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Defending the Weak and the Powerless

Babies are beautiful. And lovely. And life-giving. Every human is. Especially people with diagnoses like Down Syndrome.

Caitlynn Clawson

This is Caitlynn. She is the daughter of my friend Sarah. Can’t you just tell from the picture how much fun she is having?

She is worth standing up for, worth protecting. She is lovely and lovable!

I want to be a woman who stands up for beautiful people like Caitlynn.

I’m not sure why we’re still debating the issue of abortion nationally. Especially in cases of the in-utero diagnosis of a disability. We would blush if we saw the way people with disabilities had been treated only 40 years ago. People with disabilities have so many more advantages than they once did. This is a great triumph!

So please tell me why it’s okay to discriminate against an unborn child when he is in the womb just because of the number of chromosomes he possesses? We all know that the ‘quality of life’ argument is–pardon my french–a pile of poo.

Hard does not mean life isn’t worth living.

Life is hard even without a disability. But it’s rich and deep and beautiful. You know that. So why let it be legal for people to claim that a certain group of people are better off never being born? That is a betrayal of the liberal agenda as I have heard it expressed…that everyone is worth something, and that’s why we should fight for the weak and powerless.

I think in the American Christian population, conservatives and liberals alike have some notion of the dignity of the person.

Conservatives tend toward legislation that protects and provides for the unborn child, claiming the dignity of a human even as it’s medically classified as a fetus. She has a heartbeat, fingernails, genetic uniqueness, and the image of God stamped on her little person. This little person deserves the chance to live.

Liberals tend toward legislation that protects and provides for the young child, particularly like the one encountered in poor and minority communities. She probably is the child of a single mother, who may work or not. This beautiful, unique little girl may live a hard life as she faces the consequences of decisions that were not her own. But it’s really important to shore up the things her parents can’t provide for her,  necessities like adequate and healthy food, health insurance, and extra help in school.

It would be both ridiculous and hypocritical to deny protection and provision under the law to either of these. Even and especially if they are found to have a chromosomal abundance like Down Syndrome—how is it have we bought into the lie that it would be better to get rid of these children before they make their debut on the earth?

Money and responsibility.

Seriously? Seriously. The debate between conservatives and liberals on their differences in protecting the weak and powerless boils down to financial responsibility.

It’s expensive to have a full-term pregnancy…how will I pay for the things my child needs?

It’s expensive to pay for government aid to poor children…how will we balance the budget if women keep having children out of wedlock and expect the government to foot the bill?

We refuse to move past these issues because if we surrender one part of our agendas, we think it will all go down in flames. The conservatives won’t support government programming because of the fiscal risk and the liberals won’t support protection of children in the womb because it might upset the fine balance of powers by other liberal causes like gay marriage and women’s rights.

BUT WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THIS: if we refuse to protect the weak and powerless, our nation is doomed.

I know that I’m not the first to say this…but I don’t know who said it first:

A nation is only a great as the way it treats its weakest members.

Ah, I have found it.

Gandhi said it this way: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

Pope John Paul II says it even more explicitly: “A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying.”

And if we refrain from acting on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, we are doomed. Doomed to enslavement by what money can buy. But we were not created for money’s sake. It is a tool in our hands. And not the only tool.

So how do we, whether conservative or liberal, defend the weakest and the powerless?

For starters, we share life with them. Then it can’t be about political agenda. Yes, man is a political animal. But when separated from true human relationships, politics becomes a monster, pushing for power instead of the protection and empowerment of the weak.

Conservatives: how many of you are out in your communities, making relationships with at-risk pregnant mothers and helping them build a network of support so that government assistance is not the only thing they have to lean on?

Liberals: how many of you are spending time with families with disabled children, learning the joy they have to share and the life lessons they have to teach us?

Dear liberal friends, for the love of all that is HOLY—you, my friends, who are so able to grasp deeply the beauty and lovely in life…like the art and music featured on NPR, the national art galleries, the public parks and libraries…HOW can you dare to say that a disabled child cannot enjoy these things and derive great delight from a life that appears different but beautiful still? Please be consistent in your narrative and STAND UP for these children, those whom so many with a liberal agenda want to see eliminated from the gene pool!

Conservatives, you don’t get off the hook either. You’re about personal responsibility, right? Drink your own medicine. Realize that you are not merely responsible for the children you have spawned but also those in your community. No, not to give into their every whim, but to be involved in their lives. Remember when your best friend’s father struck fear into your heart? And how you resent the kids on your block for not feeling the same about you when they skateboard past without acknowledging you or walk by and ignore you as their pants barely hang on their thighs, their underwear and what-all-else hanging out? It seems to me that fear is the thing to get away from and that respect is the thing to be cultivated. In relationship. So, be consistent in your narrative and BE INVOLVED in your community, spending time with youth that seem to be on a rocky path.

And all of us, let’s not make adoption about money. Give money to those who are eager to adopt. Especially those who want to adopt children with special needs.

This is where political action has to begin. In relational action.

The end.


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