ROME — I left the country the other day, and the talk on Facebook ever since I logged on across the pond seems to be the new algorithms that limit the number of people you see on your newsfeed. But, in all due respect to all the people I am missing, I can handle what I've been seeing most: nonstop images, videos and commentaries on the new Gerber baby, Lucas Warren. He has Down syndrome, and with his smiling face, he says more about life and love and hope than any words ever put together.
Lucas, from Georgia, was one of 140,000 entries in a contest to become the new face of the venerable baby food company. His mother, Cortney, told "Today": "He's very outgoing and never meets a stranger ... He loves to play, loves to laugh and loves to make other people laugh.â€
Lucas' smile seems instantaneous and contagious. It's hard not to look at him and think of all the pain that the world might see in store for him, and how his innocent love is only what he has to offer you. It's as if his message to the world is: "Lighten up and love already! That's my approach! I'm enjoying it! You should try it." He has no idea how the world looks on him or that there are countries that would have had him eliminated before having the chance to live.
A few weeks ago, I talked to Patricia Heaton, star of the prime-time sitcom "The Middle," who has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of people with Down syndrome. Speaking in response to a news story about Iceland eliminating Down syndrome, she told me in an interview for Angelus magazine: They are not eliminating Down syndrome; you would have to have some kind of genetic maneuver in order to eliminate Down syndrome. What they are doing is eliminating people who happen to have Down syndrome. It's a very different prospect ... We have to start telling the truth about what is happening, and not try to use semantics to deceive or sugarcoat what's happening.â€
Heaton told me about the first time she was pregnant, when a prenatal blood test showed her firstborn might have Down syndrome. As she faced a wave of emotions, she says that she started thinking about Down syndrome on a spectrum: "When God looks down on all of us, we all fall short of perfection."
Heaton is quick to say we cannot "sugarcoat" the challenges of disabilities, but that we have to start looking at people as people, as creatures of infinite possibility, not liabilities.
As Heaton said to me: "I feel that along with standing up for the right of disabled people to be born, we have to focus also on support for families who have family members with disabilities — whether they're funded by state or federal programs, or whether it's charitable programs, or the community does it ... We need to have more programs ... to integrate people with disabilities into the community, and to make sure ... families get the support that they need, because it is more difficult for some families, depending on the level of disability, and the intensity of the disability ... If we are going to be champions of people with disabilities, we also need to be champions of the support systems that need to be around them and their families."
While the Gerber spokesbaby is a corporate mascot on the surface, the position can mean so much more this year. Looking in the eyes of Lucas, we might see a better way to live. A way free of some of the anxieties that hold us back from freely living and radically loving. I'm not far from Pope Francis here in Rome, and am reminded that he often talks about the need for a "revolution of tenderness." If this isn't what such a revolution looks like, I don't know its face.
(Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
When old men reflect upon things that were important to them in their youth, nostalgia looms large. Wanting to preserve from decay the remembrance of what was done is a part of human nature and there have been keepers of the past since the beginning of humankind. I am in my mid-eighties and know whereof I speak.
The age of steam is past, but the last generation of old time loggers had a hard time leaving any evidence of it. During a forty year period in Coos County, thousands of men worked with many hundreds of steam logging donkeys, pulling logs out of the woods and loading them onto railcars or putting them into the water. Of the hundreds of steam donkeys that were once the engines that drove the Coos County economy, only two remain: the 10X13 Willamette wideface donkey, vintage 1912, which is at the Powers County Park; and the little 6X12 Dolbeer spool donkey, vintage 1902, at the Coos History Museum. Neither are displayed in a manner that would permit the interested visitor to understand anything about them, least of all their significance in local and world history.
The 115-year-old Dolbeer steam spool donkey is on open display at the south plaza of the Coos History Museum. My 15-year dream of giving it some meaning had a belated start recently when, with several dedicated volunteers, we laid enough skids to represent a skid road, placed a log on the skids and connected it by cable to the spool of the donkey. Visitors can now get a hint of the way in which the machine was used back in the day. It is an interesting curiosity rife with local connections, but does it represent anything worthy of note to outsiders? I say yes, it does.
