I wasn't sure whether or not to post on this, but I have some thoughts on Obama's Special Olympics gaffe, and I'd like to get them out.
First, a disclaimer. I completely believe in free speech. I am completely against political correctness. I don't think we should all second guess ourselves and watch what we say for fear of offending someone. For instance, I think people are far too scared to criticize some cultures because they may be labelled racist. But some cultures are bad, if not downright evil in some respects, and if we ignore things like Islamic honor killings or child marriage, we're doing a disservice to everyone.
But the reason that I dislike political correctness is that it distorts truth. It makes people watch what they say--EVEN IF IT IS THE TRUTH--so they don't offend. The key here is to avoid offense, not to speak the truth.
I'm in favour of truth, regardless of whether it causes offense (though, of course, we should also be tactful).
But that doesn't mean I'm in favour of causing offense if there's no truth behind it. Saying racist things against African Americans just because they're African Americans is wrong and should never be done. Saying that the African American community has an issue with illegitimacy should be done, in the proper context. Do you see the difference?
By the way, I think my culture has issues, too, primarily around lack of compassion, lack of fortitude in speaking up against moral relativism, and lack of commitment to our families. So we've all got problems.
Some are saying right now that Obama's comment that he bowls as badly as the Special Olympics was stupid, but nothing to get upset about. We should just leave it.
I don't agree. Though I'm not politically correct, I hope I don't go around gratuitously taking slaps at people just to make myself look better. And what he was saying had nothing to do with truth, and everything to do with offense. To cause offense for no reason except to boost your own ego isn't just stupid. It reflects a fundamental character flaw.
Now maybe he was just making a joke and it fell flat. We all make stupid jokes sometimes. But I don't think I've ever joked about the Special Olympics.
Especially not since 1996. Here's a picture of me with someone very dear to me. This was taken the night before my son Christopher had open heart surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery wasn't successful, and he died five days later. Christopher had Down Syndrome.
When we first found out, while I was still pregnant, it seemed like everyone was pressuring us to abort, especially the doctors. (You can read the story here). But we didn't.
It wasn't that I was happy about the Down Syndrome. I was devastated. What if my son could never read? Would I have to care for him the rest of my life? Would he ever get married?
But after a few days of panic, we began to read more and more materials about Down's. We joined listservs of Down Syndrome parents. And I became excited. I was going to be the best mom he could have!
I only had that chance for a month on this side of heaven. The rest of my relationship with him will have to wait until we're reunited. But so many people plot against these little blessings. The doctors didn't want him to be born. Many in my family didn't want him born. Keith's colleagues didn't want him born. And Obama thinks he's the subject of a joke.
What are we becoming when we start making jokes about the least of these? We're becoming cruel, heartless, and proud. It seems to me I remember Someone else saying something quite different about those who are maybe a little more helpless among us. He said, "whoever does this to the least of these my brothers does it to Me." So when Obama said that about the Special Olympics, he wasn't just talking about those with Down's. I know that sounds harsh, but that's what I think.
Did Obama intend to insult those with Down's? Of course not. Did he intend to insult those with other disabilities who compete in the Special Olympics? No, I don't think he did. But the point is he made that comment without thinking. I would never do such a thing, anymore than I would make fun of Obama because he's black. Such things don't register with me, as I don't think they do with the majority of good-hearted folk.
We live in a culture which denigrates the disabled without even thinking about it. When we realize what we do, of course we apologize, but the point is that we don't realize it. It's become so commonplace that it just slips out. And what does that say about us?
That's why I don't think it really matters whether he intended it or not. I don't think it matters whether he apologized (though I'm glad he did). And I do hope that he's learned to think a little bit more about those who are disabled.
But if we truly valued the disabled, such slips wouldn't happen. Canada really doesn't have the racist history that the United States does, and so I don't hear racist jokes. I really don't. We trained ourselves not to make them, because racism just isn't acceptable. So surely we can train ourselves not to make jokes about the disabled, either.
If we truly valued those with Down's, the way Jesus does, we won't make such jokes. Perhaps I'm taking this too personally because I still miss my son, but that's just the way I see it.
By the way, at the same time as I was learning about his gaffe, I was putting together a video trailer for my book, How Big Is Your Umbrella, which relates Christopher's story. I posted it the other day, but here it is again:
About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.