Ann Coulter tweeted out this venomous line in reference to President Obama.
Let me start with my sister, who introduced me to mentally handicapped children when I was a little kid. She worked at a Children’s Center as an aide and she loved every second of it. One little girl named Barbara was someone who captured her heart. My sister loved her dearly and kept in touch with her long after she had moved on to another job and Barbara was moved to live with a wonderful foster family. I learned about the dignity of human life from watching my sister interact with Barbara and she taught me that despite Barbara’s disabilities, she still was able to love us and in fact, she was able to do a whole lot more, but she loved us exceedingly well.
There’s the mentally handicapped adult, Johnny, who used to sit in the front pew at my childhood parish. Our pastor then, would grab him by the hand and the two would walk together down the aisle during the recessional hymn. It was glorious and a wonderful example set by our pastor to show us the dignity of this young man who indeed loved our church and our God.
Then there are the scores of children I’ve met on the 4 mission trips I’ve taken to Nicaragua who have had disabilities of all kinds but many of whom had Down’s Syndrome. Carlos is the one who is most memorable. He gave us the biggest hugs and could throw a baseball harder than most of us could. He was having a ball with us one year and then he started to cry. I asked him what was wrong:
“Hey Carlos, que tal?” (what’s up?)
“Hoy es una fiesta!” (Today is the party)
I looked at him strangely and then he said, (And I don’t remember the Spanish here)…”Every year you take us to the zoo, then to pizza hut, then to the amusement park. And when you’re here we play all day long. But then there’s a big party and that means that tomorrow you’ll be gone!”
Carlos was smart enough to know sadness and to figure out that our time together was limited. We too needed to realize that and it was with much sadness when we learned about Carlos’s death from cancer many years ago. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t recall how much he changed me.
And so when I hear Ms. Coulter, who should know better, call the President a derogatory name for the mentally disabled, I have only two things to say.
Ms. Coulter, you need to apologize….not to me but to the Carloses, Johnnies and Barbaras of the world. Because they should be an example for all of us of how we should treat one another. They give much more love than the tons of people who work for them in thankless occupations. How many times have those children heard the derisive name-calling from children who are mean-spirited or just bullying someone because they feel like it?
And for those of you who hire Ms. Coulter to do your dirty work, perhaps you should make her spend 100 hours with the mentally disabled and maybe that might soften her heart just a bit. Maybe she should spend some time reading the book Our Guys, about a teen who had the mental capacity of an 8 year old, who was brutally raped by a bunch of football players in Glen Ridge, New Jersey when all she wanted was to be friends with the guys who played football and was treated like an object to satisfy their own sexual deviancy.
And maybe THAT might erase that word from her vocabulary.
Lastly, Ms. Coulter, the person you referred to is the President of the United States. Whether you like him or not, you should always have respect for the Office of the President.
Maybe this is why so many people are just tired of the mean-spirited nature of our political system?
Today, let us pray for the mentally disabled, who are among the vulnerable in the world. Let us pray for civility and fairness in society and let us protect those who cannot protect themselves.
And let’s pray for Ms. Coulter, as well. Who I’m sure receives thousands of hateful letters and taunts. She deserves better as well.
UPDATE: Caitlin Czeh, the Campus Minister from Wilkes University and my esteemed colleague pointed me to this link from a 30 year old man with Down’s Syndrome. Well worth the read.