Intrinsic Good

On March 20, 2012, in Commentary, Julia's Journey, Life, Personal, by Chris

There was a lot to be thankful for today. It’s the first day of Spring after the mildest Winter on record, Detroit had an 80 degree day in March, Julia celebrated her eighteen month birthday and I have the evening off!

For all of those great things, I am thankful. But I’m also finding myself pensive, a little crabby, and a little weepy – simply not knowing what to do with something that’s come to my attention. The only thing I’m sure of is that I cannot remain silent. And the risk for you, dear reader, is that even as I start this post, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to turn it around into something even remotely upbeat.

You might have seen the small seismic “ping” over social media a couple of weeks ago. It spoke of a paper from a mainstream academic journal making a philosophical case for (are you ready?) killing a newborn when its care would be an “unbearable burden” on the family or society as a whole.

I’ll let you sit with that for a minute.

I’ll also tell you that I am shifting in my seat as I write this knowing that, in your incredulity, you read that last paragraph more than once hoping it would come out different. Yep, their proposition would include and perhaps even single out children with special needs for infanticide. It would put yet another set of crosshairs on kids like Julia.

Believe it or not, when I saw the link to that article come up, I did what a lot of us do. I read the link description, scanned through some of the uniformly acidic comments of justified indignation, shook my head and moved on. And I pretty much forgot about it.

But when a friend of mine gave me a printout of the actual article about a week later, I got the horrible feeling that I wasn’t done with this. I couldn’t simply sit in my ignorance on the sidelines anymore. I would have to actually read it and take full responsibility for my revulsion. Even in situations where you know you are going to hate every minute of it, you can’t have any integrity in saying, “I disagree” without being able to say, “I understand.” So I read it. More than once.

Turns out the article was peer reviewed according to standards of the journal that published it. And the sad reality is that its propositions are not all that new or groundbreaking. The concept of infanticide is not a new one; nor is it outdated in its practice in some parts of the world. I already knew that and up to this moment have done very little.

I wanted to do due diligence and really hear more of the dissent and support for the article, so I clicked on the journal editor’s statement in defense of its publication and his indignation over multiple death threats that the paper’s authors had received. I got less than halfway through the comments by people way smarter than I (many of them really articulate) when I got to the heart of the matter – at least for me:

I’m just a dad who is often in way over his head when it comes to actually being a dad. But in my moments of clarity, I see intrinsic, inestimable worth and potential in my little girl.

And it scares me a little bit that some others don’t. It frightens me that there is some faction in the global community that could see their way clear to assign value to one over another because of the perceived burden their life would put on others.

I’ve never talked about this publicly, but reading the article took me back to the moment almost two years ago that a doctor told us about Julia’s heart defect and asked if we even wanted to continue with prenatal testing. As soon as we found out that her life was not going to be typical, there was an overt presupposition on the part of many on the medical team that we would opt our kid out of living the life that God had laid out for her.

And I thank Him. Every day. That we didn’t make that unthinkable choice. Because Julia Paige Cook in her brief time on this planet has helped others know joy.

But at the same time, I cling to the conviction that human life – in all of its inconvenience – is intrinsically and uniquely good. And even as I am repulsed at the propositions put forward by the writers of the article, I simply cannot join the chorus of shrill voices of opposition who have gone as far as to threaten those same writers’ lives in order to quiet their voices.

I have to choose (moment by excruciating moment, sometimes) to live in the tension that if there is room for dialogue, then we should keep talking. Even when the space between our convictions feels so vast, Love demands that we keep striving to find peaceful common ground for as long as possible – and “possible” is way, way longer that we are often comfortable with.

Because Love died for those two writers as well.

But at the same time, we don’t have to simply sit by and let this debate go on in the rarified air of philosophical academia. I (and you, if you’ll join me) have a cool opportunity before us:

One of the preeminent organizations for Down Syndrome, the Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation, has a primary goal of driving research to improve the learning, memory and speech of people with Down Syndrome by fifteen percent. It’s called the plus15 Campaign and it could make all the difference for the long term independence and quality of life for kids like Julia.

Wednesday, March 21st is World Down Syndrome Awareness Day. We could really make a dent in the arguments of the “opposition” if we skipped a lunch this week and gave fifteen bucks to the plus15 Campaign and asked fifteen friends to do the same. And if you do it on Wednesday, the DSRTF has made a 3 to 1 match available to turn your fifteen bucks into sixty! Go ahead and check out their Facebook page as well.

I’ve not often been one to leverage my friends for a cause, but I have way too much skin in the game to let this one go by. And I simply cannot let her small and as yet unformed voice be drowned out.

Thanks for listening.

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8 Responses to Intrinsic Good

  1. Bill says:

    God bless you and your family Chris. The word Joy in your post hit me the hardest, I have been a recipient of that Joy through the fears and the happiness that you so eloquently put in to words. I am blessed to have found your pages and I really enjoy keeping up with you, Jocelyn, and Julia. Keep up the good work and I’ll be praying for you all.

  2. Jessica Tolonen says:

    I cannot tell you how many times (because it was way too many) our doctors asked us if we wanted to terminate because of the downs. I never understood why but after talking with Paulette form the DSG she explained that it was just their ignorance and that they needed to be educated. Having Trisomy 21 is not a death sentence.

    It sounds like Julia is doing well and our Audrey (almost 2) has amazed everyone with her patience and her development rate. She is a joy to be around and a blessing to myself, Jim and the rest of our family and friends.

    We will definitely be donating to the “Plus 15 Campaign” today and I will spread the word.

    God Bless,

    Jessica Tolonen

  3. Anna says:

    Beautiful Chris, and beautiful daughter too!

    Love and Blessings,


  4. God is using you in such amazing ways Chris. I always love your posts, and pictures of your family.

    God Bless!

  5. JimmyH says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart, Chris… you have blessed me today.

    I look forward to coffees & lunches with you and to our families (especially our beautiful daughters) spending time together after we move back this summer!

  6. Jared says:

    Chris, thanks for your post today. It was timely for me!

  7. Linnea Boese says:

    My heart is with you, and I agree that the time has come to do more that just shake our heads in horror and dismiss these kinds of proposals. But those who threaten death to those holding those views are falling into the same kind of error: that of proposing death for those who are a burden to others. I love what you said: “Love died” for them, too. I have several friends with Down Syndrome children. They would all say that there have been lots of challenges, lots of hard times, but that they have loved having these special kids. God bless you! And I hope that some day I get to meet your precious little one.

  8. Karen says:

    Really appreciate how you allowed the love and compassion you have personally experienced from God impact how you ultimately framed the proposal and the authors’ perspective. Thanks for taking a stand in such a Godly way, my friend.

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