Monday, March 14, 2011

GOP Legislator Suggests Sending The Disabled to Siberia


If you haven't hear about Barrington Republican Martin Harty, let me enlighten you with the following quote. 
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."

Harty confirmed to the Monitor that he made the comments to Omand. Harty told the Monitor the world population has increased dramatically, and "it's a very dangerous situation if it doubles again." Asked about people who are mentally ill, he asked, apparently referring to a lack of financial resources, "Can we afford to bring them through?"

Harty said nature has a way of "getting rid of stupid people," and "now we're saving everyone who gets born."

Harty's conversation with Omand became public at a hearing on the state budget yesterday when Laurie McCray, a registered nurse and board member of the Disability Rights Center, read Omand's account to the House Finance Committee. Afterward, McCray said she wanted people to know about the representative - whom she did not identify publicly - because he "didn't deserve to represent people in New Hampshire."

**snip**

Omand says Harty then stated, "I wish we had a Siberia so we could ship them all off to freeze to death and die and clean up the population." 

Omand said Harty appeared to be serious. After Omand responded that his idea sounded like what Adolf Hitler did in World War II, Omand said Harty responded, "Hitler did something right, and I agree with (it)." (source)
He later claimed to be joking about the Hitler comment, but stands behind the rest of what he said.  Over the weekend on twitter, I read many shocked comments on what he had to say, but I must say that I was hardly surprised.  What exactly is shocking about what he had to say, when we consider that the treatment that he recommends for the disabled, has already happened, and continues to happen in some sectors?  I know that the TAB think that public paternalism aimed at PWD, is proof that attitudes towards PWD have changed, but really it has not.  We are still largely seen as an inconvenience.

When it comes to this issue, I see a real correlation to the ways in which racism is treated.  There are plenty of people who will tell you that racism is a thing of the past -- what with Barack Obama sitting in the oval office and all -- but then go into a complete state of shock, or denial, when some sumpremely racist ish is released by the media. How can anyone really be surprised at these ableist comments, when disabled people are denied accommodations, pushed aside, sterilized, sexually violated, ignored, mistreated etc., and etc., every damn day?  It seems easier to latch onto the statements of one man, than to realize that ableism goes far deeper than the thoughts of one individual.

What I do find ironic in this instance are the comments that suggest that Martin Harty is senile.  He is 91 years old, and is a WWII vet that served with Patton and that is being used as an excuse by fellow republicans to excuse his statements. From the reports, it seems that Harty is at the very least suffering from some sort of cognitive dementia, but there is no proof that he has reached the psychotic stage.
Psychotic features of dementia include hallucinations (usually visual), delusions, and delusional misidentifications. Hallucinations are false sensory perceptions that are not simply distortions or misinterpretations. They usually are not frightening and therefore may not require treatment. Delusions are unshakable beliefs that are out of context with a person’s social and cultural background.source) Delusional misidentification may result from a combined decline in visual function and cognition. For example, patients may suspect that their family members are impostors (i.e., Capgras’ syndrome), believe that strangers are living in their home, or fail to recognize their own reflection in a mirror. (source)
Obviously, no one can diagnose this man from reading a few articles about him online,  but excusing away his behaviour is counter productive, both to him as a person and to society.  Martin is still in a position of great power and perhaps this is something that needs to be reconsidered. It is far easier to gawk and point, than to attempt to see if he is in need of care, but then, isn't that what we do with disabled people? I am in no way excusing what Harty had to say, but I do think we should recognize both the hypocrisy in the outrage, and the complete erasure of the fact that the he might need help himself.  Getting self righteous about this incident does nothing, and in fact serves more as a statement of unacknowledged privilege than anything else. 

H/T Rippa via twitter