Like a lot of folks I had a brief interest in Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism when I was younger. And like a lot of folks, I recognized it as completely bankrupt when I left adolescence. It should come as no surprise that teenagers are fond of Objectivism. It is a philosophy that encourages adherents to act as though they are the center of the universe, a behavior which most (not all, but most) teenagers have already mastered. However, spend any time in the blogosphere and you are likely to encounter adults who haven’t quite put away this particular childish thing yet. Their commitment to it is absolute, regardless of its precarious balance at the top of a very slippery slope.
I recently wrote a couple of posts describing my concerns about how Sarah Palin’s youngest son, who has Down Syndrome (DS), was becoming a political issue; and how the responses of various groups of people to that issue revealed some disturbing attitudes in our society about persons with DS, mental retardation (MR), or any developmental disability.
However, few things are more disturbing than a couple of posts by a pair of (you guessed it) objectivists who are appalled, appalled I say, at the nerve of any mother who dares to not abort her defective spawn:
Like many, I am troubled by the implications of Alaska governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s decision to knowingly give birth to a child disabled with Down syndrome. Given that Palin’s decision is being celebrated in some quarters, it is crucial to reaffirm the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome (or by extension, any unborn fetus)-a freedom that anti-abortion advocates seek to deny.
A parent has a moral obligation to provide for his or her children until these children are equipped to provide for themselves. Because a person afflicted with Down syndrome is only capable of being marginally productive (if at all) and requires constant care and supervision, unless a parent enjoys the wealth to provide for the lifetime of assistance that their child will require, they are essentially stranding the cost of their child’s life upon others.
You read him right – because a person with DS might be less productive than the rest of us, we should just go ahead and abort them. Because a person’s worth is tied up solely in his/her productivity.
Disregarding the moral vapidity of such a notion, the author’s conclusion about the potential productivity of an individual with DS is completely, demonstrably false. But let’s take it down to a personal level: imagine people debating your right to exist; imagine people writing articles and blog posts about how your mother should have aborted you due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. What do you suppose it is like for someone with DS to hear or read these things?
The second article suggests that people who take issue with terminating DS babies are part of a cult that worships retardation. It’s fairly short so I have reposted it in its entirety below:
I wish Sarah Palin’s youngest son Trig — afflicted with Down’s Syndrome — the best life possible to him. Yet based on my experience working with a man with Down’s Syndrome in a high school job at a movie theater, I regard his life as inherently tragic and likely quite miserable. I also wholeheartedly support the vast majority of women who choose to abort a Down’s Syndrome fetus rather than saddle themselves with a perpetually dependent child.
Most of all, however, I’m disgusted by the the worship of retardationexhibited by Christians in response to Trig’s rise to national prominence, as in this National Review article by Michael Franc:
“Children with special needs,” Gov. Sarah Palin said during her acceptance speech at the Republican convention, “inspire a special love.” As someone who grew up alongside a brother with Down Syndrome, I can attest to that observation.
But these special children, and the special adults they grow up to be, inspire something else of equal importance. When these little, unexpected ambassadors of God enter our lives, they offer us the opportunity to rise to that greatest of all challenges – to treat others as we would want to be treated. Their presence, in short, elevates all of us.
That’s a good expression of the mind-set of so many of today’s devout Christians. They are not content to limit reason to make room for faith. They go further: they laud retardation as a virtue. In the process, they must — and do — disparage normal human intelligence as a vice.
Such people are not motivated by a soft heart. If they were, they would adamantly defend abortion as a moral means of freeing parents from the prospect of endless sacrifice to a retarded child. They would regard abortion as a moral way to prevent the infliction of a miserable, degraded life on the person that will emerge from the womb. Instead, they want to create more mentally defective and perpetually dependent children by outlawing abortion.
The people who worship retardation reject human reason as a value. They’re as anti-man as the deep ecologists who regard mankind as a cancer on the earth.
Frankly, one wonders why such people don’t lobotomize themselves, if retardation is such a boon to their fellow man.
She wishes Trig well, but thinks he should have never been born. I couldn’t make this crap up.
Does placing value on a life constitute “worship” of that life? Furthermore, does she really think that only people of faith have a problem with aborting DS babies? One need not be religious to recognize that children are more than fashion accessories for their parents; nobody is entitled to a perfect little clone of himself/herself. It’s not as though people set out to create children with DS or MR; those who knowingly bring children with these conditions into the world are simply playing the hand that they were dealt. How can anyone fault them for that? It takes a yard of courage to do what they do.
The author of the above piece speaks from the weighty depths of her experience; having worked with one person who had Down Syndrome in high school she speculates that his life was “inherently tragic and likely quite miserable.” Perhaps she is right. But if his life was filled with tragedy and misery, it probably wasn’t because of his condition. Rather, it was because the world is too full of people like the author, who would judge his life to be of no value at all simply because he lost a roll of the genetic dice.
As I tried to say before-people with Down Syndrome and mental retardation are neither saint nor savage, angel nor monster, martyr nor victim. They are as varied and unpredictable as the rest of us. If you and I don’t want to be judged by our chromosomes, we need to extend that courtesy, that fundamental decency, to everyone else; including those who are just a little bit different.