We are at an interesting point in human history. And by interesting I mean “scary as hell.”
Actor and activist John Franklin Stephens spoke at the United Nations on March 15 and give a powerful speech on behalf of those with Down syndrome. For more than two decades, we’ve had an effective test to determine the likelihood of Down Syndrome at the neo-natal level. And armed with this information, a depressingly-large number of people think this is an acceptable pretense to abort a fetus. Indeed, Iceland claims to have “eliminated” Down Syndrome by means of abortion. I have made my views on this line of thinking clear in another article and won’t re-visit them here.
Stephens reminded the diplomats that he was an individual who should be seen “as a human being, not a birth defect.” People like him, he said, need not be “eradicated” or “cured” but rather loved, valued, educated, and sometimes helped.”
Stephens then addressed the elephant in the room, saying the world’s Down populations are also the “canary in the eugenics coal mine,” an opportunity to reflect on how far societies are willing to go to exterminate so-called undesirable populations.
So what we basically have here is a sentient human being going before a World Governing Council and pleading with leaders not to eradicate others like him before they can be born. If you were writing a futuristic novel depicting a dystopian world, and this was your climactic scene—it would be rejected as too formulaic. I don’t think people realize how horrifying it is that he would have to make such a plea.
Stephens closed with this gem.
“I truly believe a world without people like me will be a poorer world, a colder world, a less happy world,”
You are absolutely right, Mr. Stephens. I would add “hellish,” given the means by which a world without people like you would be achieved.
As the father of a special needs child (Autism) I can tell you the challenges and joys of raising Charlie have made me more of a man than I would have been otherwise. It has also made me smarter, wiser, more patient and LOTS more benevolent. As a result of those changes in me, *I* can now be a more positive force in the world than I would have been without my wonderful son. And it is my hope that the positive ripple effects his existence has already created will be amplified and continue reverberating until the end of time.
“Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain. But I’d had to miss, The Dance.”