My toes had barely tipped the tarmac of JFK back in 2005 when I quickly learned my first and only lesson in American politics.
America is deeply divided by party politics which polarizes the population into two distinct ideologies: Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal.
It's difficult to understand how a complex country which prides itself, in theory, on being a melting pot for the entire world, can identify all of its beliefs in two categories.
A vital part of the discussion is being omitted.
As an immigrant, American politics is just something to be observed, not commented on.
Nothing political impinged on me to such an extent that I felt the need to comment. Until recently that is.
My most important role in life is being a mother.
My daughter is a cute, red-haired, freckle-faced ten-year-old who, surprisingly, is tuned into a better frequency than the rest of us.
Her best chances at life were cruelly snatched from her during and after her birth when her brain was devastated and she lost her ability to walk, talk, see, and everything in between.
It is because of her I am writing this.
Our world, although it pretends not to be, is totally biased towards outward appearance.
Perfection is the ultimate goal.
Imperfections must be perfected, whatever the cost.
To expose children who are ‘imperfect” in the eyes of the world takes tremendous courage.
Personally, it has taken me ten years to build up that courage and I'm not there yet by any means.
My daughter has never gone to a birthday party of a typical child.
I have never gone to the park with another Mom.
When one has a child with a disability, special occasions and even family events usually pose more of a challenge and are sometimes easier avoided.
One of the most difficult challenges is how to respond to people’s reactions, which is something I may write a book about someday, “What NOT to say to a parent of a child with a disability”.
I constantly hear comments such as “such a shame,” “you are great, I could never cope with that”, “God won’t give you a cross you can’t carry.”
Children always ask straight out "what happened to her, why can't she walk or talk?"
Adults talk over her which is in itself upsetting as she can understand everything and expects to be included.
With such a focus on inclusiveness in our society, I wish that society could become more sensitive on how to communicate with and approach people with disabilities.
Being the parent of a child with disabilities extends the parameters beyond the place to which most people can relate.
The tension created by this isolation exacerbates the all-consuming emotions that one feels.
I have learned very quickly how to put on as I call it ‘my suit of armor” to stifle my feelings of absolute grief, sorrow and despair.
Because of this I don’t usually get upset by people’s reactions.
Imagine my horror when I observed a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America, the highest position of power in America, if not the world, snickering and imitating a person with a disability.
"Now the poor guy, you gotta see this guy," the candidate continued, before launching into an apparent impression of Mr. Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter, waving his arms around with his hands at an odd angle.
My hope remains that my life, or my daughter’s life, will never be defined by her disability.
This candidate for presidency has no right to take away my hope and the hope of other similar parents.
No one can ever justify that behavior and no one will ever understand how hurt and upset I was, and am.
My daughter has a great deal to offer the world. She has taught me the real meaning of unconditional love, happiness, perseverance and determination.
If this candidate becomes president, the possibility of the “American Dream’ will no longer exist.
Inequality rooted in ability, class, race, religion and ethnicity will define the future.
If someone looks different or speaks different, they will get hurt. The land of the free and the brave will be replaced by the land of the puppets and the cowards.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to give my daughter extra strong hugs every night.
This story first appeared in the Irish Echo. To read more articles, visit their website here.