There was a time in America’s history when individuals who had special needs were locked away from society, imprisoned in institutions. And during that time, those defenseless individuals were experimented upon, subjected to routine abuse, and neglected. Read here and here and here … just to link a few articles that elaborate on the subject.
Reliant upon a wheelchair, and unable to utilize her arms and legs due to a rare form of arthritis, my grandmother was significantly disabled. I vividly recall a time when there were no handicapped restrooms, parking spaces, or ramps … when we’d have to spend time locating a door wide enough for her wheelchair to fit through. Her hands were so gnarled with the disease. People would stare and treat her as if she didn’t belong. My grandmother went home to be with Jesus, receiving complete healing, before the laws changed thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) … and before attitudes changed.
As a country, we’ve experienced twenty-seven glorious years of acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion … where as a nation, we’ve genuinely worked to live up to the greatest document ever written by humans where “All men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Have we been one-hundred percent successful? Of course not. We’ve failed from time to time, but as a whole, over the last three decades, we’ve chosen to look at all life, regardless of ability or disability, race, or sexual orientation as valuable and worthy.
Special Olympics is a tremendous force of positivity that has reached out and touched nearly every individual on the planet at some point in time. We’ve rooted for those amazing athletes to overcome obstacles. We’ve cheered for them as they’ve exceeded even their own expectations. And we’ve learned from them, haven’t we? How incredible is it to watch one special needs competitor reach out to encourage another? Do they want to win? Absolutely! But not at the expense of their friends. That’s the way it is in the world of those who are special. They bring a breath of purity and goodness that we all need.
Best Buddies, birthed from the same family who gave us the Special Olympics, is another powerhouse organization determined to break down the wall that divides the typicals from the specials by initiating friendships between the two worlds. If you meet anyone who has ever been involved in the Best Buddies organization, you’ll find that the typical peers receive as much (or more) of a blessing than the individuals who have intellectual challenges. Their focus is to end the social, physical, and economic isolation of the 200 million people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and they are doing it…one relationship at a time.
I was once the young girl who loved her grandmother more than words can express. I never saw her disability, because to me she was perfect. Now, fast forward the reel by three decades, and I’m ironically called “Mom” by two special needs kiddos. And to me, they, too, are perfect.
Thankfully, the world my children have lived in has been much more accommodating than the world my grandma lived in. Schools offer inclusion, I can always find a parking space near the front door of any grocery store, and people are generally kind to Hope and Charlie. But it is becoming overwhelmingly evident that this generation may be sliding into retreat mode. These headlines should scare the heck out of us:
And now, today, we hear reports about the torture of an eighteen year old man who has special needs in Chicago :
Four perpetrators, one who reportedly went to high school with the boy, not only tortured him relentlessly, but posted video feeds of the abuse on Facebook for the world to see. Binding him, they beat him and taunted him relentlessly with racial slurs and verbal attacks against Donald Trump. They also forced the defenseless young man to drink water from a toilet…cut his clothing with a knife…and partially scalped him. The cruelty was put on display for the world to see.
In response, one would expect the Chicago Police to be sharp, unwavering, and stern. But no. In the first public statement, Cmdr. Kevin Duffin said:
What is going so terribly wrong with our society?
When did it become our first instinct to try to find an excuse for this type of abhorrent behavior?
In Psychology 101, we learn how it’s human nature to feel protective over babies, puppies, and kittens…that something innate kicks in, even in children, inducing the strong to care for the weak.
Could the same case not be made for those who are disabled?
That as a society, it should be an innate quality that we feel the need to care for individuals who are defenseless or who are mentally and/or physically challenged?
However, when the trait that causes those who are strong to look after and to care for those who are weak is missing, as has been studied in the cases of children who abuse animals, psychologists warn this is a red flag. (link here ; and here )
What would cause one who is physically and mentally superior to attack someone or something weaker?
Even in the case of children?
The answer, if not a diagnosed mental imbalance, is violence and/or abuse. Studies show abusers have either been abused or have been witness to abuse and/or violence. As it turns out, abuse begets abuse…and violence begets violence.
No one would disagree that we live in a day and time when violence permeates tv, movies, music, video games, and the news. We’ve allowed it. Supported it. Turned a blind eye to it. And now we are reaping what we’ve sown. Just recently I heard about a new reality tv show coming to Russia. It is modeled after the “Hunger Games” and will be available to stream live 24 hours a day at the touch of a finger: Russian TV is literally making a ‘Hunger Games’-style show that will ‘allow’ rape and murder .
It’s time for change.
We must firmly stand together against violence, promoting love above all else.
We must defend the weakest among us as a standard.
And we must uphold our creed that all people are created equal.
The heart of America is at stake.
Abuse begets abuse.
Violence begets violence.
Just my thoughts.