I published an essay on CNN this morning and am boosting the signal, if I can, because I believe in what I wrote. I'm the father of a boy with Down syndrome and here's the opening (I'm allowed to quote 150 words):
"No one would call someone with Down syndrome 'retard.' I call you a 'retard.' " -- Coulter on Alan Colmes' Fox News Radio show.A few thoughts below.
Let's pretend that Ann Coulter is telling the truth in that last comment. Yes, she called President Barack Obama a retard, but at least she claimed she'd never insult someone with Down syndrome. Even if she's lying, we have come a long way. Children with Down syndrome still get bullied or even abused, and adults with any disability face an uncertain future, particularly in an era of austerity, but today few would call someone with Down syndrome a retard to his or her face.
For this, as the father of a boy with Down syndrome, I am grateful.
Sometimes [people] smile and tell me that "people with Downs" or "Downs kids" are God's angels sent down to earth. I smile and thank them and agree that people with Down syndrome can be pretty great.
But while good intentions count for a lot, "angel" makes me no happier than "retard."
1. CNN changed the title for entirely good reasons. I'm an academic though and I like "dialectic." I also like "discourse." So my original title is "The Angel/Retard Dialectic"
2. I am staying out of the comment stream on CNN.
3. There are broader social implications of some of my issues, many relating to abortion, education, and health care policy issues that are implied here. I stayed out of them for this essay but would be delighted to chat about them in the comments if people are interested. I do believe that if you change perspectives on my son, you gain some openings into arguing for progressive values.
Thanks for reading.