Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Open Letter to Michael Laws and all the Eugenicists for That Matter

In response to this opinion piece, I offer my own.

Dear Mr. Laws,

Good evening. I hope your week is going well. I have read a few things on you, so I hope you don't mind if I inquire about your daughter. I read she had battled cancer. I can't imagine. I hope your family has recovered and all are in good health.

I write to you, Mr. Laws, in response to that tidy little piece regarding needing breeding licenses and preventing parents from birthing children without the proper qualifications. Quite the rational piece, congrats on that. Of course I object to the piece, given that I am the last of eight children and my mother was told that I'd be "less than perfect" by the by-all-accounts, very bright doctors. Well, I was a practically perfect baby, if I say so myself. No sob story there, just one in a long line of people who defied the odds. Which brings us to my daughter.

Our fifth child, her name is Mariana, has Down syndrome. You read that right, fifth child. I know, we are rather greedy when it comes to love and children. I guess it's in my DNA. Anyway, back to Mariana. She is not in any way, shape or form, a sob story. She is a delight, and has been from day one. We now have kids from all over the talent spectrum. Mariana's special talent is getting all of us out from our navel gazing ways and experience real joy in simple things. Real joy.

I can practically hear you say, "Well, that's nice dear, what's your point?" Well, I suppose a Very Smart man like you doesn't believe in God, so I suppose you look at people in terms of utility. Well, did you know that happy people are more productive? It's true! If you doubt it I can show you four rather unwilling workers who have a whole new outlook on work since their baby sister came into the picture! The older girls see how much work it takes for Mae (we call her that sometimes) to learn a new skill, and their attitudes about their own responsibilities has a brand new tone. And then there is Molly, the World's Most Unmotivated Human. This is a child who did not walk until 15 months or talk until 17 months. Do you know what her first, and I do mean first, words were? "No mine!" spoken to the dog who dared to sniff her snack. Well sir, Molly has blossomed under Mae's influence. She loves to teach her baby sister new things, show off her reading skills to her and even help out in other ways around the house. This is a child who has learned that finding joy in what you can do is a gift.

And then there is Paul. Admittedly, I didn't know much about boys when I had him. Number four, or The Crown Prince, as I refer to him, had me scared. I will admit that I breathed a sigh of relief to find out Mariana was a girl. Paul is rough-and-tumble with the added bonus of highly intelligent. It's not as nice as it sounds. But oh! How Mae has brought out the softer side of this young bruiser. I can not tell you how civilized Paul has become just because, in that strange instinctive way, he can tell she needs extra care. It's no exaggeration that this boy came out rough-and-ready and Mae turned him into Mr. Protector in a snap. All those tough-boy skills go right into guarding and guiding this little one.

I don't mean to make our child sound like a mascot of any sort. She's a lovely person who exceeds expectation. However, what she does is in no way indicative of her value. Her value is in her being. It is in her very existence that six other human beings, resourceful and useful human beings as defined by utilitarian views, are even more so because of her. In fact, she forces us to look at our flaws and tackle them and wrestle them and strengthen them. This wouldn't have happened otherwise, of this I can be sure.

So that's our story, not a sad one in the least, I'd say. We have a nice home, our kids go to a private school, I'm able to stay home too. We are very good citizens. Well, except for that nasty fact that we won't ever, and I mean ever, sterilize our daughter.

Does that frighten you? Do you think the state should force it? By what you wrote, you do. By what you wrote, we are uncaring, irresponsible idiots. By what you wrote, we ourselves should be sterilized!

Mr. Laws, sterilizing people is no way to solve a problem. Oh, sure, it's much easier that way. Then you can pretend that teaching a person with intellectual disabilities responsibility isn't as important. Or how about those wretched brain damaged people who got married and had babies and had the nerve to want housing help? If only someone did an invasive procedure against their will and damaged there bodies for the sake of saving the tax payers some cash! Better yet, their parents, who did not have the wherewithal to sterilize their children, should have been sterilized!

