Cruelty as Humor — The Trig Palin Joke

There appears to be no level as to which the media will not stoop in its efforts to paint Sarah Palin and her family as a mere caricature based on their twisted preconceptions. They cannot stand the idea that the Palins are a family affirming and loving a special needs child. The latest flap concerns the despicable cartoon production Family Guy and its producer’s crass comment to television host Bill Maher that the incident presented in the Family Guy episode was a mere joke and apparently, he alleges, Palin “has no sense of humor.”

Well, if this so-called joke isn’t the height of arrogance blended with disdain, the likes of which even I am appalled at, then something in the garbage can of television doesn’t stink!

Family Guy producer Seth MacFarlane told Maher, “I saved my Sarah Palin virginity for you,” in reference to how he reserved his first public statement about Sarah Palin’s criticism of the episode featuring a character with Down syndrome.

But since when is poking fun at special needs children—and defaming the mother of one such child, even describing her as a phony—funny?

As Palin herself responded,

People are asking me to comment on yesterday’s Fox show that felt like another kick in the gut. Bristol was one who asked what I thought of the show that mocked her baby brother, Trig (and/or others with special needs), in an episode yesterday. Instead of answering, I asked her what she thought. Here is her conscientious reply, which is a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make about an issue that begs the question, “when is enough, enough?”:

When you’re the son or daughter of a public figure, you have to develop thick skin. My siblings and I all have that, but insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent. People with special needs face challenges that many of us will never confront, and yet they are some of the kindest and most loving people you’ll ever meet. Their lives are difficult enough as it is, so why would anyone want to make their lives more difficult by mocking them? As a culture, shouldn’t we be more compassionate to innocent people – especially those who are less fortunate? Shouldn’t we be willing to say that some things just are not funny? Are there any limits to what some people will do or say in regards to my little brother or others in the special needs community? If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks. —Bristol Palin

Clearly, the ongoing verbal assaults on Trig are taking a toll on the Palin family, but I somehow think they will rise above it all and continue. On the other hand, there’s something else afoot here, which is far more inhumane, though less obvious. It has to do with the manner in which “Hollywood” media personalities like MacFarlane, Maher and Letterman actually address the integrity of the human person. After all, Trig Palin is a baby and, while some have argued that Sarah Palin may have gone too far by being a political figure instead of a stay-at-home mother, the recent comments about Trig Palin are based on fear, jealousy and disdain. There’s something about the Palin family, their joy regarding Trig and the various challenges they have had as a family that either frightens many in the media or brings out the brutally anti-life tendencies that are always just beneath the surface among so many of these people.

Face it! If Sarah Palin were the mother of a special needs child who lived down the street, nobody would be making a to-do about anything because she would not be in the public eye. The fact is, as we all know, Palin is a very public figure and she has ticked off a whole lot of people, not only on the far left but in the Republican Party as well. But the question is, does any of that justify using a special needs child as the foundation for unscrupulous personal attacks? No, not in a civilized country anyway.

However, this spate of verbal assault tactics smacks of a deeper sense of ruthlessness that cannot go unaddressed. This latest episode involving Trig Palin and his disability could be the emerging signal that American culture is not to be considered civilized in any way. Perhaps the culture—or at least those who frame the attitudes in the culture—has not been so for many years. This is a nation that kills its own future through acts of abortion and calls it a choice. This is a nation that laughs out loud at the teachings of Christ and His apostles. This is a nation that has lost its moral compass in deference to the “it’s only your opinion” manner of thinking. Such a disposition suggests that attacks on Down syndrome children are really nothing more than another element in the formula for the American culture’s dehumanization of the vulnerable.

Oh, I know there are many decent citizens of this nation who join with me in voicing their outrage at this most recent disgusting display of disrespect for the disabled. I thank God for them—each and every one of them. But these fine people are not in charge of public policy; they are not managing television stations or newspaper publishing houses, nor are they in a position to forcefully deal with the filth that is masquerading as entertainment and education in America.

And it is for this reason that people like this writer must speak up, regardless of Sarah Palin’s politics or anybody else’s for that matter.

Special needs children should not be targets in the sub-basement of entertainment. In fact, they should be revered, affirmed and embraced. This really isn’t about Sarah Palin at all; it’s about human decency.

One feminist who favors abortion and had experienced the possibility of carrying a Down syndrome baby herself wrote this about Palin:

She stared into the face of every modern, latte-drinking, yoga-practicing, glamour- and convenience-craving, high-powered modern woman’s nightmare. She was told she was carrying a child with Down’s. And she went ahead and had him. Not only had him, but brought him proudly center-stage, loved him, accepted his birth and his disability, viewed him as a blessing and not a liability. With the support of a loving and devoted husband, she even forged ahead with her high-powered career.

Obviously, even among women who consider themselves supporters of abortion, a woman like Palin, who has affirmed her children and accepted each of them as they are, is admirable. So what’s wrong with those who chide and deride those with special needs? Well, I think perhaps the answer to that question is simply this: A little boy with special disabilities whose name is Trig Palin has cowed them into a serious level of disdain and it is showing. The cruelty is finally in public view for one and all to see.

Whether the individual mouthing disdain for the special needs persons in our midst is White House executive Rahm Emanuel or a sleazy, not-so-funny man such as Bill Maher, the fact is that such fare should not be acceptable in the United States.

Those who spend their time in the upper echelon of power in this country would be well served to concentrate more on loving the lovable than developing better tests to search out and destroy so-called “defectives” prior to birth. Trig Palin is a gift, not a curse, as are all individuals with special needs.

Perhaps those who sit in judgment of others based on their physical or mental prowess should consider the words of Professor Jerome LeJeune, the scientist who identified the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome and spent his life trying to find a cure:

Many years ago, my father was a Jewish physician in Braunau, Austria. On a particular day, two babies had been delivered by one of his colleagues. One was a fine, healthy boy with a strong cry. His parents were extremely proud and happy. The other was a little girl, but her parents were extremely sad, for she was a mongoloid [Down syndrome] baby. I followed them both for almost fifty years. The girl grew up, living at home, and was finally destined to be the one who nursed her mother through a very long and lingering illness after a stroke. I do not remember her name. I do, however, remember the boy’s name. He died in a bunker in Berlin. His name was Adolf Hitler.

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