This past Sunday was World Down Syndrome Day, and many of us who love someone with DS posted their smiling pictures on our social media feeds (me included). But is Down Syndrome really something to celebrate?
Many people want to eliminate Down Syndrome. By this they mean eliminating people with Down Syndrome in the womb. Down Syndrome cannot be eradicated in any way other than killing people. It is not a disease that can be cured with medicine or prevented through vaccination.
On the other side are those who attempt to justify their right to exist by highlighting the successes and accomplishments of people with Down Syndrome, and by the fact that many people with DS lead happy, fulfilling lives.
Is that it? Is our worth dependent upon whether we are successful or happy? Or in whether or not we may be perceived as a burden to someone? If so, then many of us miss that mark. Shouldn’t our inherent value as human beings be based on something more solid than how we contribute to society? Or any number of other ways we use to justify our existence?
Let’s be honest: having a child with Down Syndrome is hard. And being a person with Down Syndrome is hard. There – I said it.
I would also like to say that being a parent of any child is hard. And being a human being in this dark and cruel world is also hard.
Just because something is hard does not make it meaningless or invaluable. We all – all! – have inherent value and dignity by our sheer existence on this planet, whether we are capable of producing something deemed valuable by the world, or not.
None of us should have to justify our right to exist. Are we not arguing about whose lives matter even now? We are fighting over the perceived value of certain categories of people in our streets even as I write this.
So on this World Down Syndrome Day, yes, I celebrated Ben for who he is. He may not be judged worthy of life by society’s standards, but society is wrong. He is worthy. And so are you.