Happy birthday tomorrow to George Will and to son Jon, about whom the father writes a wonderful and instructive tribute today. An excerpt:
This era has coincided, not just coincidentally, with the full, garish flowering of the baby boomers’ vast sense of entitlement, which encompasses an entitlement to exemption from nature’s mishaps, and to a perfect baby. So today science enables what the ethos ratifies, the choice of killing children with Down syndrome before birth. That is what happens to 90 percent of those whose parents receive a Down syndrome diagnosis through prenatal testing.
Which is unfortunate, and not just for them. Judging by Jon, the world would be improved by more people with Down syndrome, who are quite nice, as humans go. It is said we are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and remain greedy. People with Down syndrome must remain brave in order to navigate society’s complexities. They have no choice but to be trusting because, with limited understanding, and limited abilities to communicate misunderstanding, they, like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” always depend on the kindness of strangers. Judging by Jon’s experience, they almost always receive it.
Less than a month ago I wrote about similar issues here at The American Spectator, mostly about a book by Amy Julia Becker called A Good and Perfect Gift, about her child with Down syndrome. Excerpts:
What is striking is how often even the most well-meaning of Becker’s acquaintances say things about Penny that made Penny sound like a terrible burden rather than a joy. Especially frustrating were the times medical professionals seemed to assume that a baby with Down would be a baby not worth having. They also, rather insistently, pressured Becker to have various forms of pre-natal testing when she again became pregnant. Becker’s observations tracked closely with what Santorum said in a famously contentiousinterview with the clueless Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation.
Here’s what Santorum said: “We’re talking about specifically prenatal testing and specifically amniocentesis, which is a…procedure that creates a risk of miscarriage when you have it and is done for the purpose of identifying maladies of a child in the womb, which in many cases, in fact, most cases, physicians recommend, particularly if there’s a problem, recommend abortion.”….
Pre-echoing Will, there was this:
And here is Amy Julia Becker: “Every day I become more and more clear that Penny is not a ‘Downs kid.’ Penny is a child with wonderful and fascinating aspects to her personality. Penny is a child who knows and loves her family, who has a big vocabulary and loves books, who blows kisses to anyone who says hello, who is learning to climb stairs, and, oh, yes, Penny is also a child who has Down syndrome.”
This is what is missing from so much cultural commentary today– not just about children born with maladies, but in so many aspects of life — what is missing from the way so many of us look at the world: What is missing is the sense of individuals as individuals, not as part of some larger group category….
We have individual worth as human beings. We have individual worth as children of other men and women who themselves are individuals. We have individual worth, mostly, as children of God. That status, alone, is a good and perfect gift.
George and Jon Will, and Amy Julia Becker and daughter Penny, open our eyes to what is real, and good, and important. Bless them. And please do read Will’s whole column, linked in the opening paragraph above.