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.