OK, Sarah Palin. I cheered you on when you reamed Rahm Emanuel and to some extent Rush Limbaugh for using the "r" word. It's derogatory to handicapped people, to be sure. But your knee-jerk reaction to the recent "Family Guy" episode is just plain sad -- and completely misguided.
I'm the mom of a kid with special needs; my little boy, Max, has cerebral palsy. You must know how hard it can be to get people to see past your child's disabilities. People look at Max -- a kid who's funny, charming and really bright -- and typically only notice his inability to talk, his unsteady gait, the drool that occasionally trickles out of his mouth. Some adults are wary of him. Some kids are curious; others say things like, "What's wrong with him?" But one thing's consistently true for both adults and kids: They consider my son someone who's very different than they are. They see him as being an "other."
So when I watched that "Family Guy" show you've pilloried, here's what I saw: I saw little Stewie respond to Ellen, the girl with Down syndrome, in the same way that people respond to my son. When he remarked, "There's something up with her!" I thought, BRILLIANT! I want people to hear just how they sound when they make remarks like that.
Later on, when Chris gets frustrated with Ellen because she's pulling a diva act and shouts, "You know, I used to hear that people with Down syndrome were different than the rest of us. But you're not! You're not different at all! You're just a bunch of [BLEEPS!] like everyone else!" I nearly stood up and applauded.
HELLLLLOOOO, America! People with disabilities are people just like everyone else.
I work so hard to spread that message every single day of my son's life. It is an endless, Sisyphean labor of love. To be sure, I would not enjoy it if someone called Max an asshole, but hey, at least they'd be engaging with him instead of just gaping. At least they'd be treating him like a typical person instead of like a freak show.
Sarah, the genius of this episode is that it made a girl with Down syndrome seem like just another feisty teenager with 'tude. It also gave people in this country a way to get the conversation going about people with disabilities. All you saw, unfortunately, was a character with Down syndrome making a reference to having you as a mom. And what's so wrong with that? How was this poking fun at people with disabilities? Sure, Ellen talks a little funny. That's how some people with Down syndrome and other disabilities sound. If Trig grew up to be as smart and opinionated as Ellen, wouldn't you be proud? I sure would love that for Max. Even better if he was able to date,
I guess it's a good thing that your disgust (channelled through Bristol) has created a media monster. But really, you should be grateful to "The Family Guy" -- for tackling a taboo topic with relatable humor and smarts; for holding a funhouse mirror up to the public so they can recognize their shortcomings in their dealings with people who are handicapped; and for being real.
Follow Ellen Seidman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@LoveThatMax