15 July 2009

The Difference with Differences

A few things have happened in the past few days that have reminded me how important it is that we all be witnesses in our everyday lives to our Catholic and Christian faith.

I was speaking to a person I consider to be a very strong, moral and ethical person today, but then he said something that caught me off guard. We were speaking about another person I'd just met, and he was giving me some background. He told me the person's daughter had Down's Syndrome and then said "and that's a bigger burden than anyone should have to carry. Poor guy."

I was so shocked, I didn't say anything. And by the time I recovered, we'd moved on in the conversation and I didn't feel up to bringing it back up. So now I'm blogging about it. Don't get me wrong- I know that the attitude society promotes is that people with disabilities are somehow less human or less worthy of life, but I'm shocked when people I respect say things like that.

Why is it "poor guy"? Why is it such a "burden"? Why is it a burden no one should have to carry? Doesn't he see the implication in his speech- that the daughter would be better off dead? I don't understand. I know that raising a child with a disability is not easy, but I don't think raising any child is easy. A disability might create more challenges, but it also has the potential for great blessings. I don't have a lot of experience with people who have Down's, but what I've seen is people who are more human, loving and caring than the vast majority of this world (myself included.) What do you say when people say things like that?

This brings me to the other recent experience- the area I am living and working in has a lot of immigrants, and these immigrants are visible minorities. Before I moved here I was aware that there are tensions as a result, but I can't help but wonder in the last few days if those tensions are excacberated by people's conduct.

I've noticed that when these immigrants (many of whom are now Canadian citizens, or at least permanent residents) deal with others, they are looked down upon as being unintelligent. I don't think they are- they don't always speak English well, but that doesn't make them stupid. And yet, people assume that because they don't speak English, they must be idiots, and they speak down to them, role their eyes or avoid dealing with them all together. And I see the frustration on the faces of these immigrants who are just trying to get though each day.

I can't imagine how scary and difficult it would be to leave my country and move to another one where, not only do I not speak the language, but I look like an outsider. I got a small taste of that in Italy this summer-I don't speak Italian and I'm so pale that I just screamed tourist and it was hard- and most people there wanted to help me.

Here, people seem to go out of their way to make things difficult for these immigrants. For example, I've seen people be denied appointments, or forced to come back 3 or 4 times because they didn't understand, yet if they spoke better English, someone would take the time to explain it for them.

Maybe the worst was a comment I heard today- "yeah he's Chinese, but his English is pretty good, so there's no reason to not help him."

To me this is the same attitude as the attitude towards people with disabilities. We are all human- equal in dignity and deserving of respect by virture of that inate dignity. Yes, some people are more work to deal with than others, but if we are all children of God, we should do the extra work, and be happy to do it.

If we call ourselves Christians, should our lives not be a witness of His gospel? We need to be Christ to each other, and we need to stop seeing everyone as other and start seeing everyone as our neighbor.

And maybe if we can do that, we can reverse this culture of death we seem to be spiraling further and further into.


Darryl said...

Hi, I stumbled onto your blog by accident. I'm from Singapore where it is truly a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and languages. But the dominant race is Chinese. Surprisingly though, we Singaporean Chinese tend to view the China-born Chinese with some degree of discrimination. You may find that puzzling given that we are all probably originated from the same source, so to speak. The reasons, like what you mention, usually boils down to the difference in competancy in English. English is the working language of Singapore but the foreign nationals working here may not always have the desired command of the language.

I was particularly drawn by this post because I am about to uproot myself to embark on law school Down Under, where I might be viewed as a second-class citizen, subtly or otherwise. As a Catholic from a very young age, I was taught never to judge and discriminate in any way (which I try very hard to abide) but putting myself on the opposite end of things may take time to adjust.

Thank you for your insightful post though. Please continue writing as I enjoy the perspective of law from a Catholic perspective.

God Bless!

Sarah said...


Sorry I haven't responded. I'm glad to hear you like the site, and I do intend to keep writing.

Good luck with law school! I have a few friends who did an exchange at a law school in Australia, and they said it was a fantastic experience. They didn't mention any disadvantage from being out of country, so I think you should ok.

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at catholiclawstudent@gmail.com