Sometimes the only real news that I get during the day is in the early morning hours when the alarm goes off and I get to listen to the reports on NPR for a few moments before Sydney starts discussing what cereal she wants for breakfast. (Is it nerdy to wake up to NPR? Maybe.) It's usually difficult for me to really process what's being said, but I take it in and let it simmer on the brain for awhile.
Such is the case of this week's story involving Rush Limbaugh.
Rush Limbaugh accused actor Michael J. Fox, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, of "exaggerating the effects of the disease" in a recent campaign advertisement for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill. Limbaugh added that "this is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting, one of the two."
Most of the time, I pay little attention to anything Limbaugh says because I think he's an idiot (which is not to say that people who listen to him are idiots, only that I don't get the appeal). It's not just my politics that make me feel this way. I'm a Republican (although, as my brother-in-law says, "A very disappointing one"). And, like Limbaugh, I also don't support stem-cell research, which is what Michael J. Fox is encouraging voters to support in this ad. But generally speaking, most of what Limbaugh has to say is pure nonsense and why bother myself with someone like that?
This time, however, his rumblings hit a nerve with me. Not only did I think about all it week, but I was so moved after watching Fox's interview with Katie Couric (thanks for the link, Diane!) I feel compelled to write something. Even though I might disagree with the ethics of embryonic stem-cell research, I fully understand why people are pushing for its approval. Limbaugh, in calling Fox's reality "entertainment," seems to have little respect for a man imploring people to support research that might find a cure to the disease that is killing him.
Earlier this year--after a series of hospitalizing falls--Jason's grandma was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. She is on medication now, which has seemed to help quite a bit. My own grandma--the one that Sydney loves to a million bits and pieces--doesn't have Parkinson's but has symptoms that make it seem like she does. There aren't any medications she can take, and so for the last few decades she has had to endure the tremors. I am not naive nor ignorant to the possible benefits of stem-cell research, but for various reasons (mostly religious) I choose not to support it.
When Michael J. Fox went on the air, displaying symptoms of Parkinson's, Limbaugh was brazen enough to call the symptoms an exaggeration and a disguise of reality. I wonder exactly how many people Limbaugh has encountered with Parkinson's to know what reality is?
The reality is Fox and other sufferers of Parkinson's endure a daily onslaught of tremors and shakes. The reality is there is no cure for Parkinson's disease. The reality is medications only help mask their symptoms, making them appear "normal" when in truth they aren't.
The other reality is that people should not check their compassion at the door when they decide whether or not to support stem-cell research. I applaud Michael J. Fox for putting a very public face on Parkinson's disease, just as I applauded Christopher Reeve for staying in the public despite his disability. It doesn't change my mind about opposing stem-cell research, but as Slate columnist William Saletan writes:
"If you worry about the embryos, you had bloody well better look into the eyes of the people dying of these diseases. You had better ask yourself whether slowing research that might save them is an acceptable price for your principles."
Both Fox and Reeves help remind us that our principles and our humanity should be intertwined, and we need to clearly weigh the consequences of voting for or against anything that involves ethical issues.
Unfortunately for us, Limbaugh only reminds us how prejudice and heartless some people really are. And what a sad reminder that is.