please delete please please September 15, 2008 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Please, please abort this offensive, trolling post that links primarily to two, year-old NYT articles and is basically an editorial for eugenics.
posted by serazin to Etiquette/Policy at 8:37 PM (109 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Oh sure; what if Hitler's mother had decided to abort him?

wait, I don't think I did that right
posted by yhbc at 8:40 PM on September 15, 2008 [9 favorites]


so he's trolling us with facts?

and what if some think it's an editorial against eugenics?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:44 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


serazin's so right. I thought eugenics was on The List just below cat declawing and above obesity. Plus, old stuff sucks; I want my internet shiny new.

Also, anyone know what's going on with the flagging system? It seems to be totally on the fritz.
posted by carsonb at 8:48 PM on September 15, 2008


So far the discussion has been quite reasonable and the two articles, while a year old, are still interesting to read - unless you are suggesting they are somehow out-dated?

Also, isn't this something better me-mailed to the mods?
posted by crossoverman at 8:51 PM on September 15, 2008


No. I am enjoying reading the articles and I think the discussion in the thread is going quite well.
posted by Science! at 8:53 PM on September 15, 2008


I found it quite interesting, thanks.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:56 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I understand why you think this post is "trolling." I did not sense that the poster was pushing an agenda so much as presenting information.

Is the fact that the links are not recent a reason to delete an FPP?
posted by prefpara at 8:59 PM on September 15, 2008


Please, please abort this offensive, trolling post

That's a rather interesting way of phrasing things, if you're complaining about offensive posts.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:01 PM on September 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


serazin may or may not have a point, I am not passing judgement on that, but I am bothered by her not making an effort here and arguing her point. I'd like to believe the bar for deletion on metafilter is higher than calling someone a troll and advocate for a cause, albeit in lesser terminology.
posted by krautland at 9:03 PM on September 15, 2008


abort, retry, fail, ignore?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:05 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think you understand what eugneics is. It is not prospective parents choosing to terminate a pregnancy because they found their fetus had a birth defect that would result in their having a child who would need life long care.
posted by orange swan at 9:16 PM on September 15, 2008 [17 favorites]


Fair enough krautland. I was pissed and my post came off that way. And yeah, I probably should have mailed the mods. I am sorry I didn't do that.

The Down Syndrome post comes off as an editorial to me because the poster seems to have googled Down Syndrome to find articles that support his position. And because he does seem to have a position. His position, as I read it, is that people with Down Syndrome have an enormous cost to society. (And since he says nothing about folks with Down Syndrome having a benefit to society, it doesn't seem like a stretch to think that he is saying that people with Down Syndrome are taking more than they give - and should therefore be aborted before birth). He also proposes that there is some subsection of parents of kids with Downs who are trying to make more Downs babies to protect funding for their own children. Which to me, is an offensive and bizarre idea.

The post comes off as having a strong agenda, and the agenda is one that many people in the thread have expressed dismay at. Personally, I'd rather that on metafilter, there wasn't a lot of room for pushing a eugenics agenda, so I'm hoping it'll be deleted.
posted by serazin at 9:20 PM on September 15, 2008


Orange swan - his post wasn't about individual parents making choices about whether or not to have abortions or maintain pregnancies. His post was about the perceived social cost of Down Syndrome and the supossed pro-Down agenda of parents of kids with the syndrome. He's talking about broad policy and societal level decision making - not individual decision making.
posted by serazin at 9:22 PM on September 15, 2008


Do you know what the word "trolling" means? It seems like you do not.
posted by grouse at 9:23 PM on September 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


I think the OP might have a bit of agenda - but the discussion that it's spawned is at least reasonable. so maybe let's keep.
abort, retry, fail, ignore?
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:30 PM on September 15, 2008


Fair enough krautland. I was pissed and my post came off that way. And yeah, I probably should have mailed the mods. I am sorry I didn't do that.

Don't be sorry. You have as much right to post a MeTa as anyone. If a mod wants to show up and say you should have memailed them, then you can apologize to them.

I think this is a totally legitimate use of MeTa, and it's hard to imagine that this is just coincidentally posted when Sarah Palin is in the news.

I'm not sure if I think the post should be deleted, but it's certainly worthy of discussion in MeTa.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:31 PM on September 15, 2008


OK grouse - sorry. I take back the word 'trolling', even if I do think he's trying to pick a fight on purpose. But my criticism stands. The post is editorial and to many readers, offensive.
posted by serazin at 9:31 PM on September 15, 2008


I think this callout is wrong on the facts, but if I found a good editorial in support of eugenics I'd post it to the front page in a minute.

Another fun fact is that the heresies you're imputing to the poster actually come straight from the NYT article.

You say: [the poster] also proposes that there is some subsection of parents of kids with Downs who are trying to make more Downs babies to protect funding for their own children.

TFA sez: The parent evangelists are driven by a deep-seated fear for their children’s well-being in a world where there are fewer people like them. . . . A dwindling Down syndrome population, which now stands at about 350,000, could mean less institutional support and reduced funds for medical research. It could also mean a lonelier world for those who remain.

If you still think this is unspeakably offensive, you should take it up with the Times editors. How horrible they should publish something that might prompt people to disagree with your politics.
posted by grobstein at 9:34 PM on September 15, 2008


serazin: thank you for your clarification. it seems to me that you are suggesting deletion because you disagree with Brian B.'s argument/position/opinion. I do not agree that speech I disagree with should be censored, just as I do not agree that books I dislike should be removed from libraries.

trolling: that charge just does not stick. while his post certainly is controversial, as aptly demonstrated by you here as well as through comments made in that thread, it does not strike me as automatically irrelevant, disruptive or posted merely with the "intention of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion." (source) coldhearted perhaps but so is objectivism and last time I checked we didn't ban ayn rand posts from this site either.

you are obviously passionate about this issue but it seems this is a case you'd better be off discussing (or ignoring) than flagging for deletion.
posted by krautland at 9:36 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's decidedly touchy territory, and I'm not in love with the post as presented, but honestly it seems like it's going pretty okay. The ha-ha-but-not-funny joke with cat declawing etc. is not that those things aren't allowed, but that they famously can be trouble. It doesn't look like it's that so far, so, okay.

Hopefully the thread won't veer into trouble itself overnight—and I'd encourage folks to maybe point in this direction if stuff does start to get really heated to the point of being problematic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:40 PM on September 15, 2008


Personally, I'd rather that on metafilter, there wasn't a lot of room for pushing a eugenics agenda, so I'm hoping it'll be deleted.
posted by serazin


The reason eugenics is such a hot button issue is because of how, historically, it has been performed and for whom the selection has been against.

It doesn't have to be that way, and there are a lot of ethical, progressive, and - right or wrong - well-intentioned people both on and off Metafilter who believe that way. I don't understand how anyone could take the concept of faith seriously, but I don't accuse people who post religious threads of trolling.

