That was the sound of Corey Lewandowski’s flippant response on Fox News last week when he learned that a 10-year-old migrant child with Down Syndrome had been separated from her family and locked in a cage.
Some Americans were shocked by the callousness of his reply but, sadly, I wasn’t one of them. Outraged? Yes. But shocked? No.
People with disabilities have always known that our lives are seen as less valuable. That’s why I’ve spent most of my life working toward making our nation a more perfect union as part of the disability rights movement.
And I’ve been proud to do so because I was raised to believe in an America that, at least in theory, holds a common respect for the right to pursue your dreams — as long as you’re willing to work hard — no matter your race, disability, sexuality or gender.
But in Donald Trump’s America, even our nation’s most cherished guiding values appear to be in an increasingly dubious position.
Now, even taking a knee — a gesture protected by the First Amendment and very much rooted in a tradition of nonviolent protest in this country — is considered blasphemous.
The truth is, Lewandowski’s comments on the plight of this young disabled girl are not an anomaly. They are emblematic of the Trump regime’s attitude towards people with disabilities, and vulnerable people, more broadly.
All week my Facebook timeline has been lit up by people with disabilities talking about the dangerous trends we are seeing in roll backs to our rights. From cuts to healthcare to attacks on the Americans with Disabilities Act, we are seeing a regressive wave of policies that are attempting to disempower people with disabilities and take away the inclusion that so many of us have fought for. It’s death by a thousand cuts.
Though it often sounds like Trump speaks in word salad, he was trained in verbal hypnosis by Tony Robbins. Every word Trump utters is deliberate, attempting to paint a picture in our minds of swarms of insects infesting our border and painting all brown people as associated with the MS-13. He preys on the insecurities of the white people who voted for him.
Our country has always rested on fault lines of white supremacy and we are now experiencing a giant earthquake.
Following Barack Obama’s presidency, the election of Trump was a racist backlash led by people who want their kids to maintain access to the privileges that, for decades, only whiteness could bestow. But the reality of the old example of America as a “melting pot” is coming to pass, in that whites will soon no longer make up the majority of this country, and Trump supporters are lashing out against that eventuality.
We have somehow entered a real-life “Handmaid’s Tale” where children are being ripped from their mothers and the president of the United States is actively trying to deny people their due process rights. We are being governed by a man who is willing to go to any lengths to get what he wants, including farming out the children of immigrants to white families in Michigan, the very state that won Trump the election.
Thankfully, thousands of Americans are standing up against this rising fascism. A restaurant in Lexington, Va., even refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently.
Some people expressed dismay at the Red Hen’s decision to turn her away, but I feel like Black Lives Matter co-found Alicia Garza called a spade a spade when she posted on Facebook: “If you justify an authoritarian regime as your job every day, and tell nothing but…lies all day every day and allow yourself to collect a paycheck for doing so while children and babies are sobbing for their parents and their parents are huddled up in detention centers with foil…blankets, nah,…go find somewhere else to eat.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Jessie Lorenz is the former executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco.