I don’t like writing about Ann Coulter.
I don’t like talking about her or even thinking about her. Part of that is simply because I hate to empower her. I don’t dislike Ann Coulter because we have different politics, although we certainly do. I hate talking about her because she feeds off of attention, and in her case negative attention most of all. She’s like a tick, and we provide her the sustenance of human emotion, most of that being outrage. She says things, extraordinary and terrible things, and we get upset and we rail against her, and she dines on our hurt. I’d like to let her go hungry, but I know it’s not going to happen.
The main reason I don’t like discussing Ann Coulter is that she outwardly, unashamedly, breathlessly despises people with intellectual disabilities. She uses them as the butt of her jokes and the core of her insults, not just without apology but with pride, the kind of beaming, bursting pride that a child feels upon accomplishment. Her love of using our loved ones as the fuel for her spite is well-documented. Her most recent assertion, to be found in her latest book (the title of which you can look up yourself if you must), is that Donald Trump wasn’t mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, but was rather doing his impersonation of a “standard retard”.
Everyone cry out, because such a statement demands outcry. Ann Coulter stands proudly and feeds off of us, a vampire hungry for hate and sorrow and lights and cameras. But we stand up and we push back, because “standard retard” doesn’t get to flutter out into the air without being swatted at. It doesn’t do any good to protest, but it feels evil not to, so we speak up and then we turn back to our lives, our difficult but rewarding lives. Ann Coulter may be rich and she may be famous, but not one of us in the disability community would trade places with her, not for a moment.
Ann Coulter doesn’t deserve our thoughts or our discussion. But there’s something that bothers me about her, something we haven’t touched on yet, and it’s the thing I believe deserves more light. Ann Coulter has written a number of books. And Ann Coulter has sold a great many of those books.
There are people who read her. There are people who pay money, like real hardcover book money, so they can hear about how her political foes are intellectually disabled because of their disagreement, except of course she doesn’t put it that way. There are people, millions of them, I guess, who walk into a bookstore and go to the bestsellers and pick up her book. They take it to the counter and they spend their money, and then they go home and read about Donald Trump’s impersonation of a “standard retard”. They read that, and quietly, to themselves, they nod. Or they snicker.
There’s an ugliness to our society, and it’s not a new one. There’s a monster that has been with us for a very long time, perhaps all along. It left babies born with visible defects to die in the sun on a remote Roman hillside centuries ago. That same monster found children born in medieval villages and declared them witches and demons and doomed them to short, violent lives. It’s the monster that had disabled people locked away in deplorable conditions, in institutions that were like prisons, except at least you might one day be released from a prison.
This persistent, invisible monster has become a quiet devil. It speaks in reasonable tones, talks about how people with disabilities have limited social value, how funding should perhaps be limited to those who might provide greater economic benefit to their communities. It denies agency to young adults with disabilities, infantilizing them as they try to make their way in the world. This monster defends comedy that demeans and dehumanizes people with disabilities, defending free speech like a patriot hero, gaslighting and dismissing those who are hurt when powerful, popular figures punch down. The monster tells us to lighten up, to stop being so sensitive. It laughs when a candidate for the presidency does a grotesque parody of a talented reporter who now gets to be “the disabled guy that Trump was mocking” for the rest of his life.
That invisible monster lives in your town. It goes to your church. You vote it into office. And it probably sits at your family table at Thanksgiving. Maybe the invisible monster lives in your own heart. One day you might see it there and chase it out, and then spend the rest of your life paying penance and trying not to hate yourself. I know that monster very, very well.
Ann Coulter despises the disabled, but the invisible monster that loves her doesn’t even bother to hate those with disabilities. Sometimes it just doesn’t give a damn at all.
That’s why, against all my better judgment and in defiance of the twisting of my stomach as I do so, I will always eventually speak out against people like Ann Coulter. She’s an extreme example, and she’s unafraid to express her disdain for those we love. I don’t care about her so much. I care more about the invisible monsters hiding in the hearts of those walking among us, quietly agreeing with Coulter and people like her. Maybe I care the most about the spaces inside our own hearts, inside MY heart, those dark places where invisible monsters might just take up residence.
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