On Metafilter, as in real life, you are going to encounter all manner of people who may believe very, very different things than you while still being good people. Konolia's a standout example of this for many of us, I think.

For what it's worth, I think that we should be screening pregnancies for illnesses which have an extremely high probability of leaving the person unable to care for themselves - but I'm not and never will be a parent, so I don't think my opinion counts for much here.
posted by Ryvar at 9:40 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was enjoying that thread just fine until caddis came in and posted inflammatory bait.
posted by liquorice at 9:44 PM on September 15, 2008


No - the issue to me is that Brian B. searched google for articles that agreed with his agenda and then pulled out an inflammatory (and in my view offensive) quote to support his controversial (and in my view offensive) agenda. Even if I found his agenda wonderful, this would be a problematic metafilter post.

If I googled around for articles about how Obama had a really shitty health plan, and I found a couple old NYT articles that supported that perspective, and I posted them to the blue, I would be shouted down and likely deleted.

If I googled around for articles about how stay-at-home moms cost more to society than "productive" working men, and posted those old articles to the blue, I'd be criticized and possibly deleted for making a GYOB, editorial that was also sexist and offensive.

As for the censorship charge - Brian B. can say whatever he likes about Down Syndrome, abortion, Sarah Palin, etc - but it doesn't necessarily make for a good post. Some posts are considered too editorial for metafilter. Some posts are considered too racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive for metafilter. Some posts are just considered too dumb for metafilter. You can call that censorship if you like, but I think that's a little silly in this context.
posted by serazin at 9:45 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I googled around for articles about how Obama had a really shitty health plan, and I found a couple old NYT articles that supported that perspective, and I posted them to the blue, I would be shouted down and likely deleted.

If I googled around for articles about how stay-at-home moms cost more to society than "productive" working men, and posted those old articles to the blue, I'd be criticized and possibly deleted for making a GYOB, editorial that was also sexist and offensive.


Part of that's the framing, though. I think the site could take a post critical of Obama's health care plan if it was carefully researched and well thought-out. Yes, there is a higher bar (vs. other topics) than there perhaps should be, but the site would take it.

Gender issues are always touchy - you'd have to be ultra-careful how you phrased the hypothetical stay-at-home-moms post, but I still think it's doable.
posted by Ryvar at 9:49 PM on September 15, 2008


Remind us again what is Brian B.'s "agenda," since you know him so well?
posted by grobstein at 9:50 PM on September 15, 2008


I made a comment in Brian B's thread linking to this one.
posted by Kattullus at 9:55 PM on September 15, 2008


Kill it.

It is just a crappy smear Palin thread and you know we have a ton of those already. If you really think the discussion of killing versus nurturing babies is going well then keep it, as at least most of the comments have ignored the whole cheap Palin smear aspect of it.
posted by caddis at 10:05 PM on September 15, 2008


His position, as I read it, is that people with Down Syndrome have an enormous cost to society.

And they do. Just like all sorts of ailments that afflict humanity. So?


(And since he says nothing about folks with Down Syndrome having a benefit to society, it doesn't seem like a stretch to think that he is saying that people with Down Syndrome are taking more than they give - and should therefore be aborted before birth).

So why don't YOU do that post.

He also proposes that there is some subsection of parents of kids with Downs who are trying to make more Downs babies to protect funding for their own children. Which to me, is an offensive and bizarre idea.

And? So what. Be offended. Doesn't make it not true. Why bury your head in the sand?

The post comes off as having a strong agenda,

And so does THIS one. Again. So f'ing what?

Personally, I'd rather that on metafilter, there wasn't a lot of room for pushing a eugenics agenda, so I'm hoping it'll be deleted.

My god. Are you kidding me? Down Syndrome IS NOT INHERITED! IT'S A MUTATION!
It CAN'T be "eugenics."

Before you post a dumb emotional call-out can you please educate yourself on what the fuck you're talking about.


Or IOW:
THE BABIES! WON'T YOU THINK OF THE BABIES!!!!
posted by tkchrist at 10:22 PM on September 15, 2008 [12 favorites]


My god. Are you kidding me? Down Syndrome IS NOT INHERITED! IT'S A CHROMOSOME DELETION!
It CAN'T be "eugenics."

FTFY
posted by peacheater at 10:27 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]



So it seems that this thread is serazin's attempt to have it both ways - either the thread was deleted and she "wins" the argument or it's not deleted and she gets to complain about the thread itself here and argue about the merits of screening for Downs there. Two threads to make her argument for the price of one. Hmmm. Someone has an agenda and I don't think it's Brian B.
posted by crossoverman at 10:50 PM on September 15, 2008


The only really trolling aspect and totally unnecessary aspect is including Palin amongst the tags. Don't know why you'd want to do that.
posted by wilful at 11:06 PM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Huh huh huh huh

He said "abort".

Huh huh huh huh
posted by sixcolors at 11:09 PM on September 15, 2008


Peacheater:

My god. Are you kidding me? Down Syndrome IS NOT INHERITED! IT'S A CHROMOSOME DELETION! ADDITION!

FTFY

(If you're going to be a pedant, you have got to get it right.)
posted by wilful at 11:10 PM on September 15, 2008 [12 favorites]


(Also, I don't get why everyone is insisting that eugenics applies exclusively to heritable traits. Show me the reference for that one please.)
posted by serazin at 11:14 PM on September 15, 2008


Uh, in rare cases of Down Syndrome are inherited.
Most cases of Down syndrome are not inherited. The first and second type of Down happens due to random accidents during meiosis or mitosis (in fetal development). But in the third type, there is a possibility of inheritance. It seems that when a parent has a translocated part of chromosome 21 attached in another chromosome, (balanced translocation: a rearrangement of genetic material between chromosome 21 and another chromosome) he may be unaffected, but there is a high risk that his/her children will suffer from Down.
- From genetic-diseases.net.
posted by Kattullus at 11:14 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ugh... first sentence should have read "Uh, in rare cases Down Syndrom is inherited."
posted by Kattullus at 11:15 PM on September 15, 2008




So... fetuses don't have a right to life, but genes have a right to be expressed? Ok. Gotcha. Stellar logic there. See where that argument takes you. (hint: the same place)

Does the mother have the right to choose or no? The fetus doesn't get a say. The genes sure as hell do not get a say.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:23 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Eugenics applies exclusively to heritable traits.
posted by tkchrist at 11:45 PM on September 15, 2008


Did you notice that in GATTACA the main character has the middle name Eugene? Really makes you think...
posted by Science! at 11:57 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Okay, point of order. What "eugenics" is exactly is an extremely complicated matter. One school of thought would have it that "eugenics" can only truly be applied to a historical movement that has died out today and that any remnants of it are mere shadows. Others would say that it's a philosophical position. Yet others would call it an act. Some think of it as a science in the way that phrenology was a science, that is, discredited science. There is a point of view that it was merely one outgrowth of the Utopian dream and can only truly be understood in that context.

