Archive for April, 2013

Why Do Some People Hate Those With My Brother’s Condition?

April 17, 2013

My youngest brother recently died. He was only 55, but because of a genetic defect he began aging more rapidly a few years ago. He went from being the chronologically youngest to the biologically oldest within a few years. He had suffered from bouts with pneumonia the last two winters.

Reflecting on my brother’s life I cannot understand why some people would hate individuals like my brother so much that they don’t think those with Down Syndrome should be allowed to be born. These people are the equivalent of racists because those with Down Syndrome are genetically different from them. They seem to be living in the “dark ages” when those with Down Syndrome weren’t expected to reach their 20th birthdays.

Fortunately for my brother, people ranging from the wealthy politically powerful Kennedy family to ordinary individuals like my mom recognized that those called “retarded” might be able to lead productive lives if given the opportunity. My mom helped establish a scouting program for boys in special education.

We were fortunate to move to a city where local leaders set up a special education program to give my brother and others the opportunity to reach their potential. The program would eventually include a workshop that would have contractual arrangements to provide services for various local businesses.

Medical research has produced beneficial medications for those with Down Syndrome.

Persons with Down Syndrome such as my brother are usually very loving people. They’re not two faced like many “normal” people.

There are some things individuals with Down Syndrome don’t do. They don’t injure people while driving while intoxicated or texting like normal people sometimes do. They don’t defraud people of their life savings like Bernie Madoff and other normal people have done.

Individuals with Down Syndrome may not have the athletic ability of “normal people” but they give 110% when they participate in Special Olympics. One Oregon teen recently accomplished a physical feat most of us would never even attempt. Eli Reimer led a group of climbers to the 17,600 foot base camp of Mt. Everest.

Individuals with Down Syndrome do many things most of us wouldn’t attempt. Chris Burke was a star on the successful tv series “Life Goes On”. Sarah Itoh was playing the clarinet by the time she was11 years old and is an accomplished public speaker who travels around talking about Special Olympics.

Four years ago the scouting program my mom helped start produced an Eagle Scout when Lucas Wondra met the necessary requirements. He’s not the only scout with Down Syndrome to reach that goal. Daniel Camacho of Overland Park, Kansas, achieved that goal and has plans to attend college.

I have a lot of good memories of my brother, particularly the day I picked him up at school after he had finished making a magazine rack. He was just beaming. Then there was the day we noticed he was missing. About that time we got a call from the supermarket three blocks away where we normally shopped. He was down there buying groceries and even though he was elementary school age he was buying things we normally got including the right brands. Our mom had mentioned she didn’t think she would have time to go to the store, so he apparently decided to help out..

I admit I wish that Down Syndrome hadn’t hampered my brother Steve’s ability to do some things such as run like his hero Steve Austin, “The Six Million Dollar Man”. However, I would never wish that he hadn’t been born. My brother taught me a very valuable lesson — how to accept and relate to those who are different and may march to the beat of a different drummer. I feel sorry for those who cannot accept people with disabilities.