Monday, October 30, 2006
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Memories of My Father
Or, Why Rush Limbaugh is an Ignorant, Fat Douchebag
By Vince Yim
(submitted for publication in The Other Press)
My childhood was marked by the news that my father was involved in an incident of workplace violence. When your world is Saturday morning cartoons, hockey cards, and homework, learning that a mental patient put a knife in your dad’s back can really put a wrench into things. Suddenly, the man that picked you up from school and took you fishing during the summer was stuck in a hospital bed. When he got over it, yet another wrench was thrown in the gears.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neural disorder that affects movement, speech, and posture. Tremors and shaking are the initial symptoms, which only get worse over time. Difficulty walking, clumsy movement, dementia, and impaired swallowing are common. After about ten years, watching my dad almost choke on family dinners became a daily occurrence. There is no cure, only treatment to attempt to control the symptoms or slow the progression. There is no specific cause either, although it is suggested that it may be genetic or caused by head injury. It’s been speculated that my father’s spinal injury may have had something to do with it.
For most people, Parkinson’s isn’t actually fatal, although patients typically expire due to complications of the disease. For my father, he developed osteoporosis (due to lack of physical activity brought on by impaired mobility, in turn due to Parksinson’s), fell, broke his spine and was hospitalized, where he was infected by MSRA (antibiotic resistant bacteria) and died in hospital. This was in 2004. He lived with the condition for almost 17 years.
Michael J. Fox is one of the more well known sufferers of Parkinson’s disease and is a well known advocate for stem cell research. Having being diagnosed while barely in his thirties, he’s one of the younger people to be diagnosed (many sufferers develop Parkinson’s in their 50s and 60s), and as a result, has been active politically, appearing in front of US congress and most recently appearing in a television ad, endorsing Democratic Missouri senate candidate Claire McCaskill, a known proponent of embryonic stem cell research.
The ad (currently available on YouTube.com) depicts Fox speaking his views, while his stereotyped and involuntary body movements depict someone unable to sit still, typical of Parkinson’s sufferers. The ad is fairly disturbing to watch for most people who are unfamiliar with the disease, which is a very strong endorsement. For most people, save for right wing political pundit Rush Limbaugh.
In his radio show, Limbaugh lambasted the whole ad, even going all the way to accuse Fox of either intentionally going off his medication or acting. Admittedly, Limbaugh’s accusations has some merit, as Fox’s memoirs do indicate that he intentionally went off medication when appearing before senate in 1998. And certainly, in comparisons to many of his other appearances on television, such as a recent appearance on Boston Public, his symptoms are much more pronounced. That is where it ends, however.
Anyone with familiarity of Parkinson’s will recognize the movements immediately. High levels of medication are required to keep movements in check, although the medication will lose effectiveness over the years, and in some cases, may actually promote involuntary movement. Additionally, given the edited nature of episodic television, it’s not hard to get footage of Fox during his more calm moments. As it stands, accusing statements as such not only smack of general ignorance, but highly insensitive as well, regardless of Limbaugh’s pre-emptive apology, if he is indeed wrong.
Would Limbaugh be making statements like that if he were living with Parkinson’s or knew someone close to him with Parksinson’s? After making those statements, what are the odds that he’s ever had to watch a loved one crawl on his or her hands and knees to get to the bathroom? Or even try to stop the rude stares from strangers in public, reacting to the bizarre, involuntary movements? Or had to hope and pray that he wouldn’t choke on breakfast or fall down a flight of stairs?
Limbaugh goes onto suggest Fox is a political pawn for doing this. As a first-hand witness to Parkinson’s, my impression is that Fox is merely acting in his own interests, namely a cure. Suggesting otherwise is general douche-baggery.
Indeed, everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether we want to hear it or not. However, half-cocked statements really should be better thought out before being made public. True, attempts to know every single fact before expressing opinions would make it so opinions would never be made. However, Limbaugh’s comments were made while ignoring key details, such as the actual movements of Parkinson’s, the long-term effects of medication, or even the details of television production. His attempts at qualifying his statements by admitting Parkinson’s devastating effects come across as empty and hollow.