I don't think that this is the forum to settle what "eugenics" is.
posted by Kattullus at 12:03 AM on September 16, 2008


Well of course this forum wont settle anything, and of course a word can have multiple meanings, but no common definition of eugenics would suggest that aborting a Down's syndrome foetus had anything to do with it.

Sterilising a Down's syndrome person, that could be in the ballpark (or are they infertile already?).
posted by wilful at 12:08 AM on September 16, 2008


People with Down syndrome do generate an enormous cost to society. Discussing it won't make the problem any worse than it is; sweeping it under the rug will neither better the problem nor make it go away. I think this is one of the more reasonable discussions I've seen on these topics.

are they infertile already?).

Their fertility is reduced, but not absent. People with Down syndrome have kids all the time. Many of the kids have Down syndrome.

Sterilising a Down's syndrome person, that could be in the ballpark

Not without their informed consent. Forced sterilization of doctor-deemed "defectives" (as they used to be called) has been against the law in this country for decades. The reason is that such procedures are an ethical breach that victimizes a human being, taking away his or her basic human rights.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:49 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll admit that the nice little cost comparison made me wonder how the OP would run that analysis on me. Do I justify my expensive medical care? If not, is it too late to do anything about it? Maybe we could offer tax incentives to us expensive sickies to encourage us to off ourselves.

I truly understand that money is and will always be a factor in medical care. But that kind of crass economic analysis, where we add up the cost of someone's existence and decide whether or not they're worth it, scares the shit out of me. And it particularly irks me in that case, because the OP seems to assume that a person with Down syndrome would have nothing to offer the world, and therefore the only cost to his or her non-existence would be the cost of preventing his or her birth.

So in sum: I'm not asking for the post to be deleted, and I wouldn't call the OP a troll. But I was bothered by it, and I suspect I'd be equally bothered by the comments if I could bring myself to read them.
posted by craichead at 4:15 AM on September 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


K, never thought I'd be attempting this distinction, but can we unpack eugenics and ask what specific practices are wrong? Forced sterilization? Wrong. Murder? Wrong. The right of a parent to abort a(n early term) fetus, for any reason?

If you're willing to label the last as "eugenics" -- in the context of your interest in seeing or not seeing any given genetic component of your fetus -- then I suggest you have a problem with the word. But don't taint the right to choose with such nonsense. The gene has no such right.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:28 AM on September 16, 2008


I thought it was an obnoxious-seeming stunt post but by the time I saw the discussion this morning it wasn't going terribly bad and it was already 130+ comments in.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:48 AM on September 16, 2008


This is an honest question, so please don't take it as snark - in response to all of the information presented about the societal costs of Down Syndrome, can someone enumerate the benefits? There's a lot of talk in the other thread about people not thinking of all of the positives Down patients bring to the world, so I'm wondering if someone can provide data.

I used to volunteer at a home for special needs children (mostly Down Syndrome kids) and I tutored a couple kids in high school with developmental disorders. To be quite honest, I had a very hard time dealing with the volunteer work; it just seemed like a really shitty way to go through life, so I'm kind of wondering what "benefits" there are, for lack of a better word.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:51 AM on September 16, 2008


Forced sterilization of doctor-deemed "defectives" (as they used to be called) has been against the law in this country for decades. The reason is that such procedures are an ethical breach that victimizes a human being, taking away his or her basic human rights.

Yes, but it may happen anyway.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:54 AM on September 16, 2008


Is there a list somewhere of things that may no longer be discussed now that Sarah Palin has stepped onto the national stage?
posted by butterstick at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is an honest question, so please don't take it as snark - in response to all of the information presented about the societal costs of Down Syndrome, can someone enumerate the benefits?

No. It's a bizarre -- and offensive -- way of looking at things. Neurotypical people don't have to justify their lives on spreadsheets that shows their costs and benefits to society over their lifetime; people with disabilities don't have to, either.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:02 AM on September 16, 2008 [14 favorites]


Forced sterilization of doctor-deemed "defectives" (as they used to be called) has been against the law in this country for decades.

I wish you were right, but you're not, exactly. The infamous case of Buck v. Bell (Three generations of imbeciles is enough) has never been properly overturned, although it's a muddy area of law, and no one has really pushed the envelope in fifty years or so.
posted by norm at 7:28 AM on September 16, 2008


For whatever it's worth, I don't think the thread should be deleted either.
posted by zarq at 7:50 AM on September 16, 2008


The post had no position and was not at all offensive to many readers.
posted by juiceCake at 7:53 AM on September 16, 2008


This is an honest question, so please don't take it as snark - in response to all of the information presented about the societal costs of Down Syndrome, can someone enumerate the benefits?

This whole line of thought is disturbing to me. "Slippery slope" is very overused but I think it comes into play when one starts to apply cost-benefit analysis to human lives.
posted by Falconetti at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2008


Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!
posted by katillathehun at 8:08 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is an honest question, so please don't take it as snark - in response to all of the information presented about the societal costs of Down Syndrome, can someone enumerate the benefits?


I assumed you weren't really asking for numbers? I think the benefits are the same as the benefits to having any other child: watching him or her develop and so on, expanding your family, love, connectedness, seeing the world through the eyes of someone less capable than the rest of us of meanness and deception.

It is my understanding that Down syndrome people are particularly sunny individuals, and some people like to be around that sort of thing. You know, cheerfulness. As a culture, we could probably use a little more happiness and optimism and all those characteristics that the rest of us are unburdened by.

If you were really looking for numbers, I don't know, but I'm not 100% sure that I'm not a net drain on society.

From my own standpoint, I had an amnio for my first child this year, and absolutely would have aborted had the child had Down syndrome--there was never any question about this between Mr. Llama and me. I found when I was pregnant that the 90% who terminate were remarkably silent--I never met anyone else who admitted they would terminate when I was pregnant. I assume women who terminate for this reason don't tell anyone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:11 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

Too soon.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:27 AM on September 16, 2008


This whole line of thought is disturbing to me. "Slippery slope" is very overused but I think it comes into play when one starts to apply cost-benefit analysis to human lives.

Neurotypical people don't have to justify their lives on spreadsheets that shows their costs and benefits to society over their lifetime; people with disabilities don't have to, either

People place values on their own lives, on the lives of their friends and family and on the lives of strangers on a daily basis. How much money should be spent to save a single life from a car crash? A billion dollars? A trillion? Obviously there is a point past which no sane person would agree to spend money to save a single life. That the logical extension of this concept leads to the notion that human lives can be measured in money and that that concept is distasteful does not make it irrational, illogical or immoral.

Morals and cost-benefit analysis can and must coexist. We don't kill people no matter how much it would benefit society (well, of course we do but...). We don't abort people en masse because they would be a drain on society. Parents making a choice about whether their fetus continues to grow into a human being is an individual choice, whether they make that decision based on a disease or future disability or because they're just lazy that day. Or because they hate children.

