Before I begin, let me be clear. This post is not about politics, which candidate I like, who I will vote for, which “side” I am on, or what my political party affiliation may be. I have been registered as Independent, Republican, and Democrat at various points in my life, and I have also voted both Republican and Democrat. So, this isn’t about my personal political beliefs (which are challenged more than ever this year, as I don’t particularly like either candidate, and I am also a political “black sheep” within my family.)
This also isn’t about the importance of health in a nation’s leader. Health is obviously important and worth discussing. I would naturally expect it to be reported upon, and I would expect it to be taken into consideration at election time.
What this is about, however, is human decency AND the issue of judging someone’s health or physical ability based solely on appearances, hearsay, or assumptions. It is also about the role that health plays — or perhaps doesn’t play — in a position of power.
I posted on this awhile back when I first saw some (unqualified) political conspiracy theorists “diagnosing” presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with Parkinson’s Disease and other conditions.
It has been brought to light again today as Hillary Clinton got overheated and nearly fainted at a 9/11 memorial event.
So I have to speak my piece on this.
First, you can read my original post on the issue, here. I’ve also copied and pasted it below:
And now, I’ll just say this. First off, I think that the OBVIOUSLY-Photoshopped National Enquirer cover featuring Clinton is disgusting: not because of how she looks, but because it is an obvious photoshop job meant to sell tabloids … and also because legitimate national media outlets like CNN and FOX are reporting on it. To me, it doesn’t deserve that attention. But, furthermore …
A 60-something woman becoming overheated at a long event in the sun on an 83-degree, very humid day (while wearing a very hot-looking pantsuit, which was a poor wardrobe choice for this outdoor event on a hot NYC morning,) is not newsworthy. In fact, they’d be making far less of a stink about it if people like Martin Shkreli, and other very right-wing conspiracy theorists hadn’t already been speculating about her health for months, including releasing falsified (verified as false and digitally-altered,) “health records” of Clinton’s. Had the Shkrelis and National Enquirers of the world not already “started” this story, her near-fainting spell today would have been less-controversial (like George W. Bush choking on a pretzel,) and not QUITE as newsworthy as it is now.
Here’s what bugs me about it: to judge someone on their health based on looks alone is wrong. To make assumptions about someone’s health based on hearsay or gossip is wrong. And, had those records been real (which they were not,) to release someone’s private health information to the public without authorization is wrong.
Even if you despise her (as many Americans do,) you should not say that you support HIPAA and that you advocate for invisible health issues and that you don’t want to be judged on your health by the way you look, and still think that any of this (the media circus now surrounding her health) is okay.
For example, I believe personally that it would be vastly hypocritical of me to say that I don’t want people to assume things about my health, and then to go ahead and assume things about her health because she got overheated at an event, had a coughing fit, or looks tired.
And let’s take it a step further, speaking of “haggard.” It is pretty sexist to think a woman is ill simply because she looks tired or haggard or isn’t smiling. If she were a male candidate, I don’t think that we would see tabloid headlines with his photoshopped place plastered across it because he looks a bit “rough.”
I also believe that she faces harsher criticism about her physical stamina because she is female.
But isn’t that so often the case? If she IS ill, then it wouldn’t be surprising that people are harder on her because of it, as there exists a medical bias against women who are ill or complaining of illness.
If she IS sick, is she then unfit to do the job solely based on that and removing other factors? I think back to other presidents (obviously all male,) who had health issues or disabilities and did just fine.
I guess my points are as follows:
1.) I was overheated after the Pitt vs. Penn State game yesterday. I did not consider it to be a “health issue” or a “medical emergency.” It was just hot. And I was hot. And I had to sit down for a minute because I was flushed and felt a little faint. It was not a symptom of a “health problem,” (though I do have many health problems) it was, as one person on Twitter said regarding Hillary being overheated, just a “symptom of life.”
2.) If she IS ill, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that an illness means one is unfit to be president. If it is, there are several presidents who have served in the past who were ill or disabled. So what does that mean? Are we sending the message that it’s okay to be a sick/disabled male and be in office, but the at women are somehow weaker and thus a sick/disabled female is not qualified to be president like a man would be? If that is the belief, how is that okay? What message does that send to women and girls? What message does that send to those who are chronically ill or disabled? There may be other reasons that people could argue as to why she’s unfit to be president. That’s neither here nor there, and isn’t what this blog is about. But is an illness or medical problem alone enough to say she’s unqualified? I don’t know, but we should not assume as much without the facts.
3.) It bugs me that these false records were released. If they were real, that’s a major HIPAA violation and a major violation of privacy. If they are indeed false, then it’s also problematic. The candidates are expected to release medical records and both have done so to a degree. (Well, just letters from their personal doctors. But still, they released something.)
