A nation of inclusiveness this July 4th

A tweet pooped into my stream this morning from @XpressiveHandz with a link to the following video. It is short and most of us know the tune; some of us even know all the words to the song.

Watch it now, please. The rest can wait.

My daughter is taking ASL in college. She’s quite good at it and gets excited when she can use it out in the real world. Many times, she makes someone’s day when they realize they don’t need to scribble on a piece of paper or gesture and point oddly to be understood. Like anything, when the deaf community becomes a greater part of your life, you notice that it has been around you the entire time. You just didn’t notice it all that much before.

As I watched Kristina’s interpretation of the music and the lyrics on the video, the swell of pride and enthusiasm contrasted markedly with the anger and vitriol I had been exposed to all weekend by John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Sarah Palin and others on the cable and news talk shows about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As they spewed their disgust about how “normal” Americans should not be forced to pay for those with pre-existing conditions, the contrast is even more striking.

Perhaps Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell need a reminder that they also represent the interests of the deaf and hard of hearing, not just those who can hear their hatred and nod along.

The private insurance market classifies deafness as a pre-existing condition. Many insurance policies do not cover the costs of acquiring ASL skills as a basic human right for the deaf and hard of hearing. Yet, when you watch the National Anthem signed for those who may never have heard the music or the words, it is hard to mask the strong sense of patriotism that also exists in the deaf community. The United States of America should stand for something every day of the year, not just in flag-waving ceremonies on select holidays.

It occurs to me that as the “normal Americans” work to marginalize those of us who don’t look and act like them, it does not do much to squash the pride and patriotism the rest of us with “pre-existing conditions” have with that part of what it means to be a member of the American community.

Don’t wait until November to decide what kind of country you want to live in. Each of us has a “pre-existing condition,” whether it is visible or not. We are all a part of each other. Decide today if you want to live in a community of inclusiveness or one of separation, fear and hate.

Some say we can’t afford to take care of each other. I say we can’t afford not to.