This ridiculous outcry over "human lives are valueless" is complete bullshit. Calling those who acknowledge that there can and must be a coherent relationship between human lives and money, time, effort spent immoral or amoral is disgusting and offensive in addition to being harmful to society as a whole.

tl;dr: Human lives and money are not fungible or equivalent, this does not mean they hold no correspondence at all. Please read about Bayes' theorem (has java applets inline) before you discuss probabilities.
posted by Skorgu at 8:32 AM on September 16, 2008 [7 favorites]


(If you're going to be a pedant, you have got to get it right.)

Touche.
posted by peacheater at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2008


does peacheater eat peaches or cheat peas? this is driving me crazy.
posted by shmegegge at 8:55 AM on September 16, 2008 [17 favorites]


I bid €495.00 for a neurotypical, €401.00 for someone who happens to bravely face the challenges of Down syndrome, and €399.01 for a Belgian.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:57 AM on September 16, 2008


serazin, i'm not sure why you believe that Brain B's post is specifically about societal level policy change. it seems to me to specifically be about individual choice. the new york times article said that down's screenings are recommended not because down's syndrome babies SHOULD be aborted, but because so many parents, when given the option, WOULD act on it.

Put another way, instead of saying "because down's syndrome babies cost society so much, we should abort them," the post is saying "because so many families, when faced with both the personal and societal cost of raising a down's syndrome child, would want to abort a fetus that screened positively for down's syndrome, doctors recommend that all pregnancies be screened for down's syndrome."

I can understand your position on this, but you seem to be tilting at windmills. I think you're outraged at a position Brian B hasn't taken.
posted by shmegegge at 9:01 AM on September 16, 2008


I'm not 100% sure that I'm not a net drain on society.

Indeed. For me, that is; I don't know about you, ATL.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:12 AM on September 16, 2008


i'm not sure why you believe that Brain B's post is specifically about societal level policy change.

I think it was the "Palin" tag.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:17 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


i'm not sure why you believe that Brain B's post is specifically about societal level policy change.

I think it was the "Palin" tag.


That actually doesn't follow. It may be bad taste to link this to Palin's foibles (why?), but no one has suggested that social policy should have forbidden Palin from having a Down's baby.
posted by grobstein at 9:23 AM on September 16, 2008


oh sure, the palin tag was too much, and I agree with you completely that it was a stunt post.

i'm just still not seeing the "down's syndrome babies should be aborted" part.
posted by shmegegge at 9:23 AM on September 16, 2008


backseatpilot, you are operating under the fallacy that all good can be measured. Perhaps you even think all good can be measured in dollars?
posted by Chuckles at 9:25 AM on September 16, 2008



does peacheater eat peaches or cheat peas?


Actually she heats peacs.

FYI.
posted by dersins at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


does peacheater eat peaches or cheat peas?

She had an ache at the ER, turned out to be a pulmonary embolism.
posted by misha at 9:36 AM on September 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


Late to the game here but I don't see it as a bad post. If the link are two years old then I have some issue with that. But the topic is fine. There are plenty of posts that are as offensive as this one but the people they offend just don't spend any time here. This post doesn't deserve deletion on the basis of the subject matter.
posted by GuyZero at 9:47 AM on September 16, 2008


Chuckles: "backseatpilot, you are operating under the fallacy that all good can be measured. Perhaps you even think all good can be measured in dollars?"

All good can be measured in Dollars (USA$ only), Horsepower (fuck the watt), and alcoholic proof (% by volume only, ABV). The as yet unaccepted and derived "Blondes per Slumber Party (B/SP) is also a good unit of measure and is gaining in popularity in most disciplines despite it's occasional and unpredictable dependence on ABV.
posted by Science! at 9:49 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is an honest question, so please don't take it as snark - in response to all of the information presented about the societal costs of Down Syndrome, can someone enumerate the benefits?

People with Down syndrome have contributed enormously to our understanding of genetics and development, a contribution that seems to mount at least weekly, and, as this understanding has not accrued much to their benefit or that of their families, but rather to the benefit of humanity as a whole, I'd say they've already paid the total bill for their support numbers of times over.

Chromosome 21 carries the gene for the protein which appears to be at the heart of the mystery of Alzheimer's disease, and people with Down syndrome almost universally develop clinical AD in their 40's or early 50's. Any theory of AD must at least be able account for what happens in Down syndrome, and DS may well prove to have a central role to play in our ultimate understanding of AD, in which case our debt to them would grow from large to completely incalculable.
posted by jamjam at 10:03 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


We'd better start thinking about eugenics, rather than flipping our collective lids when anything which could be touted as resembling the subject arises, because it is already here and we will only be seeing more of it, but it will be at the trait-level, not at the level of wiping out giant swaths of ethnicity/race/heritage/generic-container-name. In utero analysis has already presented us with a variety of choices, but more are to come.

It won't just be wanting a baby with eyes that will stay blue. It's the deaf parents who want a deaf child so they can be raised in deaf culture. It's the black mother who has spent a lot of money on lightening creams deciding that she wants her child to be cafe au lait because she loathed being so dark as a child herself. Getting rid of Tay-Sachs, well ... that is a higher risk with Ashkenazic Jews. Is removing this trait just one of a thousand cuts against Jewish heritage? Some might argue that.

Look at cosmetic surgery, then think about genetic surgery, such as it will be. Parents already feel comfortable altering their children's bodies (not just circumcision, but look at historical practices throughout the ages) and minds (pick a religion, any religion). Whether it will be to give our children a competitive edge, to make up for our own real or imagined shortcomings, or to maintain or reject a cultural legacy, we and our children are going to be faced with options that our grandparents could not even imagine.

It's going to look a little like Gattaca, and a lot like star-bellied sneetches, and if you are unable to calm down and discuss the situation without a reflex "WHY DOES THIS POST EVEN EXIST?!?," the future will steamroll you. You can either respond to it on a primal, gut level that is just a few steps ahead of climbing the nearest tree and hurling rotten fruit at the thing which offends you, or you can take the effort to pull back and look at the whole of thing, and weigh the situation without short-term emotional demands.

Sometimes, you can generate compassion through dispassion, by looking beyond your instinctive reactions and on to what might be best, even if the choice does make you sad.
posted by adipocere at 10:10 AM on September 16, 2008 [24 favorites]


Skorgu: my initial reaction to Falconetti's comment was the same as yours, but then I re-read the comment. Falconetti does not assert that human lives are infinitely valuable; only that one should not apply a cost-benefit analysis to human lives. One might believe, for example, that all human lives are equally, but finitely, valuable, which avoids the conclusion that some lives are more valuable than others, while at the same time avoids the problems which, as you note, arise from the axiom that a human life is infinitely valuable.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2008


I order my babies with leather bucket seats.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of course eugenics can mean different things to different people in different contexts.

In its most objectionable context referring to eugenics equates to godwinning the thread; the nazis and respectable intellectuals in England and France f.i. looked at a group of people, their country or a so called race, as if they were cattle. Farmers decide which individual animals will be allowed to procreate, thus selecting traits they find preferable in the off-spring.

