Monday, February 27, 2006

Political passion must prevail

Flanel, plaid shirts and bell bottom jeans are out, so I observed at the Young Democratics of America convention where I was invited to speak February 18.

I disclosed to the young, rather yuppy looking audience at the Disability Caucus that I had been a young Democrat in the early seventies and although the clothing style has changed, I hoped that the passion for issues remained or even increased. I did, however, admit that when I was a young Demi, there wasn't even the mention of disability issues, even by me. At that time, I just wanted to blend into the generic scene. I have since grown up and so have many men and women with impairments who realize how critical it is, regardless of party affiliation, to be politically in touch, vigilant and empowered.

As one of three women on the panel, I spoke to concerns that, whether we were young or old Democrats, we need to be more connected to, and informed by, the disability community. Likewise, I held people with impairments, including myself, accountable for making issues known and demonstrating connections where our issues intersect with other political minority identity groups, as well as the general public.

I don't think we, people with disabilities, are passionate about the political urgency there exists, or about the clout we can have, in achieving some basic life rights. People with disabilities cannot be merely courted during elections and on the same hand, we cannot merely think that we have performed our duty by showing up and pulling levers at the voting booth. We must become extremely informed about the political system as well as about the disability statisics that we use in presenting issues. It is fine (to a point) to share personal stories, but we must also become scholars of the information that is needed when there are opportunities for education and convincing legislators of the importance of issues and how their decisions impact not only our welfare but the common good of the comunities throughout the country.

People with disabilities, as well as allies, must not be strangers to political opportunities. In fact, we must work towards becoming leaders in the larger political domain.

Carol Marfisi, M.A
Temple University
Disability Studies