I have no family members with this unique chromosomal condition, but have known many, through the years, who did, and the love and concern they had for their child/grandchild/sibling, was deep and unending. One good friend of mine has a Down Syndrome child, and she and her other boys love him, and cherish him, in a manner that is as inspiring as any love I have ever seen.
B-HO’s words, when I first heard them on the radio, the day after his comedy show appearance, stung me in the heart. What type of callousness could compel someone to say that? He’s not “cool,” he is “cold.”
I visited Hugh Hewitt’s blog today, to retrieve an email written to him by a parent in response to B-HO’s insult, that was read on his radio show Friday, and discovered Hugh has written an excellent piece on World Down Syndrome Day, and it’s Fiftieth Anniversary. Below is the heart felt email sent to him:
Thank you so much for your blog post about Obama’s Special Olympics comment.
I’d like add to what you’ve said by pointing out that the President’s
insult runs much broader than against the set of citizens you’ve
identified, the people with Down’s Syndrome.
I’m the father of a beautiful, young, 12-year-old girl (quickly
growing into a young lady) named Emily. She’s smart — an avid reader and books-on-tape listener — and she’s excelling in school. But Emily also has cerebral palsy, which affects practically all of her physical abilities. Her speech is affected as are her limbs. She relies completely on a motorized wheelchair to get around.
I might sound overly sensitive when I say this, but the President’s
Special Olympics comment is deeply insulting to anyone, I believe, who has any kind of significant disability. It reveals a coarse insensitivity to the plight of people with disabilities. His comment is every bit as demeaning as some of the most racist and sexist things that have been said in public in recent years by politicians and celebrities. While I’ve sensed in some commentators a rush to excuse his comments as unintended and inconsequential, and therefore hardly worthy of rebuke, I believe such an attitude reveals a double-standard in the way our society views and treats people who are disabled. Those in the public eye who have made racist and sexist comments of equivalent offense have been rightfully pilloried.
I have found myself to be angry — not in my sometimes knee jerk,
emotional way — but in a deeply disappointed way. I can still hardly believe that an orator of his ability, one who ardently claims to defend the disenfranchised, could make such a blunder. I fear it reveals an attitude of arrogance and elitism that portends trouble for the way he will govern.
My only consolation is that perhaps the backlash to his comments will have a positive effect in raising the awareness of the subtle but troubling way some in our society treat people with disabilities. I also hope that the President will make a sincere and full apology for his insensitive remarks.
To those who do not live close to the life of a person with
disabilities, my remarks may seem overly dramatic. But living every day with the effects of a severe disability is a tough road. And it’s very disappointing to have the President so flippantly poke fun at a group of people who deserve — more than most — a greater degree of compassion and respect.
I was also reminded of a post by Peggy Noonan, several years ago, about her audience with Pope John Paul, and how Pope John felt about Down Syndrome children.
I always get the feeling with John Paul that if he could narrow down who he meets and blesses to those he likes best it would not be cardinals, princes or congressmen but nuns from obscure convents and Down syndrome children. Especially the latter. Because they have suffered, and because in some serious and amazing way they understand more than most people. Everyone else gets tied up in ambition and ideas and bustle, but the modest and limited are able to receive this message more deeply and openly: God loves us, his love is all around us, he made us to love him and play with him and serve him and be happy.
I know a woman who once worked with the retarded. The Down syndrome children would ask her to comb her long blond hair, and then they’d get lost in it, lost in the beauty of it. They touched it and patted it and walked through it like curtains. It takes a kind of spiritual genius to know a hunk of long blond hair is heaven. They knew. The pope knows they know.
Those words have remained with me, and were the first to enter my mind, while B-HO’s words stung my heart.
Contrast our current President’s words with those of Sarah Palin.
Since our current President is so lacking in compassion, and incapable of a sincere apology to all the families with special family members, I feel I must speak out.
God Bless all the special children/adults, and their families, from someone who sincerely loves you as one of God’s creations, and for the special gifts you bring. There are many people in this world incapable of sincere compassion, but there are many more of us who cherish you and your ability to teach the rest of us, about the love God wants us to have for him, and for each other.