If that animal breeding metaphor is transposed to humans as "deciding which people will be able to procreate against their wills" it seems that aborting fetuses with Down syndrom doesn't fall within eugenics since the parents are free to decide if they want to procreate in this instance or no.

If the animal breeding metaphor is transposed to humans as "deciding which individuals with which traits will be allowed to live" there's a possibility of seeing abortion of fetuses with Down syndrom as a form of eugenics depending on at what moment between zygote and born infant you decide that an individual with moral and legal rights is formed.

a rather nonsensical discussion that was very much fun to read btw
posted by zia at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2008


you can take the effort to pull back and look at the whole of thing, and weigh the situation without short-term emotional demands.

See, the problem is we have no idea what the future is going to be like. No idea. You can tell yourself stories about Gattaca and star-bellied sneetches if you like, but you don't know any more than I do. What I do know is that that kind of rhetoric, about pulling back and ignoring emotions, has typically been used to justify monstrous inhuman decisions. (I am not accusing you of so using it.) I think supposedly irrational, "emotional" attitudes have done a lot more to save human life than Spock-like "rationality," which tends to fixate on numbers and dollar values. This is why technocracy is a bad idea, no matter how hard it is for the would-be technocrats to understand why society doesn't run to put itself under their oh-so-knowledgeable protection.
posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on September 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


We'd better start thinking about eugenics, rather than flipping our collective lids when anything which could be touted as resembling the subject arises

I can assure you that Republicans have been thinking about eugenics for a long time. Don't worry, citizens.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:44 AM on September 16, 2008


I can assure you that Republicans have been thinking about eugenics for a long time. [comment on link follows]

That's odd. Is the sentence of forced sterilization or chemical castration for male criminals, or such as a condition for probation, also unconstitutional?
posted by grobstein at 10:47 AM on September 16, 2008


"And since he says nothing about folks with Down Syndrome having a benefit to society,"

They can pull carts.

(Making an argument that, say, my cousin has a benefit to society or his immediate family above the absence of his existence is difficult in its own right, even though I love him. Making an argument that my cousin has a benefit to society above a person who does not have Down Syndrome is even harder, especially avoiding the broken windows fallacy. And in watching him decline, as he's about eight years older than I am, has made me feel even more negatively about the prospects of those essentially defined by their Downs Syndrome. His parents have five other children, and had him before screening was widely available [though, as staunch Catholics, there'd be no real consideration of abortion].

He has essentially cost his parents any hope of retirement, as he's generally only moderately manageable at group homes, and his other medical problems are truly daunting [there's an argument to be made that this is the real fiscal burden, in that he has had numerous heart surgeries and is a diabetic]. Additionally, he has made it very difficult for the next-youngest brother to have a romantic life, as David is jealous and unable to share Greg's affection, and Greg has been responsible for a fair portion of David's care, since his parents get older and more needy themselves with every year.

All of this might be mitigated if David ever really seemed happy anymore, but he doesn't. He's always been petulant and mean, but those moments used to be tempered by kindness and joy. But as he's gotten older, he's gotten far less mobile, and seems to have declined mentally to the point where all he really cares about is figuring out ways to break into cupboards and refrigerators in order to gorge himself to the point of sickness. Whereas once he had the mentality of a poorly-trained Golden Retriever, he's now more at the point of a clever raccoon.

Perhaps in a different environment, he would have flourished more. I know that I always felt uncomfortable with much of my extended family treating him like a dog, teaching him tricks and giving him candy as a reward. My grandfather, in particular, liked to give him offensive phrases to blurt out to my female relatives, which David did with glee. But my grandfather was often an asshole. I certainly know a fair amount of other developmentally disabled folks who seem to have either been genetically predisposed to weather their trials better or raised in more supportive environments or whatever, who seem happy and like they truly enjoy life and the people they're around.

But as I've watched David grow from adolescent bully to a fat and morose adult, I have had a hard time understanding the unfailingly positive picture painted often on MetaFilter of the developmentally disabled. I admit, though I know that I'll be roundly criticized, that I have a hard time conceiving of him as fully human, even. I am sad that he hasn't had the best possible life for someone born with his difficulties, and I certainly strive not to be cruel to him, but there's just never any understanding there that isn't directly motivated by a perception of immediate reward or punishment, and what memory he had once, and his capability for learning, seems eroded more and more each time I see him. People shouldn't live as icons of others nobility or as pets.

I also realize that David's case may not be typical, or even predictable, and that I, luckily, will never have to be the primary decision maker on whether or not to abort. But just the possibility of raising a child with a life like his gives me pause. And arguing that there's some benefit to society that his life gives that none other would seems to be fairly baseless [though I'll concede that the benefit that most people give to society is fairly small in my eyes].)
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 AM on September 16, 2008 [23 favorites]


That's funny, languagehat, because the deaf parents thing? That's not the future, that's now. That's a real case. Remember that insurance companies are already salivating at the thought of dipping into your genetics to decide you're high risk and what for. We're already finding some of the loci for intelligence-as-measured-on-standardized-tests (yes, that's a can of worms, I've opened it, too bad). So I have no idea?

I think I have a fair picture of what the future is going to look like because I don't think the future is going to look like now. "Progress," if you want to call it that, is inevitable if we do not suffer a collapse - we have a hard time making tools that we do not pick up and begin using. I'm not a nutty Singularitarian (Singularian?) - just someone who remembers that once, people had an emotional outcry that test tube babies would be born without souls. Now nobody bats an eye. In vitro fertilization is a tool we made, and we picked it up and used it. The future is coming, and it is going to have the same old human nature but with new ways to make it happen. I'm not basing predictions on mere technology, I'm basing it on the awful constancy of human nature.

We've got cell phones with miraculous technology in them and a mind-boggling infrastructure to support it all ... but we still use our minutes to plan trysts to cheat on our spouses and to gossip, same as we always have. And that is why I point out that we will not refrain from this new way of molding our children when it becomes available.

If anything, emotion has been used to drive more inhumane decisions than logic. Rhetoric for riots, rage for crusades, paranoia and fear to justify anything you like. Remember some other monstrous things happening out of emotional decisions: systematic rape, witch-hunts, the "if it disgusts me it might be wrong" impulse that leads to gay bashing, a goodly portion of the murders in the world, and so forth. Greed. Lynchings. Every crime of passion ever to hit the books. From the littlest kindergarten bully to the assorted primate chest-beating that has us in Iraq right now ... you know, that urge to find someone, anyone (but most especially someone swarthy) to punish for 9/11. Defend our monkey tribe. Drive away the outsider. Have more more MORE babies until we cover the earth, because our gut instincts say "Babies! Have them! Have more, cause the hyaenas will eat two of them and one will die of dysentery!" Instincts that no longer suit us well still push us (emotion) in directions we might not want to go long-term.

