Remember when Andre Bauer equated poor kids with stray animals and condemned free lunches because he doesn't want them to "breed"? Well, New Hampshire now-ex-lawmaker Martin Harty has joined him in a special level of doucheland with jaw-dropping comments about people with disabilities.
Barrington Republican Martin Harty told Sharon Omand, a Strafford resident who manages a community mental health program, that "the world is too populated" and there are "too many defective people," according to an e-mail account of the conversation by Omand. Asked what he meant, she said Harty clarified, "You know the mentally ill, the retarded, people with physical disabilities and drug addictions - the defective people society would be better off without." (via Concord Monitor)
And what, pray tell, does Harty think we should do with this huge segment of the population instead of helping them? He's got it all planned out: "I wish we had a Siberia so we could ship them all off to freeze to death and die and clean up the population."
New Hampshire: Live Harty-approved or die?
To defend himself after the fact, Harty protested that the reporter "was a girl that wanted money for the crazy people, the people... a good percentage of the homeless people are mentally disturbed." Keep on diggin' that hole, Martin! From the dismissive gendered language to the conflation of all disabled folk and people without homes into "crazy" (already a problematic word) Harty is clearly without a humanist clue even when confronted—another way in which he's like Bauer.
What Harty said is a startlingly overt version of the callous assumptions that people with disabilities live with every day. The word "defective" brings to mind faulty microwaves; it's deliberately dehumanizing. Those of us who've watched our personhood vanish in someone else's eyes when they notice or learn of our condition(s) are familiar with the milder incarnation of the Harty-esque attitude, the assumption that disability is an all-encompassing definer. Even in feminist and/or liberal circles, the existence of ableism is still routinely doubted by the able-bodied. "Freeze to death and die?" Way to illustrate, oh-so-clearly, our lack of humanity in the eyes of many.
This video appeared on the AddictingInfo.org-created Facebook page "Americans Against Martin Harty." I have some issues with it (for example, the claim of bigotry's last stand) but it serves as a poignant reminder that the people whom politicians such as Harty routinely dismiss or fail to support ARE PEOPLE.
Harty finally resigned last week in a blur of barely restrained indignance and non-apology, writing "I was just getting the hang of it some, but with the slightly unfavorable publicity I've been getting the last few days, I'll never be an effective lawmaker." Sure, Martin, blame it on the fame—not the fact that you just told a huge, discriminated-against group of U.S. citizens that the world would be better off without them. (Also, slightly? Guess he doesn't spend much time in the feminist blogosphere.)
It's cheer-worthy that such an overt ableist is no longer in a position to make U.S. laws; unfortunately, the debacle has prompted a flurry of feedback douchery from people both for and against Harty. First of all, many news stories have minimized Harty's denouncements from "the mentally ill, the retarded, people with physical disabilities and drug addictions" to simply "the mentally ill" or "mentally disabled" in headlines. This is a curious choice that still makes Harty look like a douche, but potentially in a manner more commonly accepted, given how many people don't believe in mental illness or just view the people dealing with it as dangerous. As might be expected when Republican leaders eat their words, Martin Harty's had a few conservative defenders, but most interesting (and, perhaps, troubling) are critical responses that employ ageism—or even more ableism. As pointed out on Womanist Musings, accusations that the 91-year-old Harty is "senile" or doesn't know what he's saying because of his age are ironic. They pardon Harty for his bigotry (e.g., "He can't help it!") and anyway, making assumptions about one's mental health due to one's age is prejudiced on several levels.
No, Martin: you and you alone are responsible for your douchery. The world may still be all too tolerant of ableism, but if you've learned something from all this "unfavorable publicity," I hope it's this: we, the people you dismiss as "defective" and those who care about them, are fed up with this crap.