May 26, 2009

In Which I Have a Fit of Pique

PRIOR TO RETIRING this evening, I was scanning the newswires when I noticed a story from the Agence France-Presse which rather annoyed me. Apparently, President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the Supreme Court has won favor with diabetic activists. This is because Judge Sotomayor has Type I diabetes, the youth-onset form of the disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin to process the sugar in one's blood.

Now, I will certainly not deny this is heartwarming in a way, particularly if it brightens the day of an eight-year-old some place who can't have ice cream. But what got me was this quote, from no less than the American Diabetes Association:

"As this process moves forward, the diabetes community expects that Judge Sotomayor's nomination will be evaluated based on her qualifications and years of experience -- and not her diabetes. To evaluate her in any other way would be a disservice to the United States."

Wait, what? Where the hell did this come from? Does the American Diabetes Association seriously believe that Judge Sotomayor's opponents will denounce her because she has ... diabetes? Do they expect a scurillous whispering campaign against her because ... she has a relatively common ailment? "Oh, well, she'd be a great Supreme Court justice, but it just wouldn't do if they had to lop off her feet?"

For that matter, since when is there a diabetes community? When have people with diabetes ever decided they're part of a big group? And looking at it on a malady-specific basis, when have diabetics ever been consigned to, say, lepers' colonies? I mean, announcing one has diabetes does not, as far as I can tell, lead one to be cast out into the outer darkness, whereupon there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh but this kind of gnaws at me, as I myself am a diabetic (Type II) and don't exactly appreciate all this sympathy-mongering. It's diabetes. It's not cancer. It's also not AIDS. It's also not tuberculosis, malaria, dengue fever, leishmanaisis, cholera, progeria, elephantiasis, Kaposi's sarcoma, gout, cystic fibrosis, or muscular dystrophy. Oh, and it's also not leprosy. It's diabetes. It's eminently treatable.

This is not to say that being diabetic is fun. It's not. For one thing, you really have to cut down on refined sugars, and you can forget about things like regular soda. For another, you can forget about getting decent health coverage outside of a group plan, because you now have a pre-existing condition and as such are anathema to prospective health insurers. You can't even sign up for those lame-o event-specific plans that pay you if, say, you get hurt and miss work. (Trust me, I found this out myself).

But worst of all, you now suddenly find yourself set upon by a veritable army of do-gooders who want you to embrace your condition, like it's your long-lost brother Rex who left home many years ago. Great. Wonderful.

I mean, I'm sorry, but if I'm stuck with the Mark of Cain stamped on my medical dossier, I don't see why I should suddenly become one with the stupid ailment. My identity is not wrapped up in the fact I have diabetes. Nor, for that matter, is it wrapped up in the fact I have sleep apnea, wretched sinuses, a nagging pain in my right shoulder and several other ailments of which I'll spare you the details. And I have to say, I resent the idea that a physical malady should somehow put an imprint on my soul.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 26, 2009 11:47 PM | TrackBack
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