So far, I see emotional reactions as having something of a mixed record when it comes helping or hurting humanity in the past hundred years; maybe it is time to consider additional ways of making decisions.
posted by adipocere at 11:23 AM on September 16, 2008 [15 favorites]


oh for christ's sake. they're emotions. people have them. they're part of the debate. deal.

oh for christ's sake. it's reason. people have it. it's part of the debate. deal.
posted by shmegegge at 12:09 PM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Human!"
[slap]
"Vulcan!"
[slap]
"Human!"
[slap]
"Vulcan!"
[slap]
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


What I do know is that that kind of rhetoric, about pulling back and ignoring emotions, has typically been used to justify monstrous inhuman decisions. (I am not accusing you of so using it.) I think supposedly irrational, "emotional" attitudes have done a lot more to save human life than Spock-like "rationality,"

Blaming "ignoring emotions" for human failures to act morally is pretty thin. I don't think citing a fictional character written to abide by a stereotype is helping your point either.

Why on earth is rationality portrayed as some kind of unfeeling robotic procedure that inherently avoids humanity? Does this exist outside of (bad) science fiction? Where is this cadre of purely-rational decision makers that is doing such harm to the world?

Rationality and logic are only as good as your priors, your axioms, your starting points. If you start off believing that the Aryans are the Master Race you'll proceed perfectly logically, grazing right off the cliff into holocaust. If you start from the position that the universe is inherently fair and just you'll discount all social programs because people are poor because they deserve it.

If your morals are sound and internally consistent applying a nice healthy dab of logic with a sprig of Bayes for flavor and just a dash of Occam to taste on your decision making process isn't going to turn you into some unthinking android of doom.
posted by Skorgu at 12:49 PM on September 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


Oh, klang. Environment makes a huge difference, and there's been a huge shift - generational, if you want to call it that - in the perception of capacity for learning appropriate boundaries and behaviours in people with IDs. The newer models of support (such as positive behaviour support) are being readily adopted in support and educational services for children, but are difficult to implement for older people because they require fundamental changes in the (usually long-standing) attitudes and ways of interaction of everyone in the person's support circle. But, all behaviour is learned, and people can unlearn not-okay behaviours and learn new, appropriate behaviours, but it takes concerted effort for the most part from families and support providers and it's just too hard for some people, older parents in particular. This has changed significantly during my (13-year, so far) career, but not yet enough.

I hate the oft-repeated notion that all people with DS are happy, fun-loving and love music - no they're not, they have the exact same range of emotions as everybody else, and some of them are downright arseholes just as some of the non-disabled population are downright arseholes.
posted by goo at 1:00 PM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


We're already finding some of the loci for intelligence-as-measured-on-standardized-tests (yes, that's a can of worms, I've opened it, too bad). So I have no idea?

Journal citations plskthx?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:19 PM on September 16, 2008


A Genomewide Scan for Intelligence Identifies Quantitative Trait Loci on 2q and 6p
Danielle Posthuma, Michelle Luciano, Eco J. C. de Geus, Margie J. Wright, P. Eline Slagboom, Grant W. Montgomery, Dorret I. Boomsma, and Nicholas G. Martin

Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia; and Department of Molecular Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands

Journal citations yrwlcm kbai!
posted by adipocere at 1:26 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


"The newer models of support (such as positive behaviour support) are being readily adopted in support and educational services for children, but are difficult to implement for older people because they require fundamental changes in the (usually long-standing) attitudes and ways of interaction of everyone in the person's support circle."

Something interesting that I saw with David, and also with my grandmother, was how life expectancy has really grown over the course of my lifetime, and even wildly more so over the course of the 20th century. My grandmother was diagnosed as diabetic at around 12; there was the belief that she'd die before 20. She lived into her seventies, and it was lucky that my grandfather worked at a place where his spouse was guaranteed lifelong insurance at no cost, as the longterm complications of diabetes really took a toll on her.

The predictions for my cousin were equally dire when he was born in the '70s, from first saying that he wouldn't make it to 10, then to 15, then to 20, then to 30. But where my grandmother had kind of an austere upbringing, where she was expected to largely fend for herself (ten kids), David was pampered and spoiled for a long time simply because it was assumed that he'd never live long enough for the negative effects of diet or behavior to catch up with him. It's a lot easier to pump a young kid full of zagnuts when you figure, hell, he'll be dead in a year or two, he might as well enjoy himself. And no one really wants to yell or spank a kid that could be gone at any minute.

So, yeah, there are all sorts of weird patterns in his upbringing that work against his longterm prospects, and his parents still fall into those traps. Maybe it's because they were so old when they had him (early 40s), so they were already in grandparent mode and prone to spoiling. And there's little incentive for them to stop now, as they or David could die at any time, and it would take a hell of a lot of work to channel his fairly monomaniacal interests into other avenues. It's just that, y'know, he's still not happy even when he's watching TV and scarfing down caramel corn (and he's so much more unhappy when you try to make him stop).

"I hate the oft-repeated notion that all people with DS are happy, fun-loving and love music - no they're not, they have the exact same range of emotions as everybody else, and some of them are downright arseholes just as some of the non-disabled population are downright arseholes."

I remember a comment in another MeTa thread from a user who has a DS child, rhetorically asking if anyone had ever met an unhappy developmentally-disabled person, and I thought about posting a comment similar to the one above. But then, I was going somewhere and didn't want to get into a fight, so I let it lie. But yeah, they get angry and horny and depressed just like anyone else. It's just that I feel like they rarely have the tools necessary to deal with that, especially given that so many non-disabled folks lack those tools too. It just seems like a horrific prison to be trapped in. I dunnno. Maybe I read Flowers for Algernon too early.
posted by klangklangston at 1:30 PM on September 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


DevilsAdvocate: only that one should not apply a cost-benefit analysis to human lives.

One might believe, for example, that all human lives are equally, but finitely, valuable

If you'll pardon the snark, I wonder what you think a cost-benefit analysis is since you've just suggested most of one yourself :)

For some reason, this doesn't so much as raise eyebrows when we're talking about spending another million on an overpass design to avoid an average of one death every ten years, yet apply the same logic to deciding whether to have a child in the first place and people go apeshit.

We should allow and encourage emotion to set our desires and goals but act rationally to achieve those goals or we risk being gamed. And most importantly we should examine ourselves to determine what our actual goals are, as they're rarely what we think or claim they are.
posted by Skorgu at 1:41 PM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's not all Life Goes On and it's worth recognizing. I might as well throw in some of my friend's developmental disability stories. He works in a residential home.

He relates the most horrific incidents: rooms set on fire by Andy the Firebug (whose parents are unable to resist his pleading to slip him a lighter or some matches), the guy who collects cutlery and goes into a screaming rage when it is taken from him, and Kara. Kara wears a helmet because she enjoys banging her head against the wall so much. After several years of work, she was unable to write her name, except for one night. On the wall. In feces. It was the only time she managed it; she likes banging her head more.

