The gift of life vs. “never going full retard”
Rich Lowry wrote a touching post, saying:
…I found the Palin event Friday incredibly moving. Partly because of Trig.
The sentimentalist in me would be willing to see anyone who is loving and unselfish enough to welcome a Down kid into their family elevated to high office.
When I was thinking of Trig, I was reminded of an encounter I had a couple of weeks ago on the Delta Shuttle from Washington to New York. It was a mostly empty plane, but I went all the back to the very emptiest part of the plane to spread out and enjoy the quiet. And there was a man sitting in the very back row who immediately piped up, “Hi. I’m Ian. Would you like to sit next to me?”
He was a guy with Down Syndrome, maybe in his twenties. I declined the offer, but we struck up a conversation. He was going to New York for a family celebration, including for his birthday. I told him I had a birthday coming up too and he lit up and came over to vigorously shake my hand in congratulations—more delighted by my birthday than his own.
When the plane began to fill up a woman and her daughter came all the way to the back with a huge bag. I began to wonder to myself if I should offer to help them with it, when Ian popped up, told them he’d get it, and lifted it up and shoved it in the overhead compartment. When two men came down the aisle with a box they weren’t sure would fit overhead, he intervened and told them it would—”trust me”—and put it up for them.
He chatted amiably with his neighbors during the flight, and when we landed was up out of his seat first thing to help that woman get her bag down.
From this brief encounter, I dare say Ian is friendlier, better adjusted and more considerate than about half of the people on the streets of Manhattan or San Francisco on any given day. Yet most of those people are perfectly unperturbed by the elimination of babies with Down syndrome in the womb. To hell with them. God bless Sarah Palin for bringing Trig into the world, and may he shower those around him with as much sunshine as the gentleman I met on that flight.
Here is Glenn Beck, who has a special needs child himself, on Trig Palin.
Years ago, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans wrote about their daughter born with Down Syndrome in a book entitled Angel Unaware: A Touching Story of Love and Loss, whose back cover notes:
Through great grief can come great joy. In the 1950s, doctors often advised parents of disabled babies to put them away in institutions or homes. But when entertainers Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Rogers discovered their new baby, Robin, had Down Syndrome, they were determined to take her home and give her their love. It wasn’t easy. Through countless surgeries and sleepless nights, the Rogers found themselves exhausted and worried-until they began to notice a change in their lives. Somehow the unexplainable and unexpected was happening-Robin was helping Roy and Dale draw closer to God and to each other. Robin’s brief life also persuaded them to do all they could to help others in similar circumstances. Told from Robin’s point of view in heaven, Angel Unaware is a touching story that has inspired millions of readers around the world. Whether you are a parent of a special needs child or have experienced the loss of a loved one, Robin’s story will bring you the peace and understanding you need in difficult times.
Earlier this week, I had the chance to spend time with my brother’s family on the West Coast. He and his wife have two kids. One of them, my nephew who is 6, has Down Syndrome. He is a special boy, just like Ian and Trig Palin are special.
One of the topics which came up during the visit was a popular new movie called Tropic Thunder, which uses the word “retard” repeatedly. Related to the movie, a t-shirt is being marketed which says “Never go full retard.”
When you meet the Ian’s of this world and experience their guileless kindness and generous spirit, it is painful to hear such calloused talk. Down Syndrome people can teach all of us so much by their unaffected behaviors.
Can you imagine the outrage if the word “retard” was replaced by “nigger”? Or if someone was similarly cavalier about Holocaust victims? But no, calling another person a retard is supposed to be funny to the point that some people are trying to make money off of it.
By the way, when my brother – a high school teacher – hears one of his students call another student a “retard,” he pulls out his wallet and shows a picture of his son to the student with these words: “Here is my retard.” As you might imagine, an immediate embarassed silence and then an apology follow.
The words we use do matter. As does the very special gift of life, which offers each of us many blessings if we are open to them.