Down syndrome from a father's perspective.

Down syndrome politics.

  • treyton down syndrome clifford big red dog special education

THE STRUGGLE FOR COHERENCE

I have found that some posts are much easier to write than others. In fact some of the posts I have written have almost seemed to write themselves. Not this time. I struggled with this post. It wasn’t that the topic was difficult; it was more that it was hard to settle on one topic.

Part of the difficulty I experienced was due to the general busyness of my family. The high school swim season has not ended yet and the junior high season just started. The fall schedule for AYSO soccer just finished but that is balanced out by the start of piano lessons. We celebrated a birthday, worked in an appointment at the vet for the dog and made sure to get Treyton to as many speech therapy sessions as possible. Throw in some parent-teacher conferences, a little trick-or-treating, and grand parents day for good measure.

Treyton is introducing is giraffe to his pumpkin.

I did find some time to research containment options for our dog Beckett and then spent the day Saturday installing an in-ground fence. It took Bailey and me the entire day but we did it and saved ourselves about $1,000 by doing the labor ourselves. After the fence I moved right into mowing the lawn but that meant we could not carve pumpkins until Sunday. After carving pumpkins Leigh Ann and I had the chance to go to game 4 of the World Series where we watched our Tigers lose. It was an awesome thing to experience but would have been that much better had they won!

I think you get the picture. Like other families with similar aged kids we are headed in a lot of different directions. Top that off with my A.D.D. and the craziness is amplified. However, the one thing that did keep coming to mind was the election next week.

As I thought about the election and considered which candidates I thought were best for their respective offices I found myself prioritizing the things I feel are important. That is when it hit me how much thing have changed in my life as well as those the things that I believe to be of value.

FACELESS VILLAINS

As a general rule I try to stay out of political discussions, I don’t think there is much good that comes from them. It seems to me that people either blindly agree with each other and give the impression that anyone that doesn’t see it their way is an idiot. Or, people will blindly disagree and refuse to listen to the other person. In my opinion most people seem to hold to their political opinions like they are Biblical truths and anyone that has a different perspective is “of the devil.”

I don’t believe life is that black and white, there are a lot of gray areas in life and to pretend there isn’t seems ignorant. I have found that it is easy to say something is all good or all bad when you have never been personally impacted by the issue. Take abortion as an example. If I lived in a vacuum that was not impacted by outside forces I would say that abortion is wrong. However, I am not sure what I would say if someone close to me was raped and became pregnant as a result. Life events change us. We need to be careful about how we talk and act about our personal opinions.

CHANGING VIEWS

I was raised in a conservative Christian family in West Michigan. In terms of politics I remember my parents telling me that they were independent, they were careful about aligning themselves completely with one particular political party. They wanted the flexibility to vote for the best person not just the person that one political party supported.

Cabrini Green Rowhouses

Despite my parents independent political stance I imagine that there were few, if any, times where they did not support the Republican candidates. That was the stance of everyone I knew in our church as well as those in the Christian high school where I attended. When I was old enough to vote I also considered myself to be an independent voter. But, because of the more conservative stance of the Republican party on most social issues, it is the party I believed to be the “right” party.

Maybe that is why I hate what I perceive as political blindness. It reminds me of where I was at one point in life. It wasn’t until I left West Michigan and went to Bible school in Chicago that my world was broadened. At Moody I was surrounded by people like myself that wanted to devote their lives to serving God. Yet, one of my friends (he is now a pastor) claimed to be a Democrat. I couldn’t believe it! That was the beginning for me. We both claimed to love God and wanted to serve God with our lives yet one of us had democratic political views and the other republican.

While at Moody I was forced to question some of my other assumptions. As a kid I learned the value of hard work and that I was expected to work hard in life. Along with that came the assumption that by working hard I could achieve my goals and “advance” as reasonably expected. That assumption included the belief that anyone that wanted to work hard would have the same opportunities as I did.

My time in Chicago afforded me a little exposure to what life was like for kids in the projects (specifically Cabrini Green). With that experience I could see that it was easier for me to “blaze my path” in life than it was for the kids growing up in that environment. We really did come from different worlds. With my upbringing it was a natural choice when I chose to go to college, not for the kids in Cabrini Green. It was certainly possible for them but it took a lot more effort than it did for me. Experiences like this one helped to open up my eyes to the complexity involved with many of the social issues.

Having a son born with Down syndrome was certainly an event that help to change my perspective on many things including politics. Like so many things that are now part of my life I did not even consider them before. It wasn’t so much that I was for or against them it was just that they didn’t enter my mind and they certainly were not “on my radar” when I went to the voting booth. If that is you I can relate but also hope I can help you to see the importance of these things.

Getting air.

IMPORTANT ISSUES

As I continued thinking about the election and how I was going to vote I decided to make a list some of the things I felt were important. It was a simple list of the issues that came to mind. The list included the following:

  • The ABLE Act
  • The economy
  • Special education funding
  • 2nd amendment rights
  • Disability benefits (SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.)
  • Military
  • Stem cell research
  • Abortion

If I were to study this list I am sure I would find things I had missed but what this represents are the issues that are in the front of my mind. If I had done this same exercise ten years ago I am sure the list would have a couple of the same issues on it but I don’t think there would be many duplicates. Not only that but if I were to prioritize this list now and compared it to the priorities I placed on these same issues before they would be different as well.

One of the things that has really struck me lately is that there isn’t one candidate or party that is the best choice for all of these issues. As a result I need to decide which ones I want to place at the top of my list. How would you prioritize this type of list? To say that I would put the most important issues at the top of the list is too simplistic. What makes an issue important? Is it that the issue has the most direct impact in my life? Is it that one of these issues is at risk because one candidate will have more of a negative impact than another? If I say that the economy is the most important issue during this election does that mean that I don’t care about abortion?

MAKE SURE TO VOTE FOR THE RIGHT PERSON

I hope that you are getting my point. We all need to make choices about what we believe is best – voting is a balancing act. If you, like me, claim to be a Christian you will look to the Bible for guidance. As I have stated before, the Bible doesn’t spell it out for us. As I looked to the Bible there were three verses that stuck out to me. (I am not telling you that I was mystically guided to these verses). These are verses that I believe have a fitting message as we prepare to vote.

  • Romans 13:1

    Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
    Romans 13:1, NLT
  • Matthew 25:37-40

    “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
    Matthew 25:37-40, MSG
  • Luke 12:48

    But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
    Luke 12:48, NIV

I don’t care who you decide to vote for as long as your vote is for the person you believe to be the best choice. As you consider who that person is I do ask that you keep in mind the needs of people like Treyton. I am asking this because I know that before Treyton was born I didn’t think about those needs. Now that I am aware of these issues I am hoping to help others become aware.

Vote for the following:

  • Vote to improve the health and quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Vote to improve the quality of education for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Vote to increase the opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Vote to create a strong economic future for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This link to the Arc’s comparison of party platforms may be a helpful resource to review before you go to the polls on November 6.

Rob Arnold has been married to his high school sweetheart for almost 19 years. Together they have three daughters and one son. He earned his bachelor's degree in General Business from Grand Valley State University as well as an MBA in Strategic Management from Davenport University. He enjoys reading, hunting, scuba diving, and spending time with his family.