Of course, the smarter ones exploit the less intelligent residents, including getting Robbie the Masturbator "worked up" and then aiming him at a victim. Robbie, once excited, will clamp onto the victim and then continue his work, and finally fire away. And it always ends in tears, 'cept for Robbie, I guess. I'll see him again this weekend, and he'll have more stories, and they're all about as uplifting as klangklangton's David.

People care for them, but when they're adult-sized and rambunctious, you almost need one person per resident to keep them out of trouble. There's a cost. While there are certainly some happy people with developmental disabilities, there's some who are not, proportions unknown. And they're tucked away, a dozen at a time, into little homes where nobody hears about them and the cameras never go, unless something really bad happens. There's parents who had to get vertebrae fused because lifting their adult-sized child in and out of a wheelchair has destroyed their backs. And bitter siblings who do not receive much attention because it is directed elsewhere.

That sibling, those parents, are our societal issue, writ small.
posted by adipocere at 2:14 PM on September 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


I have had a hard time understanding the unfailingly positive picture painted often on MetaFilter of the developmentally disabled.

In the first place, I don't see any such "unfailingly positive picture." In the second place, most MeFites haven't had your experience, and in particular, other MeFites have known Down Syndrome people who weren't "petulant and mean." And in the third place, if there is a bias towards a positive image of DS, it might well be to counteract the general image of them as useless raccoons.

I think I have a fair picture of what the future is going to look like because I don't think the future is going to look like now.

Well, gee, if that's what you mean by "knowing what the future is going to look like," then I know what a planet circling a sun on the other side of the galaxy looks like: not like Earth.

I understand your point about rationality. It is indeed a wondrous thing, and I wouldn't want to be without it. I continue to believe that those who insist on privileging rationality to the exclusion of emotion are deeply mistaken. If you're not doing that, I am not talking about you. But there are plenty of people who do exactly that.
posted by languagehat at 2:26 PM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]




"In the first place, I don't see any such "unfailingly positive picture." In the second place, most MeFites haven't had your experience, and in particular, other MeFites have known Down Syndrome people who weren't "petulant and mean." And in the third place, if there is a bias towards a positive image of DS, it might well be to counteract the general image of them as useless raccoons."

I don't doubt that you have a different perception of MeFi attitudes toward the developmentally disabled, given that you weren't even accurate in your rendering of my comment. For example, I clearly wrote, "I certainly know a fair amount of other developmentally disabled folks who seem to have either been genetically predisposed to weather their trials better or raised in more supportive environments or whatever, who seem happy and like they truly enjoy life and the people they're around." So, not only do I grant that there are other modes of life for folks with DS, and concordantly people around them, I grant that not everyone has had my experience—otherwise, there'd be little value in posting it. Not only that, but I have a feeling that his brothers would take a dim view of my opinions on David and the lives of the developmentally disabled in general. And finally, your final point is confused—if there were a general view of them as "useless racoons" (an unfortunate summarization of my comment), then that would be the bias here as well; if you were saying that this forum needs a local bias to counteract the larger societal view, I'd argue against that as well, in that the truth isn't a canoe—you don't correct a listing in one direction by over-steering to another.

"and some of them are downright arseholes just as some of the non-disabled population are downright arseholes"

I meant to mention this in response before: On the other side of my family, my cousin who's only two years older than me is also a massive asshole who likely contributes very little to society in general (though he's getting better, I think).
posted by klangklangston at 3:20 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you'll pardon the snark, I wonder what you think a cost-benefit analysis is since you've just suggested most of one yourself

If you'll pardon the snark, I think a cost-benefit analysis of human lives would take into account the...um...what do they call them?... oh yeah, the costs and benefits of those lives. Assigning an equal finite value to every human life independent of the costs and benefits of each life does not seem to me to be a cost-benefit analysis.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:40 PM on September 16, 2008


When I worked the night shift in a supermarket bakery, there was a kid in another department named Vinnie*. Vinnie usually worked on the machine that cut cookies. I worked in bread and rolls. One day we were short staffed and they sent Vinnie over to be my partner when we were making poppyseed hard rolls. Vinnie was a whiz on his own machine since he had been at it for a few years. However, that day he was slow as hell and dough was piling up and I yelled, 'Vinnie, c'mon, speed up a little!' He sped up, but he was pouting for the next couple hours. I was all guilt-ridden, like I'd just slapped a baby or something. The next morning, I passed Vinnie in the locker room and he was all 'Hi Jon!' and smiles. What that means, I don't know.

*later on in life, I had a friend and roommate who had gone to high school with Vinnie. She said that at school dances, he'd spontaneously breakdance. Nobody gave him any crap about it, she said.
posted by jonmc at 4:01 PM on September 16, 2008


ummm, Vinnie had Down Syndrome, which I somehow failed to put in that comment.
posted by jonmc at 4:01 PM on September 16, 2008


If you'll pardon the snark, I think a cost-benefit analysis of human lives would take into account the...um...what do they call them?... oh yeah, the costs and benefits of those lives. Assigning an equal finite value to every human life independent of the costs and benefits of each life does not seem to me to be a cost-benefit analysis.

Well, no it's not. It's half of one, namely the 'benefit'. The costs are everywhere from medical expenses to antilock brakes. If some decision has an X% chance of saving a life and it costs less than X/100 *$HUMAN_LIFE the benefits outwiegh the costs. If not, not.

And here's where emotion can get in the way. If the cost-benefit comes down to "don't do" but it makes for a good story and people cry out "But the childruun/terrists/ayrabs/whatever!!" then algebraically they're saying that these people are worth more than average. And since in the short term this kind of spending is zero-sum deviating from the rational path actually kills people.

We, emotionally, tend to favor the safety of those close to us over those we don't know. It's a great heuristic for hunting antelope on the tundra but it's crap in the modern world. Counteracting this and treating, ceteris paribus, all humans as having an "equal finite value" is the cornerstone of rational decision making.
posted by Skorgu at 4:20 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it was the "Palin" tag.

I clearly referenced a political campaign in the post, and their promised special needs funding and vow to ban abortion. I assumed an intelligent reader with my choice of words, but not an intelligent search function. I'll be sure to write more slowly in the future.

Eugenics is moot here. Preserving the status quo is not eugenics. Obviously the black and white mentality considered the perceived flip side of a malgenics to be eugenics by default. Common mistake for the average person to make.
posted by Brian B. at 5:07 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I'll be sure to write more slowly in the future.
posted by finite at 5:41 PM on September 16, 2008


klang, if I had thought you were so touchy I'd have been more careful to clarify that I wasn't attacking you or trying to represent your position. I was responding to this:

I have had a hard time understanding the unfailingly positive picture painted often on MetaFilter of the developmentally disabled.


