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.

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
15 years ago

Developmentally disabled persons don’t have a constituency like illegal aliens or convicted who want their voting rights back.For decades on end they were warehoused in filthy,decaying institutions or even in the better places they didn’t get to enjoy life at all.And why?Through no fault of their own they were born without normal intellectual capacity and the politicians didn’t look after their needs because they couldn’t wring votes out of them.
I do not mind my taxes being used to provide clean surroundings,job opportunities,a chance to enjoy life and a helping hand to these most vulnerable citizens.
According to that disgusting schnorrer,Charley Bakst,our most vulnerable residents are illegal aliens.
Why do these earnest young people at RIF and PDD only seem to find fulfillment in working with convicted offenders who in most cases wasted their natural gifts to pursue criminal careers?Is there some vicarious thrill involved in rubbing elbows with “outlaws”?
I remember too well when we used to lock Down Syndrome patients away and call them “mongoloids”(think about that term for a minute)-we acted as a society like it was “catching”.It was shameful.I absolutely agree that Hollywood wouldn’t mock racial minorities,or Holocaust survivors,or even gays because of the sh*tstorm that would result.
Okay-no more to say.

15 years ago

“the politicians didn’t look after their needs because they couldn’t wring votes out of them.”
Good point, Joe.

Tom W
Tom W
15 years ago

>>I do not mind my taxes being used to provide clean surroundings,job opportunities,a chance to enjoy life and a helping hand to these most vulnerable citizens.
Agreed (though I believe that private charities are better, as they don’t build a cadre of unionized bureaucrats more concerned with their budgets than their mission).
Whether one wants to term it (lack of) culpability, or ((lack of) responsibility for their circumstances, such persons needs are not the result of poor life choices on their part, nor a surfeit of ambition.
Contrast that with most recipients of “social services” – “baby mamas” and high school dropouts (and their bureaucrat enablers and apologists) who expect us to subsidize their irresponsible behavior and insulate them from the consequences of their exercised choice to be impoverished.

15 years ago

This post about Ian is very poignant and true. Two of my best friends, both teachers who don’t know each other, have developmentally disabled kids– both now teenagers– one in Brooklyn with CP, and one in Milton MA woth CP and mild Down’s. These young men are both joys- and both a handful, demanding of their parent’s 24/7 attention. Many parents with kids with these issues institutionalize their kids, but my two sets of friends are not doing this. Both kids live at home but attend day programs for education and job training. My friend’s lives are so changed: everything revolves around the child, more so than most parents. I find my friends a real inspiration. Where I live in Tiverton, we have had a recent tax increase which is naturally very unpopular. Some anti-tax people have latched on to the fact that in a town of 16,000 with a $25 mil public education budget, $1.5 million goes to special needs education. A few “cutters” have vowed to slash that part of the budget. They don’t know that it is mandated by state & federal law and regulation. As a matter of fact, several students are deemed unable to be taught in the public schools, so our public school system must pay very high rates to send these kids to private schools in Providence and Massachusetts. If we hired two more trained special ed teachers at about $100,000 per year (for both), we could save more than that per year by keeping a working with more students in our district, rather than by paying for them to go away. This concept seems to be lost on out would be tax cutters. They seem only to be interesting in cutting teachers and programs. THere is the attitude that because our taxes… Read more »

15 years ago

Governor Carcieri has consistently tried to slash state funding for our state’s developmentally disabled adults.
There are many effective advocacy groups for developmentally disabled adults on the national and state level. Our governor doesn’t listen to them.
Mostly because they tend to be made up liberals, moderates and Denocrats. You know, they are evil social worker types. There are far more people working hard to prevent or allow abortions than there are people simply working with DDA who are here now.
To correct an error: developmentally disabled adults are eligible to vote after they turn 18. Many register, some vote. I used to work for 2 DDA training & personal care organizations in Newport County. In Tiverton I know of two proud Democrats in a group home near me who are going to vote. In Newport, in a larger place, I know of 3 Republican voters, one Independent, and one Democrat. Some don’t register or vote because they are not interested, but many DDA read the papers & watch the TV news & like making up their own minds.

15 years ago

A member of my family works with developmentally disabled children, and has come to love these kids as much as her own.
She has never cared about politics very much, but has become motivated over the past few days to vote in a presidential election for the second time in her life (and she’s older than I am).
Without revealing who she plans to vote for (she’d kill me if I did), she feels that a developmentally disabled child is not something to be exploited for political gain.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
15 years ago

rhody-in the not so distant past these disabled people were routinely “triaged” out of existence by purposeful disregard when they got sick,which was often,because mental retardation is frequently accompanied by serious physical problems and susceptability to infection.Combine this with impaired communication skills and it is easy to see how severe symptoms could be “overlooked”.
They should have gotten at least as much attention and concern as the serial killers,rapist-murderers,etc populating the death rows of the nation,but the latter got way more concern from the “advocates”.As much as I despise Geraldo Rivera nowadays,he rose to national prominence for exposing the horrendous conditions at Willowbrook State School in NYC,which led to serious reforms.I saw the results of these reforms first hand when I took abnormal psychology at John Jay College in 1973.We toured the facilities there,and for a class made up of 90% cops and firemen it was an education.
Too bad Rivera went down the cheap tabloid path.

15 years ago

For the record, I agree with you on funding programs for the developmentally disabled.
I support Gov. Carcieri’s cuts in several areas–particularly when it comes to some of the benefits given to unions that no longer exist in the private sector. We need to reduce spending, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
I was glad when Carcieri chose to re-examine the $2.7 million cut that his office had originally proposed. It’s unfortunate that cuts in this area were considered in the first place.
My guess is that most Republicans would find monies spent on the developmentally disabled to be a valid use of tax dollars.

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