Readability

Lacking in love

[cap­tion id=”” align=“aligncenter” width=“485”] Ice­land abor­tions, com­piled by Wm. Robert Johnston[/caption]

“They used to say that a child con­ceived in love has a greater chance of hap­pi­ness. They don’t say that anymore.”

–Vin­cent (Gat­taca, 1997)

This week in the com­mis­sary I passed a mother and daugh­ter in the frozen seafood sec­tion. Her daugh­ter was prob­a­bly 9, and by her facial struc­ture I guessed she had Down Syn­drome. I made sure to smile at her and wave (if I hadn’t had three kids in tow, I would have stopped to chat). You would think it nor­mal to smile at peo­ple, but CBS reminded us that kids like the one I passed by are being mur­dered at an extra­or­di­nary rate.

Sadly, I’m not shocked at all. Before my daugh­ter Rebecca was born, the doc­tors first detected a heart defect, and Yale offered to genet­i­cally screen her. We politely declined. Even with just a heart defect (at the time, they thought it was Ebstein’s Anom­aly), the doc­tor, a top guy in his field, kept say­ing things like “…if you decide to keep the preg­nancy.” I really liked the guy, but every time he said some­thing like this, it sent a chill down my spine.

All chil­dren require their par­ents to sac­ri­fice. You give up your free­dom to have kids. Rais­ing them is tough. Kids with seri­ous dis­abil­i­ties are even tougher. While that chal­lenge is hard, it is designed to make you tougher. Before Rebecca came, I couldn’t fathom a life with a kid with Down Syn­drome. That was some­thing that hap­pened to other peo­ple. Her com­ing into this world made me have to rise to the occa­sion and become a bet­ter person.

[cap­tion id=”” align=“aligncenter” width=“375”] Still peo­ple. Not choices.[/caption]

Are kids with Down Syn­drome more work? Yup. But so are kids with autism. And heart defects. And miss­ing fin­gers. We act like these defects are rea­sons to end their lives, because they will make it dif­fi­cult for those of us “nor­mal” peo­ple. But are the “nor­mal” peo­ple that much bet­ter? Last I checked, “nor­mal” peo­ple cause most of the mur­ders, rapes, theft and other crimes in the world. I don’t see peo­ple with Down Syn­drome mur­der­ing oth­ers at some astro­nom­i­cal rate.

More impor­tantly, to think that we are some­how not flawed is ludi­crous. How is it not flawed to mur­der an inno­cent child? How can we claim to be so much more enlight­ened, yet we use sci­ence to sep­a­rate peo­ple into boxes called “use­ful to soci­ety” and “trash?” And who deter­mines the trash bin? We’ve had plenty of “genet­i­cally flawed” peo­ple make impor­tant con­tri­bu­tions to our soci­ety.

An older sci-​fi flick, the 1997 film “Gat­taca,” seems to be a future pre­dic­tion. The film fol­lows a man who was con­ceived nat­u­rally, but his genet­ics pre­dicted he wouldn’t live past 30. He man­ages to not only live past that age, but sneak into the space pro­gram, where he evades genetic scrutiny and even­tu­ally trav­els to Titan. The movie also shows plenty of other “genet­i­cally per­fect” peo­ple who have either men­tal health issues or com­mit crimes.

Gat­taca and Down Syn­drome remind us that in our human­ity we are not per­fect, and that is OK. We’re not called to be genet­i­cally per­fect, we’re called to live our lives as well as we can. Imper­fect genet­ics call us to love more, not less, just as imper­fect human beings call us to love them more.

Iceland abortions, compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston

“They used to say that a child conceived in love has a greater chance of happiness. They don’t say that anymore.”

-Vincent (Gattaca, 1997)

This week in the commissary I passed a mother and daughter in the frozen seafood section. Her daughter was probably 9, and by her facial structure I guessed she had Down Syndrome. I made sure to smile at her and wave (if I hadn’t had three kids in tow, I would have stopped to chat). You would think it normal to smile at people, but CBS reminded us that kids like the one I passed by are being murdered at an extraordinary rate.

Sadly, I’m not shocked at all. Before my daughter Rebecca was born, the doctors first detected a heart defect, and Yale offered to genetically screen her. We politely declined. Even with just a heart defect (at the time, they thought it was Ebstein’s Anomaly), the doctor, a top guy in his field, kept saying things like “…if you decide to keep the pregnancy.” I really liked the guy, but every time he said something like this, it sent a chill down my spine.

All children require their parents to sacrifice. You give up your freedom to have kids. Raising them is tough. Kids with serious disabilities are even tougher. While that challenge is hard, it is designed to make you tougher. Before Rebecca came, I couldn’t fathom a life with a kid with Down Syndrome. That was something that happened to other people. Her coming into this world made me have to rise to the occasion and become a better person.

Still people. Not choices.

Are kids with Down Syndrome more work? Yup. But so are kids with autism. And heart defects. And missing fingers. We act like these defects are reasons to end their lives, because they will make it difficult for those of us “normal” people. But are the “normal” people that much better? Last I checked, “normal” people cause most of the murders, rapes, theft and other crimes in the world. I don’t see people with Down Syndrome murdering others at some astronomical rate.

More importantly, to think that we are somehow not flawed is ludicrous. How is it not flawed to murder an innocent child? How can we claim to be so much more enlightened, yet we use science to separate people into boxes called “useful to society” and “trash?” And who determines the trash bin? We’ve had plenty of “genetically flawed” people make important contributions to our society.

An older sci-fi flick, the 1997 film “Gattaca,” seems to be a future prediction. The film follows a man who was conceived naturally, but his genetics predicted he wouldn’t live past 30. He manages to not only live past that age, but sneak into the space program, where he evades genetic scrutiny and eventually travels to Titan. The movie also shows plenty of other “genetically perfect” people who have either mental health issues or commit crimes.

Gattaca and Down Syndrome remind us that in our humanity we are not perfect, and that is OK. We’re not called to be genetically perfect, we’re called to live our lives as well as we can. Imperfect genetics call us to love more, not less, just as imperfect human beings call us to love them more.