Electric EDGE
Web Edition of
The Ragged Edge
July/August 1997

Electric Edge


The dishonoring of FDR

By Cheryl Marie Wade

As I sat watching the dedication of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial, I felt a deep rage and despair growing in me. The erasure of FDR's crippledness is a frightening metaphor for what is happening to disabled people throughout this country.

At the same time that the Americans With Disabilities Act is making it possible for more of the "able-disabled" of our people to take advantage of opportunities for education, work and life in community rather than institutionalization, the most vulnerable of our people are being made ever more invisible.

The erasure of
crippledness is a
metaphor for
what is happening
to disabled

As President Clinton gimped to the podium on his wounded knee to read the magnificent words of FDR -- "the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little" -- millions of disabled people, legal immigrants, received notice that as of Aug. 1 they will no longer receive SSI.

As President Clinton extolled the virtues of the great FDR and paid eloquent homage to the great man's legacy, millions of disabled immigrants received word that as of Aug. 1 the fragile safety net that has meant their survival is being ripped out from under them.

As I watched my president, a political descendent of the great FDR, dedicate this monument, I asked myself: is there no hypocrisy too deep or too wide for this man to swim in? It was not an immigrant-bashing right-winger who signed the so-called Welfare Reform Act into law; it was a democrat, a man who owes his political life to the legacy of FDR, a man who is an American because his Irish ancestors emigrated to this land, believing in its promise of a better life.

The dishonoring of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is not just in the missing wheels on his statue, it is in the erasure of his vision for a fair America -- the dismantling of the democratic ideals to which he dedicated his life.

On Aug. 1, the three-month anniversary of the FDR monument, as millions of disabled immigrants are left to fend for themselves within the indifferent borders of this great nation of "freedom, equality and justice for all," there will come a great thundering sound. It will be the sound of Franklin Delano Roosevelt turning over in his grave.


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