Monday, December 18, 2017

Seven words

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was prohibiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using seven words in official documents being prepared for next year's budget. The words are:
- Vulnerable
- Entitlement
- Diversity
- Transgender
- Fetus
- Evidence-based
- Science-based

To say that I was stunned is an understatement.

My mind leapt immediately to George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which a totalitarian political regime persecutes citizens for "thoughtcrimes" - independent thinking that runs counter to the party line. The regime demands the use of Newspeak - a restrictive language designed to limit freedom of thought.

Orwell writes,"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it."

The idea, and its reflection in the practices of the current administration, are chilling.

Words matter. We use words to give shape to our narratives - to tell our own unique stories. Our stories are the things that build connections, bolster understanding, inspire compassion, and drive action. Without them, we are alone, left behind, and marginalized.

I think, specifically, of Trump's seven forbidden words and the role they play in the narrative of my son's life.

Bud is multiply disabled. Most of his disabilities developed while he was a FETUS. There remains a pervasive and misguided belief in society that his autism was the result of vaccines, despite the fact that not a single SCIENCE-BASED study has identified a link between the two things. Bud's autism is hard-wired and is a significant part of him. As an autistic person, he brings a unique perspective to the world and adds important DIVERSITY of thought to our society.

We are lucky to have had access to exceptional health care and educational opportunities throughout Bud's life. Bud has participated in strong EVIDENCE-BASED practices and interventions that have helped him thrive. Despite that, as an eighteen-year-old young man, Bud is not currently on a path that is likely to lead to full-time employment or the opportunity to live independently. It is likely that he will depend on so-called "ENTITLEMENT programs" like Medicaid and Social Security throughout his life - the very programs, in fact, that are poised to be gutted by the current administration. This makes Bud dangerously VULNERABLE.

In fact, it makes Bud join the ranks of millions of others who are VULNERABLE under the current administration - the elderly; people of color; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and TRANSGENDER people; Muslims; immigrants; Dreamers; people living in poverty. There are millions - millions - who are suddenly, terrifyingly VULNERABLE.

Trump's seven censored words are woven inextricably into the narrative of my son's life. Without them, he cannot tell his story. If he and the government agencies responsible for supporting him cannot tell his story, they will be unable to build connections, unable to bolster understanding, unable to inspire compassion, and unable to drive action.

And that, I fear, is exactly the point.

2 comments:

Robin said...

Chilling, terrifying, disgraceful, horrible, ridiculous, unbelievable, sorrow
My 7 words on the situation.
Excellent and thought-provoking post MOM-NOS

Ahavine said...

Mary once again has nailed it. What is freedom of speech if not the freedom to use whatever words we choose to tell our stories. Our country needs to speak up with all our voices, all our diverse stories, all our heartfelt passion, all our historical wisdom to stop this president and congress from diminishing and destroying the progress that has been made. Thank you Mary for giving your voice to your story and ours.