Sorry Mr. Laws, it won't solve the problem. The problem, sir, is that the more sterile our charity gets, the less charitable it is. It might be nice and tidy to let the government handle all that nasty business of caring for the poor, but soon enough people will resent those the government supports and suggest treating humans like animals. Spay and neuter your pets...and welfare recipients!

Mr. Laws, I suggest it's time to learn from my children and get in there and start actually caring. Learn to love someone who is less fortunate than you, less intelligent, less capable. Learn how to take pride in your work and joy in sharing your talents with those who can benefit the most from those talents. You may worry less about who is allowed to have children and worry more how many babies you'll get to cherish.

Barbara Fryman
Mom of 5...so far

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On Divine Mercy

Well, I did something really dumb. It's called the Divine Mercy novena. It is based on a vision that St. Faustina had of Jesus where He implored her to spread the truth of His great mercy. This all sound really great when seeking mercy. Unfortunately, praying the words "Have mercy on us and the whole world." starts to take root in one's heart, and before you know it there is a confrontation between what you are praying for and the times in your life where you are not merciful.

It starts great. Images of Jesus' love and forgiveness pouring out upon you invade your imagination. You feel God's forgiveness, you embrace it, you are grateful and excited to share it with the world.

A few days in you see the Aurora theater murderer's face on TV and you immediately recognize that he was an infant once. God made him, loves him, and wants him back. Out of compassion for God you pray for him even though it makes your stomach turn. Later, you might read an argument about marriage on Facebook, and regardless of your views you acknowledge the ugliness and disgust on both sides is unacceptable, so you pray for healing. You feel so loving and merciful. You foolishly pray that God increase your ability to love mercifully.

Later in the novena the real tragedy occurs. That Person (we all have at least one) shows up. You get the fiftieth email "inviting" you to volunteer -with the implied "for once". He brags about his boat and berates you that you also need to get a boat. You run into her and are held hostage by the list of fabulous things at which her children are excelling. You are confronted by someone who wants to give you family planning advice because you mistakenly said that your husband wants to name a baby after the pope. (Nothing gets a girl to ovulate like the words, "Don't you dare let him get you pregnant!")*

You get the point. That Person is the reason Jesus had to say the words, "Love your neighbor." Anyone can love their enemy if they never have to see the person face-to-face. Anyone can theoretically love -and forgive- Pontious Pilate. But can you forgive your brother-in-law for his insistence on talking exclusively about his toe nail fungus? Can you refrain from gossiping about the PTA president and her stupid idea that everyone has 60 hrs a week to "donate" to the school? Can you be cheerful to the old neighbor who comes over when you are working in the yard, starts a conversation with "Hot/Cold/Rainy enough for ya?" and then gives you a list of the HOA rules your kids are breaking by using sidewalk chalk? Can you? Can I? Can anyone?

For me, and it seems a lot of parents of children with disabilities, That Person is usually someone well meaning, yet insensitive. Comment after comment is made about how "functional" Mae might be, while I try to keep from making a snarky comment that we'll manage to love her despite her dysfunction. Comment after comment is made on the hope that she'll be skinny or pretty or tall. Comment after comment is made on how heroic we are for loving her. All of it making me want to explode, because, dear God this is my baby! Nothing she does or doesn't do, is or isn't will change the fact that I love her. I love all of her. She matters! She'll always matter, as is the case with each of my children. So. Shut. UP!

But a small, forceful voice pulls me back from that. The knowledge that I want what I am not willing to give in those moments hits like a Mac Truck.


How many people have had to forgive my insensitivity? How acquainted am I with the taste of my own foot? How can I ask for mercy when I just want to sooth my indignation with fiery words and nasty looks?

Yes, I started this chaplet seeking mercy and forgiveness and to be more fully in communion with Christ. He showed me that I have to be merciful to achieve that communion. God help me, I'm going to try. In the mean time, be merciful Oh Lord, I am a jerk.

* Ugh, yes, this did in fact happen. I just. can't. even. Truthfully, I blacked out and have no idea how I responded. This person is not even someone I know, she only knew I have 5 and Mariana has Down syndrome. The forgiveness angle on this one is killing me!