Why I can’t let it go: #JusticeForEthan

I might keep writing about him for quite some time. If this bugs you, well, you might have to get over it. (I mean this in the kindest way, of course.) I’ve always voted. I try to make calls, send emails, sign petitions for just causes, but I’ve never been very vocal about it. Truth be told, I am uncomfortable with being so vocal, it has never been my thing. However, I’ve realized that Saylor’s story is part of a greater tragedy that divides and devalues our fellow human beings.

LGBT, straight, black, white, Ds, autism, wheelchair, man, woman, young and old, it really shouldn’t matter; you shouldn’t die over a movie ticket. I realize that not everyone sees disability rights as on par with other civil rights battles being fought today. Maybe that is why I feel the need to keep writing about this. Most people I know quickly agree that there is no basis for treating an individual differently based on religion, gender, race, or sexual orientation. But somehow, talk about disability, and it all gets murky. I’m not saying those other fights so aren’t very important, they are. At least there is a fight. Big. Fights. I can’t say quite as much for what has happened to Robert Ethan Saylor.

I’d love it if you read this blog post. She is a friend of mine, and has a beautiful little girl with Ds. She explains it all more succinctly than I ever have. She also outlines some actions to take.

Maybe until now you’ve felt like Saylor was only important to me because I have a kid with Down syndrome. Or maybe you just thanked your lucky stars that you don’t have a kid who will ever look like him, and won’t get mistreated the way he did. Maybe you don’t think he was mistreated, in which case I beg to differ. I also beg to differ that just because your kid doesn’t have Down syndrome, that you will not be affected by Saylor’s death.

His death is important. It speaks to our culture’s inability to see those with disability as deserving of basic equal treatment. And when you live in a world that cannot acknowledge a person’s basic human value, you live in a dangerous place. I have discovered I live in a society in which it is legal to pay someone with a disability less than minimum wage, simply because they are disabled. It is legal to forcibly sterilize those with disabilities in 15 states. Women with disabilities are sexually abused at much higher rates than their typical counterparts. Men with disabilities are beaten. Married adults are told they cannot live together.

The thing is, I didn’t know about this, until I was forced into a club that I never asked to join. I’m ok with being in this club now. In fact, I’m grateful, and I wouldn’t even change it. I love the club. But that means I have finally come to understand that this club is a club that 1 in 3 Americans will join at some point in their lives. One day, you may be Robert Ethan Saylor. Your child may be Robert Ethan Saylor.

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12 Comments on “Why I can’t let it go: #JusticeForEthan”

  1. Latke says:

    In our household, we’ve been having a healthy debate lately about where “human rights” come from. Some might say they’re universal truths that are independent of, but inextricably intertwined with, our lives here on Earth (and elsewhere). Others might say there’s no such thing as a “universal” moral code, and that we have simply adopted a pragmatic set of rules out of a utilitarian imperative to maintain order in society.

    Regardless where our values come from, the fact remains that our civilzation purports to honor the rule of law, including the most fundamental right of all, both from a moral and utilititarian perspective: the right to LIFE. Our laws—whether handed down by a higher power or simply drawn up by a bunch of dead white men—should not be so elastic that they permit disparate application based on WHOSE LIFE is at issue. As my wife so eloquently notes, every incident like this is most properly viewed as a cancer creeping through the foundation of our society. I wonder if our collective immune system has the wherewithal to stamp it out.

  2. Crystal S says:

    I’m glad I’m in this club, too….a club i didn’t ask to be a part of either, but how it has opened my eyes in these short 9 months my son has been alive! Standing with my fist raised and hoping that justice for Ethan prevails and NOTHING like this happens in the future.

  3. Marya says:

    Great, eloquent post. I have been a mom of a little boy with DS for eleven years and I remember hearing it said at a DS conference how sooner or later most of us would be part of the disability club. I never dreamed just how sooner it would be for me…but here I am.

    Trying to fight the good fight with you! Peace. #JusticeForEthan

    • jisun says:

      That is the fallacy, isn’t it? We are pretty much all in the club by virtue of living on this earth, in human bodies. Never thought I’d see my membership so soon either, but I’m glad to be here.

  4. Beautiful post! I think that is the part that often baffles me the most- no one asks to be in this club, but then they are in it and have to face discrimination on all fronts. 1 in 3 is a huge statistic– we are in the club and we are rallying!!! #justiceforethan!!!

  5. Rachelle says:

    Well said. I am grateful to be in the club and cannot get over this tragedy. I have never been so vocal about anything and I will keep being vocal.

    • jisun says:

      Rachelle, I’ve never been that vocal either. I have to say, it is hard for me. I think I’m getting used to being a loud mouth though, hope you join me. ;)

  6. Lorraine says:

    I’ve been “in the club” for 39 years now. I’ve had no problems with my son and “the public”, and when he did work, he was paid the proper wages. I am still, however, pissed to the max about what happened to that young man, and fervently hope that something like that never happens to my son. (He’s horridly stubborn, and will NOT speak to people he doesn’t know.)


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