The exhibit depicts an early logging technique: the steam spool donkey and line-horse, logging on skid roads the same as used from time immemorial by bull teams (yoked oxen). During the hundred years following 1815, the Industrial Revolution was defined by horses and oxen working in concert with steam, and ultimately being supplanted by it. This exhibit provides a perfect example from that historic era.
If the realistic statue of a harnessed horse were to be placed next to the museum’s steam donkey, it would complete the display. Addition of the horse would epitomize the one fundamental fact of the Industrial Revolution: the replacement of animal power by steam. It would be unique among exhibits of that period, of significant interest to visitors from outside the area, and by placing Coos history into that larger picture, a source of local pride.
I was prepared to procure and install a museum quality horse statue, adapted to the purpose of the exhibit, at no cost to the museum. Unfortunately, the museum director summarily refused my request to complete the exhibit. “This is not the direction we are going to go,” she quite bluntly informed me in an email.
It is not clear to me what direction she has in mind if preserving local history and making it worthy of note to outsiders is not part of it. To give our community a museum that would do just that, several million dollars were raised over many years by a number of devoted community leaders. If the direction of the museum has radically changed, the public that supported the multi-million dollar move should know about it and register opinions.
I am doing what I can to keep this part of our past alive, but it is hard when the gatekeepers won’t listen to the pastkeepers. I am withdrawing my offer to complete the exhibit by adding a horse statue. I was making arrangements with Fiberstock, Inc. of Buffalo, Minnesota. The cost would have been $2650 FOB Coos Bay, painting and addition of harness items to be added here. Anyone interested in taking over the project has my blessings. Good luck with the museum director!
Lionel Youst is an Allegany resident who has worked to preserve the history of Coos County
After reading Mr. Dudas’ letter in Saturday’s paper, it is quite clear that some within our community need to develop critical thinking skills to fully understand the issues as they relate to our global environment and national economy. Mr. Dudas emphatically states, “I don’t care about the quality of air in China. I care about the quality of air right here.” Evidently, Mr. Dudas is oblivious to the facts of global atmospheric dynamics. Industrial sources of toxic pollution originating from Asia do find their way to our shores. Therefore, we must be concerned about worldwide air pollution as we share our “spaceship Earth” with 7-plus billion souls.
The export of clean burning natural gas will help to reduce the use of higher greenhouse emission fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Mr. Dudas should know that LNG is odorless, non-toxic and non-corrosive. Domestically, natural gas is odorized for the express purpose of detecting leaks. At the terminal, state-of-the-art methane detectors will provide superior safety monitoring without the smell.
Mr. Dudas makes a myopic claim concerning employment. He states, “I don’t care about those far away jobs; I care about how many (above minimum wage) jobs this project will create for workers living right here, right now.” The employment facts are that 80 percent of terminal workers will be Oregonians and SW Washingtonians. Also, 60 percent of pipeline workers will be sourced from Oregon and SW Washington. The terminal will require 2,000 workers at peak construction while the pipeline will employ 4,000 workers. Most positions will pay an average of $80,000 annually. All will be filled by fellow Americans. Best of all, there is a trade agreement between the project and unions to ensure that qualified workers residing within our region receive preferential consideration for hiring.
Finally, I find it hard to ignore Mr. Dudas’ disdain for American workers in “far away” places. These places include dozens of small communities located in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah that depend upon the natural gas industry. We should feel empathy for our fellow Americans and their right to pursue economic opportunities for the benefit of their citizens. Especially when these opportunities are interconnected to our own. Shouldn’t we be supporting economic prosperity for all Americans?
It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee Mr. Dudas. The Jordan Cove LNG project is good for Southern Oregon, West Slope Communities, our nation and the world.