Any further release of medical records would be their call individually. Personally, I think that ALL presidential candidates should be required to release ALL medical records, tax records, and legal documents. That said, I don’t know that someone with a chronic health condition is automatically or necessarily unfit to be in office. It would depend on a lot of factors and would likely be a case-by-case thing … but to use a health problem as something negative, or to use a possible medical issue as political fodder, or to refer to it in a pejorative way is harmful to the disabled/chronic illness community and is insulting to those of us who are ill. (And it is worth noting that while she has released more health information than her opponent Donald Trump, though neither of them have released all of their health records OR as much health information as previous candidates.)
4.) I’m not necessarily a Hillary Clinton supporter ,but until she or her camp says anything regarding her health or anything is proven about her health, then I personally feel that it is in poor form to report on it as “breaking news” or speculate on it too much. I don’t know that becoming overheated or feeling faint at an event is categorized as a “health crisis” or “health scare,” nor do I think that a man would be as heavily scrutinized for it. Sure, it is of course worth mentioning in the news or reporting on a bit … but not against the backdrop of a photoshopped tabloid cover, or some conspiracy stuff floating around online.
It comes down to this: I don’t necessarily like her, but I do feel somewhat defensive and fairly perturbed when people speculate about or gossip about other people’s health without proof.
Whether Clinton is ill beyond seasonal pollen allergies and hypothyroidism (and a history of a blood clot,) remains to be seen. She very well may be — I’m not challenging that.
But should we judge or read too much into it? I don’t know. Does it make her unfit to lead or to serve this country? I don’t know.
I do know that I wouldn’t want everyone talking about my health based on speculation alone, because I’ve been there.
And I didn’t appreciate it.
I will wait until an official report or an official diagnosis/statement/full health record is released before I form a solid opinion on this matter.
What are your thoughts? (Not on her per se, but how this news story is being handled? I would love to hear perspectives from those who are chronically ill. What does this mean for the stigma in the chronic illness community? Does being sick automatically equal being unable to hold a position of power?
[UPDATE] at 7:20pm EST 9/11/16 –
So, hours after writing the original post above, the news broke that Hillary Clinton’s doctor released a statement saying she was diagnosed with pneumonia this past Friday. This (or the meds she was on, coupled with the awful pantsuit in the heat,) could have contributed to her overheating at today’s event.
I wanted to update this post in response to that.
Do I think she or her camp should have lied about her health? … No.
Do I think that it was wrong to hide the pneumonia diagnosis? … Yes.
Do I agree with political lies and cover-ups? … No …
… but I think all candidates and both parties partake in both. Frequently.
Do I think that an acute illness like pneumonia makes one unfit to be President? … No.
While pneumonia can be serious, I do not think that an acute illness makes alone (removing all other political factors from the equation,) makes someone unfit to be president, nor do I believe (still) that a chronic illness or disability would automatically, by itself and not relating to policy or politics or personality, render someone unfit to serve as Commander-in-Chief.
Do I think that Clinton’s full medical records should be released to the voting public? … Yes. I do. BUT only if approved by the candidate. AND only if Trump has to release his.
In fact, I think all presidential candidates’ full medical records, tax records, charity records, etc. should be released to the public and/or evaluated by an unbiased, nonpartisan, impartial, panel or committee. (Which will never happen.) I do think all candidates should be held to the same standard: democrat or republican, healthy or sick, male or female.
Do I think that one can disagree with some of her politics while ALSO disagreeing with: using illness as an insult, using health woes for political gains, or discussing illness in pejorative terms like it is an insult or sign of weakness to be sick? … Yes.
These two things are not mutually exclusive and I believe that even the most frenetic Trump supporter should be able to see that attacking someone for health problems is in poor taste.
… So, basically, my point is that I do disagree with the lack of transparency surrounding her health, but I still do NOT agree with gossip and speculation, or general nastiness/mean-spiritedness discussing her (or ANYONE’S) health.
I don’t think that it is wise to assume that it is “something worse” than has been reported; I do not think it is kind to insinuate that someone is innately less-than or weak/unfit because of health problems; I think it is cruel or at least in poor taste to capitalize upon someone’s illness; and, lastly, I would be against people doing this regardless of which “side” it was on.
Attacking someone for health problems is never cool in my book. That doesn’t mean I’m for or against a candidate: it just means I’m a decent human being.
This political climate is reprehensible. People are acting like bullies, trolls, and petulant children. I have seen so much nastiness, ignorance, intolerance, and mean-spiritedness online that it … well … makes me sick. 😉