Things looked pretty grim. The article in the Los Angeles Times last week was about how a bunch of developmentally disabled adults were being evicted from their apartments in Monrovia, east of L.A. The owners of the Regency Court had concluded, after a number of years, that the complex had been designed for senior citizens and that people under 62 should not be living there.
This was a classic tale of the big, evil powers that be trampling over the little people, made all the more compelling and poignant with the little people here being not only disabled but mentally retarded. The story was complete with the usual tragic and pitiful but heroic and inspiring examples of disabled people trying to live independently, topped off with heart-tugging photos.
Then, a day or two later, there was another article in the Times, this one about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger showing up at the Regency Court to tell the disabled residents that their evictions had been "terminated." There was a large picture of Schwarzenegger smiling and leaning down to talk to a smiling, dressed-to-the-nines woman in a wheelchair. In an interview, the former action star explained that he intervened with the apartment owners after reading the L.A Times story and being visited by the ghost of his recently deceased mother-in-law, Eunice Shriver, telling him he had to do something.
It was indeed a happy day, a day of celebration. The big, bad corporation had been brushed off, and the disabled folks could stay in their own homes. Then why wasn’t I feeling so good? Why was I wincing and a bit woozy?
Clearly, this pit stop by the gubinator was the coldest of P.R moves, right down to the gussied-up woman. All while thousands of other disabled people in the state are left in the lurch because of services being slashed by his administration.
Why didn’t old Eunice say anything about them to the restless Arnold? That’s where this all gets downright nauseating, with the stink of patronization. After all, Mrs. Shriver is most admired for starting the Special Olympics.
Ah, the Special Olympics, where the most unfortunately handicapped are oh so graciously allowed not to be normal - no - but to shine. As if a man wearing a life jacket and having to be guided down a swimming pool lane can be as great as Michael Phelps.
And as if he - and perhaps anyone who is anything like him - has no hope of being able to help, much less save, himself.