Five minutes after the crowd in The Beverly Hilton ended their standing ovation, my Facebook newsfeed was full of praises for Meryl Streep’s passionate acceptance speech of her Lifetime Achievement Award.
My social media community mostly consists special needs families and Ms. Streep’s speech struck a chord with many of us.
Since November, when the president elect Donald Trump mocked reporter Serge Kovaleski, I have been unable to articulate the gut wrenching emotion that footage had on me and my husband.
Our son was born with Smith-Magenis syndrome.
When Garrett gets excited, his hands flap in a stimming sort of way.
He will clap, flap his arms and run his hands over his lips.
It has been his way of communicating for so long that these mannerisms are a part of his personality, as much as his sense of humor and his ability to remember minute details of every conversation.
When Garrett was younger, I worried that his classmates would make fun of these gestures.
I volunteered one week at school to assist our PTA leader with an inclusion awareness program.
I spoke to my other two sons’ classes about Smith-Magenis syndrome and explained why Garrett acted so differently from his brothers.
And, much to my relief, the teachers and students of our local district have accepted Garrett and his fellow special needs classmates.
Even in my wildest dreams, I could not imagine that during Garrett’s senior year of high school the despicable behavior I feared most would play out on a stage in South Carolina.
And that it would be performed by the future leader of my country.
Or that the most upsetting aspect of this event would be the propaganda that followed it. Claims that what I witnessed with my own eyes was just the bully’s mannerisms or that the footage had been doctored to incriminate him.
And this propaganda would be disseminated by religious leaders.
And believed by my family and friends.
Even a few of my fellow special needs parents.
So when an actress has the world’s attention and uses her platform to articulate so beautifully the reaction I felt back in November, I am going to acknowledge her bravery and express my gratitude.
And, unfortunately, wait for the backlash. Only now, I’m a little bit stronger.
Part of her speech:
“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart, not because it was good.
There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job.
It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.
It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back.
It broke my heart when I saw it, but I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie.
It was real life.
And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.
Disrespect invites disrespect.
Violence incites violence.
When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
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