Beyond Politics: Disability, Donald Trump and a Picture of America

Leadership is one of the most fundamental qualities known to man. It is the mark of a true pioneer or visionary. If one is in a position to lead--or is fighting to earn that right--they should constantly be mindful that the weight of the world rests on their shoulders.

By the same token, they should conduct themselves and their business with a certain degree of grace and poise. They should make wise, reputable decisions not only for themselves but for the good of everyone involved--knowing that whatever they do reflects on the demographic of people they represent. Thus including everyone within that demographic.

As this relates to the 2016 presidential election, more eyes and ears seem to be drawn to Republican candidate Donald Trump lately. Although Trump has gained popularity both in the entertainment industry and now politics by being "real" with the public, his campaign tactics have been called "sketchy" and "outlandish" by reporters, journalists and those within the political arena. However, he hit a new low when speaking at a campaign rally in South Carolina on Nov. 24.

Trump openly mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter for The New York Times who has a chronic medical condition known as arthogryposis. According to an article published by The Huffington Post, the condition affects the movement of Kovaleski's joints, leaving his hands permanently bent. Knowing this, Trump threw caution to the wind--proceeding to contort his own hands and body to make it look as if he had the disability himself, as seen in a video that accompanied the article.

In addition, he made reference to a story Kovaleski wrote regarding Trump's claim to have seen "thousands" of people cheering and celebrating outside a window of his New York City home following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"[It] was written by a nice reporter," he said at the Nov. 24 campaign rally. "Now, the poor guy--you ought to see this guy!"

That's when Trump--a man who's in the running to lead The United States of America--pulled off this latest show of disrespect, infuriating masses of potential voters and on-lookers across the country. Kovaleski, who worked at The Washington Post when he originally wrote the article in 2011, responded to Trump's comments and actions, saying he had no memory of "anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating."

To rub salt in the wound, he has gone on public record to adamantly deny that he not only mocked Kovaleski--but also that he was in the wrong for doing so. On a personal level, however, it has become increasingly difficult for me to find the words to properly describe how I feel about all this. There are certain lines you just don't cross, ever--and Donald Trump has crossed way over those lines.

As a writer, I have to read and reported on this without bias--knowing full well that I represent the demographic of individuals Trump has just spit on. However, I think the fact that I am a part of that demographic helps to see just how disrespectful and disgusting this is. There's an extra push to work hard when you have a disability. With that comes a heightened sense of pride when you achieve something on your own, as well as a deep sense of accomplishment knowing you'll be recognized and appreciated for what you've done. It isn't because you want to be famous or in the spotlight, but because people are looking passed the shadow of your disability.

You put your blood, sweat and tears into getting to that point--regardless of how big or small that feat is--and then someone always comes along and knocks you back ten steps. That's exactly what Trump has done, but it's not just the disabled community he's degraded.

He has demoralized and embarrassed the entire American population in general. America is a melting pot of all people, where everyone often does more than what's expected to make ends meet. I'm grateful and glad that individuals with disabilities can be--and are--included in that mix. For Trump to stoop this low tarnishes the image of diversity, acceptance and unity that this country has stood for since our forefathers built that foundation.

Forget politics. Forget the fact that he's taken to social media to try to sway people into believing what he did is OK because he's given millions of his own dollars to disability funds and charities. That may be true, but that was then--and this is now.

This boils down to morals. Moreover, this is one time when I truly believe talk is cheap--and actions speak louder than words. When the dust settles from this, where is Donald Trump going to be? Is he going to be sitting in Barack Obama's seat in The Oval Office--or is he going to be licking the wounds that he has inflicted upon himself during this campaign?

It's almost a given that those who find themselves in a leadership position should be leaders, rather than act like leaders. If they say or do something questionable or potentially harmful to their candidacy or position, it would be sensible to right the wrongs before they become hazardous. If Trump wants to win the trust of voters, he needs to make a choice: risk his entire campaign by passing things like his mockery off as acceptable, or step back and regroup.

It's true that man isn't perfect, but there comes a time when he can go too far. There comes a time when people can see through him. As the presidential election draws near, we must ask ourselves: Is Donald Trump truly being loyal to those who will ultimately decide his fate? Or is he a leader who just made a huge mistake?

Time will tell if he is a true leader. In the meantime, common sense would tell you if you wanted to earn the respect of your constituents--or anyone else, you must show them the same respect they show you.