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Posts Tagged ‘FDR

The Next Big Questions for the United States of America

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Treadmarkz

One of the biggest, most deeply debated questions in the U.S. has been answered. Will we ever have a Black President? Well, Obama is half Black and half White. So I guess technically “Will we ever have a Black president?” is still the big question. But Obama’s election is considered to be a huge step in the right direction by millions of Americans as well as many millions of well wishers around the world. In many ways this has nothing to do with Obama’s race. The goodwill he is receiving certainly owes much to Obama’s ideas; his policies and his outlook for the future of this country and how it relates to the rest of the world.

But we also must keep in mind that his election has shown the world that the U.S., supposedly so far ahead of the rest of the world, has finally made a concrete statement to the rest of the world about its “open-mindedness.” After all there have been female heads of state all over the world, including many places in the supposedly-backward Middle East, for a long time. Not in the States, though.

In 2012 – or 2016 when Obama is no longer eligible for the Presidency – will it be considered a step backward if a White male is once again elected president? Certainly it will not be a step backward if Obama makes good on his ideas and becomes a well-respected president, and the next president continues where Obama left off.

Is this the crossroads of history when we can start asking not if, but when will there be an Asian U.S. President? When will there be a Hispanic, “Native American” or Middle Eastern, or Jewish or Muslim or Atheist U.S. President, or a president who is a “little person”?

When will we have an openly homosexual President? (see James Buchanan). Certainly the debate over “gay” marriage in the U.S. right now makes this an unlikely atmosphere. But the Civil Rights movement came to a crescendo 40 years ago, and Barack Obama has been elected. Will we see a gay president in 2048?

When will we have an openly disabled U.S. President? (see Franklin D. Roosevelt). The Americans with Disabilities Act empowered millions in 1990. Will we see a president who is blind, or a president who will without reservations appear on television in his wheelchair, or, let’s say, without his prosthetic in the year 2032? John McCain has a minor disability due to a war wound which he spoke openly about when the issue came up about him not using the Internet. And he came close to the White House.

These are just some of the possibilities that the election of Barack Obama has brought closer to being a reality. Now all we have to do is watch how history plays out.

A Historical What-If: MLK, JFK, Lennon as Disabled Activists

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by Treadmarkz

I am a history major so, as pointless as I know they are, the “what-if” questions of history are always irresistible to me. This one is also irresistible to me because I often hear of people who lose the ability to walk and say things like “I wish I were dead” or “my life isn’t worth living now.” For those of you who can walk, and ever thought about how you would react if you lost that ability, consider this:

I read a blog posting by Dusiteen where he says that he is looking for the Martin Luther King of the disabled community. A great idea itself, but it set my mind in motion in another direction entirely. So many people who have been considered activists have been gunned down, either for their beliefs, or just randomly. Martin Luther King, John Lennon, John Kennedy. None of these men were afraid to speak their conscience on peace and understanding in general or on specific issues, political or social, that sparked their interest, sympathy or even ire. All of them were shot dead. I can’t help wondering what if they were shot, but not killed. Only left paralyzed.

I realize how morbid this sounds, but think about it. What if John Lennon’s assassin’s bullet had put Lennon in a wheelchair instead of the grave. It would only be natural that some of that activist spirit would be redirected. I wonder what a song by Lennon speaking up for the rights of the disabled would have sounded like. I have written an earlier posting about John Lennon’s charitable activities on behalf of the disabled, but what if he was one of them himself?

And, as President, how would a paraplegic JFK have affected disabled rights legislation? Would the ADA have come more than 20 years earlier than it actually did, had our president been put in a wheelchair during his tenure? FDR was in a wheelchair but he hid it. By the 60s I don’t think that disabilities in America were kept quite as deep in the closet as they were in the 30s when FDR took office. This could have been an opening toward some real progress.

How would Martin Luther King, one of American History’s greatest orators, have used his power to evoke emotion in his audience to effect change for the betterment of the lives of those Americans who, like him, lived life on four wheels?

Obviously, we will never know, but I can’t help trying to construct all different scenarios, how the ’60s and the ’80s would have been reshaped by these disabled activists.  What if the assassin of Gandhi, the grandfather of all political activists, had failed to kill him, but put him in a chair? Why put these men through that, even as a what-if exercise? Well, the world would be a very different place. Just imagine…