Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A "short" letter to President Obama

“A true man hates no one” - Napoleon Bonaparte

Dear President Obama:
I am writing to you in regard to your recent statements concerning the arrest of Professor Gates of Harvard University. Your spontaneous comments at a recent press conference regarding racial profiling brought to light an important issue facing American society today. I applaud you.

Now, it is imperative that you continue the fight against prejudice. Mr. President, even though you are tall and love basketball, I would ask you take a “little” time away from your health reform efforts to show some real empathy toward your shorter constituents by addressing “vertically challenged profiling.”

Vertically challenged profiling happens to millions of short Americans every day. While being a “vertically challenged” has never been identified as legal category of discrimination, short Americans have always suffered bigotry and discrimination because of their height in a society that favors tall individuals in all aspects of our lives.

The basic term “short” has a harmful connotation that affects people’s judgments and actions toward vertically challenged people. For example, short is often associated with negativity and failure, like “selling short,” performing a “short sale,” being “short” with a person, or being “short changed.”

Bottom line, it is not always easy going through life always looking up to talk to people and knowing they treat you different because of your appearance.

Personally, I have had a hard life being profiled as a short man.

I “grew up” always being picked on by big bullies. I always got called names like “dwarf,” “shrimp,” “midget,” “runt,” “shorty,” “squirt,” and “punk.” My bar mitzvah really made me feel short and different. During the service, while worshippers continuously giggled, I had to stand on three Manhattan phone books to recite my Haftorah from the bimah (dais) in my shul. I was also traumatized by not being able to cool and wear bellbottom pants (they always had to cut the bell off the pant legs so they would fit my short inseam). In terms of dating-it was a disaster. I was, of course, profiled as short by teenage girls taught from an early age that tall is sexy.

By the time I went to college, I was only 5’2” (I actually grew three inches between freshman and sophomore years). When I went to freshman registration, I was profiled and practically tackled by two coaches from the Crew team who were there scoping out the lines for potential coxswains. Every time I took the bus or train home from college and law school, it never failed that an extremely heavy person would profile me and seat next to me, conquering with their girth half my seat left by my small body and crushing me against the window for the trip.

In the work world, I have also encountered constant short profiling. For example,, when I got my first job as an Assistant District Attorney, the D.A., a huge weightlifter and great trial lawyer, almost immediately started calling me “dwarf,” “shrimp,” “midget, ” “ runt, ” “shorty, ” “squirt, ” and “punk” on a regular basis (when I still see him, one of those comments always comes my way).

Even at home, my 10 year old daughter (who is 5’8” already and wears a shoe three sizes bigger than me) constantly makes fun of my vertical impairment, saying things like “Boy, I bet it is terrible to go through life being 5’5,” telling the counter person at McDonalds that the kids meal is really for me, or calling me “Mini-Me” to try to upset me.

The worst perception vertically challenged people, particularly males, suffer in American society is the assumption that they have to make up for their shortness by being aggressive-that they all suffer from a “Napoleonic complex,” otherwise known as “short man syndrome,” “little man syndrome,” and “small man syndrome.”

Scientific studies have shown that it is a myth that short people are more antagonistic than tall people, yet the short “Napoleonic” profiling flourishes unabated (just don’t ask my wife her opinion). And by the way, the Napoleonic complex does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (again, just don’t ask my wife for her opinion).
Recently, an article in the ever politically correct New York Times showed how out of hand profiling of the “vertically challenged” is. In an op-ed piece written by writer Maureen Dowd about North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, she started off immediately short profiling Kim by writing:

When I look at the incorrigible Kim Jong-il, an insult
hurled by the incomparable Billy Wilder comes to mind.

Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The
New Republic, was having dinner with Wilder years ago when the subject of Swifty
Lazar, the very famous and very short agent, came

Putting down his knife and fork, Wilder
announced: “That man should go hang himself from a bonsai

Dowd also lamented in the article that Kim is “known to use lifts in his shoes.” (I wonder how many high heeled shoes and enhanced bras she owned when she wrote the piece.)

Disney, another politically correct American cultural institution, also does not help our cause either. One look at the character Lord Farquaad in Shrek says it all.

So Mr. President, it is time to add one more item to your aggressive “short” list of changes to get accomplished -to get vertically challenged Americans recognized as a profiled and discriminated class and to work to stop the profiling of those who are between 4’11’ and 5’6.”

It would be a major breakthrough if you, as a tall President, proposed legislation similar to the racial, sexual, and origin mandates that are on the books now to discourage short profiling and discrimination.

No, I am not asking to be classified as a handicapped person (although we do have to take a lot more steps in the parking lot and special spots for short people would be really cool). Just help us Short Americans overcome profiling and prejudice against them.

Please bring up the issue at your next press conference. Talk about what vertically challenged Americans endure in a society designed for and prejudiced toward tall people-and make sure to condemn Maureen Dowd for her vertically challenged profiling of Dictator Kim by calling her, in no uncertain terms, “stupid” (I dare you).

Now, if you want to discuss this issue further, I would be happy to come to the White House for a “short” visit and have a beer with you. (Just don’t get cute and serve me “stout” in a “stubby” bottle). Please make sure that if we meet the press, the podium we would use is not taller than 5’2”-or have some Washington Yellow Pages on hand for me to use.

Yours truly,