but need some accommodations to do so, whereas the Social Security disability programs cover people who are more severely functionally disabled, and are unable to work any job at all on a full-time, sustained basis – no matter accommodations.
These are two distinct categories of disability, and it’s important to differentiate them.
Mr. Stossel pretends that workers, by asserting a claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act could “force” their employers to accommodate them, but that’s not true.
It’s not that any worker wanting an accommodation gets it. Businesses are not required to keep workers in jobs when the workers can’t perform the jobs. A gal in a wheelchair doesn’t get to be a high-kicking Radio City Rockette!
Businesses are only required to make reasonable accommodations as work-arounds for disabled workers who, with the reasonable accommodations, can do their jobs just fine.
So, say a cashier can cashier perfectly fine, but has a physical problem that makes standing for long periods difficult – give her a stool, and she’s cashiering with the best of them. That’s pretty reasonable, right? We want people to overcome their challenges, and we want businesses to take reasonable measures to help them do so rather than casting them out. That’s the point of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
As a sign language interpreter I was an “accommodation” permitting deaf people to understand course material, communications, keep up in meetings, et cetera. Because my deaf clients were provided the accommodation of a sign language interpreter, they were able to stay in the game economically speaking. That’s the point of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
So … Marlee Matlin, Michael J. Fox, Professor Hawking – these are people with disabilities who can – with accommodations – work. They are different than the “disabled” people covered in the Social Security Act. The “disabled” people the Social Security disability program addresses are more severely stymied by their impairments, and cannot work on a full-time basis – even with accommodations.
When Mr. Stossel and others conflate these categories of disabled people, they confuse the issues, and reveal their own dotty befuddledness. And do an astonishing disservice to the most severely disabled people in our society.
While I mentioned that I do not know the severity of Mr. Stossel’s stuttering, it is important to mention that stuttering – alone – is not disabling by the Social Security definition. Stuttering would limit options for some kinds of work, but stuttering alone would not eliminate all work. So, stuttering alone, would not rise to the level of a Social Security-type level of disability. Stuttering alone, may or may not rise to the level of a disability covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
So, when Mr. Stossel holds himself and his overcoming his stuttering up as a reason why other people with other disabilities should not receive accommodations, and why they should not receive Social Security disability benefits, it’s incredibly disingenuous.
Mr. Stossel reveals that he wants no assistance whatsoever for people with disabilities – neither Social Security disability, nor accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act. And his is a harsher, more radical position than most would take. Most conservative think tanks arguing to limit the Social Security disability programs, hold the Americans With Disabilities Act up as an answer to keeping disabled workers in the workforce thereby reducing the need for Social Security disability.
It isn’t clear that Mr. Stossel understands this distinction.
And then, what?
Then … we’re forced to help?
If you want to think of it that way … yes … unless we want families burdened to the breaking point, unless we want large numbers of homeless people sleeping in our streets, we are forced to help.