Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Letter #6: Eugenics

In April 2008 the Beacon published a feature article about how the frequent decision to abort babies with Down syndrome was tantamount to eugenics. I wrote a response, which was published the next week.

Here are links to the originals:
* Original Article: p. 4 of
* My Response: p. 11 of

Below is my letter.


Two common attributes of the ancient pagan world were cruelty and despair. As Alan Sverdlik’s story “Modern Eugenics: The Elimination of a People” (April 24) illustrates, those attributes are alive and well in our contemporary post-modern era.

I tip my cap to the generous and heroic souls who have chosen to raise Down syndrome children and face lives of isolation, confusion, and unjust hardship: you’ve made the decision to stand up as real men and women in the face of impersonal, de-humanizing initiatives that dissolve what is best in life – love, happiness, an untroubled conscience, hope. Well done.

People come to resemble fun-house mirror reflections of themselves when they are considered primarily in terms of their civic worth. Each of us is meant for a better fate than being reduced to commodity status or cataloged as some variety of defective. And it’s not like the reducing and cataloging is being done using terribly precise instruments.

In a similar vein, when was it decided that we cannot expect individuals to undertake difficult burdens? “He’ll have a hard life – let’s end it for him now” is at best an example of false generosity, a case of undisciplined compassion and charity run amok. At worst it is a habit that tolerates no external constraint on moral conduct, no discipline for the mind, no curb for the passions. We really are weak and willful creatures, prone to do what is easiest and most comfortable; that’s why bodily and mental culture is meant to be in the service of morality. Reversing that order and putting morality in the service of culture translates into falling victim to a creed of legalized cunning and force, one that commits outrages against the weak and victimizes those who choose lives of honest labor and hard work.

So long as this backwards set of priorities is the reigning sentiment of our time, don’t trust the judgment of anyone who wants to “spare” another’s suffering through eugenics and that other phenomenon the Nazis championed: euthanasia.

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