Here is an article by a mom who was in a supermarket with her child. The little guy, the author's son, has Down syndrome. A cashier sees the boy in the stroller and "[spits], in a poison whisper," these inexcusable words:
“I bet you wish you had known before he came out. You know they have a test for that now…”
The test she is referring to, of course, is amniocentesis and/or a triple screen blood test, which were offered to my wife and me with our two sons and which we turned down because we would never have aborted because of a chance of Down syndrome. (The results of the blood test, by the way, are not even 100% reliable, so there is a chance of aborting a "normal" child, too.)
The mother responds in a way that shows she has tons more self-control than I could have had in a similar situation. She uses dark humor to point out that, regardless of the tests, she would never have aborted her son. I would not have been either as tactful or as polite in my response.
I don't want to criticize this mother, at all. But I do feel that her conclusion is a result of the shifts in thinking that I think are creating a society of people who blame conditions for for all actions and that uses those conditions as a kind of absolution for any transgression. The mother says:
"I sometimes forget that it’s not their fault. They just don’t know."
Don't know what? That every child, no matter his mental and physical limitations, is just as much a valid life form as another? That this child is more than his outward label as a "Down's kid" (which is really the author's central point)? What kind of a person needs to know more than the fact that this living, breathing, beautiful little boy deserves respect and that so does his mom?
It is the fault of an individual if he or she chooses to utter such a cold, heartless, inconsiderate statement. This has nothing to do with a lack of "awareness." This is not about someone not understanding how lovable and wonderful a Down syndrome child can be. This cashier was perfectly aware that the little boy was different and she chose to say something that no human being has a right to say to another; something that is nothing but insensitive and that is a rude insinuation into the private life of another.
The cashier should have been reported to her manager as readily as she would have been if she had cursed at a customer or thrown a racial slur at her. The cashier should be fired. She is old enough to work in a store, so she is old enough to understand basic human courtesy. Her statement was unequivocally cruel. We're not allowed to be cruel in civilized society -- or shouldn't be.
What kind of a person feels the right to say something like that to a mother? I'll tell you: someone who lives in a world in which people label every transgression as the fault of the collective population. Someone who feels the right to express her thoughts comes with absolutely no conditions because the person most entitled to rights is herself.
The mom who wrote this intelligent, witty and in better control, as I said, of her reactions than I would have been in the same situation. (In fact, her response was brilliantly crafted.) I commend her for that. But I just think she is too kind.
No campaign for social awareness can replace a foundation of simple human courtesy. There is only one person to blame for that cashier's horrible and insensitive comment: that cashier. If she had punched this mom in the nose, would it have been because the cashier just didn't understand the dangers it posed to the facial bones? (A silly comparison...or, not?)
Let's not keep misinterpreting the value of understanding motivations as an excuse for irresponsible actions. I cannot excuse a person for a statement like that cashier made. It is her fault and no one else's. She is a human who is supposed to filter her own statements to others.
Even Jesus trashed the merchant's carts in the Temple when he had had enough. What better example of tolerance ever existed than Jesus? The man had had enough.
Everything is not okay. Everything is not excusable. Forgivable, yes. Excusable, no.