Recently, I was browsing my facebook news feed ( I know, I really need to stay off of facebook) when I came across a story that one of my family members had left a comment on. The story was about a married couple who had just given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. The reason the story was newsworthy was because the mother has down syndrome and the father has a form of mental retardation. The baby was born with no deficits. This to me was a very heartwarming story that made me smile and gave me goose bumps.
Then I saw the comment that my family member had left, and my heart sunk and my stomach rolled over. My family member was apparently outraged by the fact that these two people were “allowed” to have a child and stated his belief that persons with disabilities should be “sterilized”, at birth, so that their “defective genes couldn’t be passed on.” He expressed his concern for the child, imagining them growing up being teased and tormented. Then my family member declared that the parents should be deemed unfit and that the child should be removed from the home because “being in foster care would be better than being raised by two retarded parents”. I was shocked to read these words from a young man whom I had known since he was a boy. I am sure that he was not raised under this type of thinking. Tears welled in my eyes and I felt compelled to reply to his outrageous comment. I expressed to him my shock and disappointment, how I felt that his words were cruel and hateful and ugly. I carried around that sick feeling in my stomach for the rest of the day. I waited to see if my family member had anything to say in return, he did not.
Why did his words offend me so deeply and effectively break my heart? Maybe because I am a mother of a child who was born too soon, a child who narrowly escaped very serious deficits related to his premature birth. Maybe because I am a mother, and I know how deeply those words would cut me if they were directed at my family. The very idea of someone wanting to prevent me from being a mother because of something biologically out of my control is horrifying. I understand that my family member is a young single man, with very limited knowledge and experience in such matters, but I do not feel that excuses his words. I have what I refer to as, “zero tolerance for this type of thinking.” I believe that the rationalizations he made were akin to that of the Nazis. It is not his place to judge this family, their life, or their love. Is it my place to judge him for his remarks? absolutely.