I tried to explain why such a picture, granting that there is a positive (if not unfailingly so) slant, might exist. I was not endorsing the idea of painting DS as a wonderful color in the human rainbow, nor was I accusing you of thinking they were all useless raccoons—I was just picking up the striking image you chose and running with it for my own rhetorical purposes. And if you intend to continue being your raucous confrontational self, you might want to try being a little less thin-skinned; I don't want to have to pat you on the head and tell you what a good fellow you are every time I interact with you. Now shut up and pass me a beer.
posted by languagehat at 5:58 PM on September 16, 2008


(super offensive)
posted by atrazine at 2:11 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


While I might benefit from being less prone to assume confrontation here, you might benefit by understanding why I assumed confrontation, rather than dismissing your role based on my "thin skin." Were I you, I might even disingenuously claim that my previous comment wasn't written in the spirit of combativeness, but rather correction.

Instead, I'll assume that you were sloppy because you'd already had your beer, and I irritated because I hadn't had mine yet.
posted by klangklangston at 10:07 AM on September 17, 2008


There ya go! Prosit!
posted by languagehat at 11:00 AM on September 17, 2008


in response to all of the information presented about the societal costs of Down Syndrome, can someone enumerate the benefits

Here is one no one has mentioned: When I take steps and make choices that allow all human beings to prosper and live out their lives to the fullest extent they are able, I sleep better at night.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:20 AM on September 18, 2008


fwiw, klang's cousin had perhaps a dyspeptic attitude because he felt trapped in the routine existence offered by his parents, mostly clashing--as many of us did--with a controlling autocratic father. Still, as one who has interacted with David far more closely than klang, I can say thatDavid had a number of successful and happy-by any measure--years at workshops in the greater Chicago area. He takes his job responsibilities seriously.

He is profoundly affected by his multiple ailments, and the family did treat him more as a pet than as a person with feelings and concerns, but as opinions and information on DS grew, the options for David grew as well. About a year ago, he moved into his "own" apartment in a group home. I would have to say blissed out is a good descriptor of how he has responded to finally being able to move out of his father's house.

I find that one of David's incomparable values is how he has taught me to be patient with those who can't walk as fast, can't see as well, or who have difficulties understanding. At family reunions, I'll spend time with him, taking walks and letting him tell me what's going on with him. I found that more rewarding at the last reunion than the time spent with the boyfriend of a cousin who could not stop talking about his recent mixed martial arts cage matches.

David's 38th birthday was a week ago Saturday. His brothers came from all over to celebrate with him. Yes it is part of his personality to deliver muttering zingers toward brothers, cousins and friends (a favorite? 'Josh is a punk.' Well, sure, most of it is in the delivery). But some would characterize that as a family trait, and although I'm not related by blood to David (klang is) I guess people coould characterize me that way too.

I have no real axe to grind here other than to resist David being called a "massive asshole" or used as an example of a class or group by someone who has spend relatively few days over the past twenty years with him--nor was there any expectation that he should have. I will wholeheartedly agree though that David suffered greatly from being raised from day one as if he had no other prospects but institutionalization. I remember offering to help the family with teaching him to speak and to exercise but they took the word of the medical experts who said it would be a waste of time and effort.

I think I would certainly want to know if my child-to-be was going to need extraordinary care, and I firmly believe that it is a decision for each family to make, not the church's and not the government's.
posted by beelzbubba at 4:50 PM on September 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


fwiw, klang's cousin had perhaps a dyspeptic attitude because he felt trapped in the routine existence offered by his parents... David suffered greatly from being raised from day one as if he had no other prospects but institutionalization.

Thanks for posting beelzbubba. These are very important points, and issues I see every day. This is the generational shift I referred to in my comment above, and as attitudes are changing people's lives are improving. For me it's all about expectations - when we (as a society) allow a different set of social and behavioural norms for people with disabilities we are actively working to dehumanise and segregate them, and it's just not necessary (let alone discriminatory and mean). Here in the UK 'person-centredness' has been adopted as govt policy, practical normalisation highlighting choice and responsibility within the same parameters as everybody else, neither of which are possible without education. So teaching people how to identify choices, consequences and good decisions based on the information available. Heck, this is what we all do, isn't it?

But many people have never had much real, informed choice at all, which is why they so often make the choice to express their emotions and feelings through inappropriate behaviours. For a lot of people this is due to their parents/ guardians needing to feel they're safe, something totally understandable, but none of us are safe all the time. Life is risky, and choosing not to teach and support people with disabilities to mitigate and navigate the same emotional, physical and social risk we all experience is again, dehumanising.

It's not all Life Goes On and it's worth recognizing. I might as well throw in some of my friend's developmental disability stories.

Aye, of course not. And I have lots of doozy stories to share after working with ~1500 people with intellectual disabilities (~400 very closely), but society has to accept responsibility for the most part. The discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities is bloody appalling, and I am extremely grateful that I have a marvellous job actively working to assist people to grow and develop in order to take their part as regular members of the community. What do people with intellectual disabilities contribute? They are tradespeople, artists, retail workers, packagers, receptionists, farmers, factory workers, advocates, neighbours, brothers, sisters, parents, sons, daughters, buddies, colleagues, spouses, lovers, musicians, hobbyists, dancers, volunteers, actors, gardeners, cleaners, comedians, church members, community workers, athletes, purchasers, cooks, media consumers, internet users, tenants, mortgage-holders, managers... with their own hopes, dreams, personalities, wants and needs, just like you and me.
posted by goo at 7:28 AM on September 19, 2008


I think there are two important things regarding my view of David versus my father's: the first is the type of exposure, and the second is the relationship with the rest of the family.

I seriously can't remember spending any time with David where he seemed happy since my grandfather died, what, twelve or so years ago. That may be because I don't think I've spent much time with him outside of funerals, and what time I have spent with him has been mediated by having his parents around. He certainly seemed much worse the last time I saw him (which was around the time they were getting ready to get him his own place), but that was in the shadow of his father.

And certainly, my dad being an adult when he first met David gives a different perspective, I think. I remember having to be afraid of him in a way that I don't think my dad ever had to deal with. David was always much stronger and clumsy and, while I want to stress that this wasn't always the case, often mean or angry. Not necessarily intentionally violent, but the physical difference was always enough to be scared of when I was a kid. I think that makes me a lot more sensitive to unhappiness in David—there's a learned danger response that may be coloring the way I feel about him unfairly.

That I often feel defensive around most of the guys in that family doesn't help—there are only one or two of them that I feel like I can loosen up around.

I also want to emphasize that I do love David, and do want him to be happy. It's just that I haven't seen him being happy in years (and may, through infrequent news, remember more of the bad times, like his frequent conflict with folks at a group home he lived at, where it seemed like he was being harassed without the tools to deal with it). I really do hope that he's doing better on his own.

I'll also say that I think my father has a far better relationship with most of our extended family than I do; I don't feel like I have that much in common with most of them, and don't really like most of the folks outside of my immediate family. Because of that, I haven't made as much an effort to stay connected, which contributes to the smaller sample size of my observations. (I'm also probably a judgmental dick.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:44 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


klang, I'm sorry I snapped at you. You're a mensch (and we're all judgmental dicks, it's the human condition).
posted by languagehat at 9:46 AM on September 19, 2008


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