For those of you that don’t know, John was the target of what seems to be deliberate editorializing on the part of NBC News and Dasha Burns.
She has since moved into “save career” mode.
So this message goes out to you, Dasha.
You have learned modern journalism well. But aside from this, let us take a look at the man himself, and why this is backfiring on you, and shines the light on John’s abundant humanity.
When someone is stricken by an illness or disease, there are many ways one can go about the process of moving forward. Some turn inward, and become aloof, others may advocate for the cause. Some step down from their profession, and others crawl into a ball for a few days until there are no more tears left to shed.
None of this should be judged. And not a one of us should ever feel superior for either not being sick, or convincing ourselves we have handled the challenges better than someone else.
But if there could ever be a blueprint for post-illness positivity it would have the signature of John Karl Fetterman. You see Dasha, you did me, and I believe, the state of Pennsylvania a favor. You formally introduced us to a human being with courage and decency coursing through his veins. You showed us a real person, not a plastic, snake oil selling carpetbagging Dallas Cowboy fan from New Jersey. What you might think was investigative journalism was an insight into the deep well of humanity in John.
What you think showed weakness rather displayed strength. What you think showed instability was really displaying honesty. What you think is a flaw, is proof of strong character.
And this reminded me of something from long ago.
I go back to my own experiences in high school, where challenged kids were ostracized and mocked. There was one girl, about my age, who thought I was sweet. She had an impairment that caused her to be shy, and scared. But I was always nice to her, and sometimes we shared an apple or drank a soda together. Later I would find out that she went to her teacher and crowed about having a “smart kid” friend. The teacher did not believe it until she met me personally.
What was notable about Candace is that her disability was not absolute, nor defining, nor the sum total of her identity. You see she loved to play basketball with me. As the gym would sometimes hold several P.E. classes at once, we often had free time to shoot hoops. I was a fairly good player, but I won’t horn blow. Sometimes however, we played some indoor soccer, much to my chagrin. That was not my sport. I could not kick a ball for doodly squat. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get my foot to align with the ball at the optimum angle. But Candace could.
She was great at soccer. And Candace taught me. She taught me, Todd, an athlete in the accelerated classes how to play soccer. That made me understand in high school that we should redefine disability to varying ability.
Candace was not less than.
Why does a child in a wheelchair want to play basketball? Why does a young man with Down’s Syndrome want to be on a dance team? Why does someone recovering from a stroke want to be a U.S. Senator? Because, we do not assess our self-worth by what we are not, but rather by what we are and what we dream to be.
We are doctors, and clerks, and writers, and journalists, and nurses, teachers, and sons, daughters, we are human. We are none of us infallible. But anyone with an indefatigable desire to be their absolute maximum does not deserve to have limitations put on them. Some people with cancer don’t have great hair, Dasha Burns. A person with one leg is not going to run track to your satisfaction, Dasha Burns.
John Fetterman had a stroke then chose to not let that stop him from his goal. He did not lie about it, gloss over it, cover it up, or spin it. He uses a teleprompter to help communicate while his auditory ability fully recovers.
He is without a doubt 100 percent fit and ready to be a United States Senator.
But what makes John an inspiration, is he has, now more than ever, demonstrated his fitness for the job not with campaign ads, or a platform, or speeches. He has demonstrated his fitness by embracing his own vulnerability. John has clearly communicated to Pennsylvanians, by his willingness to push through adversity, rather than be defined by it, his respect for Pennsylvanians. When it got tough for John, John got tougher. You know, like a real Pennsylvanian.
You see for him the clerk, the gas station attendant, the steelworker, the nurse is his base. Not jet setters or celebrities or elites.
Not “gotcha” journalists.
To John Fetterman, if a fellow Pennsylvanian can come back from open heart surgery to build homes, he can recover from a stroke to fight for their best interests. Because that is what a public servant does; they put the public first.
You see Dasha all of them have sore ankles, or blisters from double shifts, or tweaked backs, or burn scars from molten steel. All of them have been hardened, and injured, and challenged, and made just a bit less perfect than the days of their high school yearbook photos. For me, cancer took my energy, and Covid took my athleticism, but I still write and still work. Wrinkles have appeared on my forehead, and nobody wants to pay this Missouri boy to do liquor ads anymore, but I still have worth.
We all do. And Dasha, when the day comes that like me, your skin is less porcelain than it was at age thirty, and the words don’t fire as rapidly as age twenty, and the feet move slower than you think your brain is telling them to, you will want someone to look past that and see what you are still able to do.
And maybe, Dasha, it will be who you least expect that teaches you something that you have never excelled at. Maybe a kid will come along that the world judges as slow, and a burden on society, that just happens to be the best you have ever seen at what you seem to be the worst at.
Maybe your own child will teach you how to kick that dang ball.
John Fetterman is Pennsylvania. He is embodiment of the strength, and perseverance, and empathy the Keystone state is known for. He is the laborer with a sore foot, he is the cancer patient returning to the Major Leagues. He is an inspiration that will shine a light on other anonymous inspirations, the kind that don’t run for office, but make sure your lights stay on, or your belly is full even in the midst of chemotherapy, or coming back from knee surgery.
The Jims and Janes from McKeesport, the Mike and Lisas from Burgettstown.
The Gene Kellys from Pittsburgh.
The Joe Bidens from Scranton.
All of them deserve to have as their United States Senator, the courageous, the honest, the empathetic, the honorable,
John Fetterman from West Reading.
I would love for you to join my newsletter, The Claw News, and read the efforts of a writer with journalistic integrity. It helps provide for my family, and I give it my all.
I need to add to my Claw Family!
But I would also love it if you would contribute to John Fetterman’s campaign.
If you can do both. If you have to choose one, help make John Fetterman the next Senator from the great state of Pennsylvania.
It truly is that important.
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