Saturday, 18 May 2013

Dear Collin...

Dear Mr Collin Brewer,

I am sure you know what this post is going to be about.  There have been many like it in the wake of your comments about disabled children.  I doubt very much you will ever read this, but on the off chance you are having a late night game of ‘Google me’ and stumble across this, I hope that you will read on and try to understand where I am coming from.

You see, my response to your comments last week is coming pretty late.  Partly because, having heard about your recent ill health, I was unsure how to respond.  Although, as many fellow bloggers have pointed out, the children at the sharp end of your recent comments are in ill health and this did not prevent you from expressing your views.  However, let me start by saying that I genuinely wish you the best and sincerely hope that you are doing well. If you were just another individual making some thoughtless comments about disabled children, I would simply ignore and move one.  But I am afraid you are not just another individual.  You occupy a position of trust and authority within local government.  As a believer that politics should and must be governed by democratic response, I feel it is important for as many people to express their counter-views as possible.

My delayed response is also a reflection of my own emotional investment in the subject matter.  You can’t fail to notice that disability is fairly fundamental theme within this blog.  I am proud to be mother to a beautiful, funny and rather lovely disabled child. You can imagine how reading headlines stating that, ‘Disabled children should be put down’ could elicit a less than rational response from me.  It’s a little like the dinosaur in Jurassic Park.  Have you seen it? I wouldn’t call it a classic, but it’s good for a bit of early evening escapism.  There’s a little dinosaur towards the end (I hope I’m not ruining it for you).  It looks fairly friendly and innocuous and bounces up to say hello.  But then in a split second its spikes pop out and the next thing you know it’s shooting venom. That’s a pretty much a reflection of my initial thoughts around your comments.  I want to be all helpful, logical and fair, but then out of nowhere a bit of venom flies out and rounds off a sentence with an unnecessary bit of sarcasm.  I shall do my absolute best to keep the dinosaur locked up where it can bounce merrily away looking inoffensive.

Bouncy, well behaved dinosaur
I have to say that when I heard your first comments about euthanising disabled children, I actually felt sorry for you.  When I read the headline that you had apologised and stepped down from your post, I thought ‘poor man.’ This may come as shock to some people, but you see, despite my best efforts to be well read and informed, I am very naïve.  I thought that it was all a big mistake.  I thought that you had been misrepresented by the press, who were looking for an easy headline and had changed what was at the heart of your comments.  I thought that you may have been trying to make a point about euthanasia and helping children in the most extreme levels of pain and distress.  It’s not a point I would necessarily agree with, but I thought it a bold issue to raise and I assumed you had been misunderstood.  I couldn’t begin to fathom that someone would actually say that a person’s life should be eliminated in the name of cutting costs.

So when you were recently re-elected, you can imagine my shock at your next comments.  When you compared disabled children to farmyard animals, stating, ‘if they [farmers] have a misshapen lamb, they get rid of it. Bang.’ When you confirmed, without a shadow of a doubt that you supported taking human life in the name of cost cutting, stating that, ‘the cost has to be evaluated.’ I was shocked. I have to say that your use of imagery was particularly striking, as you spoke about how these ‘misshapen’ lambs would be, ‘smashed against the wall and dealt with’.  That is one of the resounding statements that I find it hardest to shake from my mind.  It is the comment that revved up my inner dinosaur to its spikiest. But then I realised.  I could pick hole after hole in what you have said, but it will be pointless.  It won’t change your mind.  The most impossible competitor to enter into a debate with is one who lacks logic.  And your comments offer none what so ever. 

You see Collin, can I call you Collin?  Mr Brewer feels a little over formal and given that you have a perchant for comparing my son to livestock, I hope we can move beyond classroom style etiquette. You see, I could tell you that your comments make no sense, but it won’t change your mind.  I could tell you that based on your financial argument, you would also need to obliterate anyone with a long term health condition, the elderly and most likely anyone with a BMI over a certain level.  I could tell you that evaluating people’s worth based upon a contribution/cost equation is a slippery slope.  Would you apply this to all people?  How about those you deem likely to enter long term unemployment?  Perhaps those incapable of a logical thought process? (BAD dinosaur – back in cage.)

I could tell you that rounding off your comments with, ‘I don’t know exactly how much they [disabled children] cost’ does little for your credibility in this matter.  Nor does your on-going animal analogy and statement that, ‘we can’t have lambs with two heads and five legs running round.’  To be honest, if a single lamb was born with two heads and five legs, I would strongly recommend calling a leading member of the scientific community, which I am sure would be of more financial benefit than smashing its head against a wall.

I could tell you that many people throughout history have offered up similar arguments and ways to dictate society by determining life and death.  It really hasn’t tended to end very well or done much for their long term popularity.  There’s lots of widely available literature on the subject.  Can I suggest Animal Farm? I think you’ll like that one.

But seeing as all of this will mean nothing, I instead want to talk to you about impact. About the personal impact of what you have said.  You see Collin, you did something.  Admittedly it’s something that is easier to do since my beautiful boy entered my life, but overall it’s still a bit of a challenge. You made me cry.

Yep.  Whilst sitting watching TV one evening, having a little Google during the advert break, you made me cry.  You caused me to break down in tears right in the middle of Law and Order.  And it was a good one as well.

But it wasn’t for the reasons you think.  It wasn’t what you said.  No, it’ll take a lot more than that.  It was the responses to what you said. 

You see in a matter of hours the disabled community began to respond.  And they did so with unbelievable elegance and poise.  The bloggers began to blog, the forum posts began to appear. You can read some of those responses here.  There was little ranting.  No vitriol.  Mothers and fathers pushed back their knee jerk protective instinct and responded with far more grace than I have available to me.  You made me cry, because I was so in awe of this response.  Because I realised that there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t depend upon this community in one way or another. In the things that I read, the information that I get and the questions that they answer.  I cried because whilst I am a tiny part of this community, only just entering into it, I am so immensely proud of it.


  1. That last part really brought tears to my eyes. Such a shame that everyone can't value others like you do x

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment. Not an easy topic to write on, but I hope some positives have come from the debate around this and everyone's responses. x

  2. Wonderful post in every way, and I too have cried many tears of pride to be part of such an incredible team. Reading all those posts has been so heartwarming.
    Thank you

    1. Thank you so much Hayley and thank you for for bringing everyone together. x