Did you see Michael J. Fox being interviewed by Katie Couric this week? Amazing. He thinks he’s still a star. He’s not staying where those who have disabilities should stay – in the far background. He’s out in public with his spastic movements and repudiating mean comments about his political videos. He’s there in front of the camera as always he has been, getting our attention and making a fool of himself.
And, it’s just as effective now as it was when he was starring in movies. Amazing, isn’t it, that someone with such a disease could be so personable and so honest? He just won’t stay where he belongs – at home, out of sight. Ever since Betty Ford went public about her alcoholism, prominent people are admitting to their infirmities. I just don’t know what the world is coming to when we can’t watch television without having to see someone who has survived breast cancer or drug rehab (ask me about them again after they’ve been clean for 15 years) or some other unmentionable thing.
Of course, their public admittance of their problems may have saved many lives and influenced many people to get help who would otherwise have suffered in silence at home. People who used to peek out from behind curtains and sneak into the closet when they went to work are now being their own humiliating selves wherever they go. My grandmother would be horrified and say we should not even look at such things lest we shame the person. Don’t embarrass him/her by looking; pretend nothing is wrong, and, if you must speak, keep it impersonal and brief. Don’t get involved.
Personally, I think it’s about time we got involved and spoke to those who have been shunted to the sides of society. When will we see pictures of a debutante in a wheelchair or with Downs Syndrome? And, what’s this spat over which bathroom the transsexual in the House of Commons should use? Who cares?
Much is made about the increasing incidences of mental illness and other diseases such as autism in recent decades. Don’t you think that we are able to diagnose those things better and that less stigma is attached to the diagnosis? Are there really more autistic children or do we just understand the disease better? Perhaps both. Perhaps, we are creating an environment where neurological abnormalities happen more often.
Diagnoses of many diseases are still intuitive in spite of the many tests we have developed. But, families are no longer willing to hide their symptoms under a basket. They are asking for the intuitive thinking of internists and specialists. I can’t watch House on television because the tension makes me want to scream, but he’s using all the resources he can have in order to help people. We need more doctors and more people who are not afraid to use their intuition along with the facts to make decisions.
People with disabilities and illnesses, like Michael J. Fox with Parkinson Disease, are telling the world the facts of their problems and using intuition to help find solutions. They are brave in the face of societal shunning and horror.