Party Politics Turn Ugly Over Ill Reps
By Cap'n O
NOVEMBER 10, 1997:
If two political opponents become seriously ill you should:
A. Wish them well and hope and pray for their recovery.
B. Give sincere thanks for your health and hope it continues.
C. Try to borrow money from them before they die.
D. Publicly belittle them for being sick. If one has cancer, suggest he's incapable of representing the public. If the other has Parkinson's Disease, imply he's a retard.
If you answered D, you qualify for the chairmanship of the state Democratic Party. Find a way to be cruder and crasser--start making fun of lepers--and you'll probably be chairman for life.
Of course, there's no guarantee that being even that despicably inhumane will get you the job. You'll have to beat out present party chairman Ray Sena for it. And it will be hard for even the lowest of the low and the most vulgar of the vulgar to match Sena in this area.
Republican Congressmen Steve Schiff and Joe Skeen are ill. Schiff is battling cancer, one of the nation's top and most relentless killers. Skeen has Parkinson's Disease, a nervous system disorder that can turn the most physically fit, powerful and graceful bodies into trembling shells. Look at Mohammed Ali. The arms that once snapped lightning jabs now tremble uncontrollably. He has Parkinson's Disease.
We should feel compassion for Schiff and Skeen. You never know if you'll be next. But Sena has taken a different approach. He was quoted in a recent newspaper article as suggesting that the two are incapable of representing New Mexicans, even though Schiff's cancer is reportedly in remission and Skeen's illness has yet to affect his performance.
"You've got Skeen with Parkinson's and Schiff with cancer, and (Republican Congressman) Bill Redmond representing 13 percent of the voters. We have no representation in New Mexico," Sena said. He then went on to doubt Skeen's assertion that Parkinson's has yet to hamper his congressional performance. "Just look at his (Skeen's) comments," Sena added. That says to me that maybe Sena thinks that Parkinson's has made Skeen daffy upstairs.
A Skeen aide said that Sena's comments were "way beyond any human decency on his part." She's wrong. They're worse than that.
To begin with, Parkinson's is a nervous system disorder that reduces muscular control. It results in trembling in the arms and legs, muscular rigidity, causes its victims to walk with a shuffle and ultimately renders them incapable of doing things like buttoning their clothes. It doesn't make its victims loony. A high school teacher of mine had Parkinson's. He couldn't stand up straight or write on the black board, but he was a history whiz and a wonderfully intelligent man.
Maybe Sena was thinking of Alzheimer's Disease. It used to be known as Senile Dementia, which causes memory loss. Sure would be funny if Skeen couldn't remember his own name, wouldn't it, Ray? And isn't it a hoot to watch stiff-fingered cripples try to button their clothes?
Schiff's skin cancer is treatable, and so far he's been successfully fighting it. But that doesn't matter. Having the bad luck to contract cancer doesn't make you unfit to hold public office. And bad luck it is. Most diseases aren't our fault. It's usually the misfortune of having bad genes. And at any time any of us can be diagnosed with a disease that could shut out the lights and turn off forever the sound of laughing children, screaming spouses and obnoxious bosses.
Maybe Sena would like to insinuate that people with brain tumors, AIDS, high blood pressure, diabetes, leukemia and the hundreds of other diseases that can ravage the body are unfit for office. If he runs out of diseased folks, there are a lot of blind people he can attack.
The psychiatric associations have yet to put a name to the syndrome that causes compulsive vulgarity and a crass disrespect of the ill. I've got one.
They should call it Sena's Disorder.
For a different opinion on this issue, please see "The Insider".
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