I think my story in and of itself is a plump one.
Take your pick, but most of the facets are individually pieces that people will write long about – from the early years on the rural sheep farm to the car accident. My parents becoming Baha’i’s, then moving to the Fiji Islands. Growing up white “kaivalangi”, deaf, attending a Chinese Catholic school for years. Moving to Hawai’i, sent to Japan alone at age 15 to go to a Japanese high school. College at 16. Rural Taiwan, then Japanese prep school (in Japan) at 17. Back to college in Hawai’i, graduation and starting off as an elementary school teacher in Macau (- then a Portuguese colony in China) at age 20.
That’s all just the tip of the iceberg.
I feel the greatest story of my life was the choice to have Moxie.
This choice slammed me up against the grill of my beliefs, expectations, hopes, fears. It pushed me through the door of radical change and demanded that I re-evaluate my life and everything that I was living by and for.
Prejudice, you see, isn’t easy to face.
It brings out the parts in us that we wish didn’t have, that we are not proud of, don’t particularly want others to see.
Prejudice is our crown of shame, and when we wear it, consciously or not, we can feel the weight of it.
Before I had Moxie – even with my being deaf, even with my work in disability employment advocacy and counseling – I had a lot of prejudice about Down syndrome, about what it means to have a child with Down syndrome, about the syndrome itself, about intellectual disability.
I’d see parents with their offspring with Down syndrome at parks, in public and I’d pity the parent. I wanted no part of the “special.”
I wasn’t proud of my feelings and I would never have said them aloud. They were simply too ugly, too ignorant and I knew it even then.
Choosing to have Moxie freed me in a way I’m still trying to fully comprehend.
It released me from the shackles of constantly trying to be like other families, trying to live a typical life (and who was I kidding anyway?! I’ve never had a typical life!). Freed me from matching my clothes in any way other than what was most pleasing to my own self. It told me to wear the bright red lipstick, go camp on the beach in Mexico for a month with my babies, plant tulips because they are pretty and purple carrots because, hey! Purple carrots!
My Great Story – my greatest story so far – was about facing my fear and prejudice and allowing this little girl into my life and heart, and allowing my mind to open to those that are radically different from me.
And now that I have her, I know how uniquely precious she is. I am learning about how her Tribe thinks, acts, ways in which we are all united and ways in which we can savour our differences.
I know how alike a diva she can be, how we laugh at the way she might flip out if we so much as touch her plate when she is engaged in eating, or how she imperially insists on independently doing her own everything. We shake our heads ruefully and laugh, “oh man… Princess Moxie!“
This is the thing that I can’t get out of my head over Robert “Ethan” Saylor: he was likely the same way as my Moxie. He probably flipped out if someone touched his plate – or his arm – when he was doing something. Perhaps something like sitting in a theatre, watching a movie, enjoying a snack.
My daughter could be that young man. Anyone who thinks, acts or looks different from the mainstream could be that young man. Anyone to whom there is prejudice for could be that young man.
I can’t get this out of my head because unless and until we truly start to root out prejudice from our minds and hearts, this type of event can happen – a young man or woman can be killed over a movie ticket.
Killed over a movie ticket. Or rather, killed over the prejudice that tempered a moment.
More that you can do:
The change.org petition:
You can call the U.S. Department of Justice- (202) 307-5138
This is important as they have stated that “there are no concrete action steps at this time. It’s a little bit early for us. We’re trying to assess the situation and see how much community tension there is.”
So let’s make some tension, community. Call!
You can use these form letters to send:
To the U.S. Department of Justice –
or by mail sent to
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
According to a press release from the State’s Attorney for Frederick county, Robert Ethan Saylor died as a result of three individuals’ actions on January 12, 2013 in Frederick, Maryland. His death was and remains classified a HOMICIDE.
Robert Ethan Saylor was a healthy, 26-year-old man, who also had Down syndrome.
However, the above press release also states that Robert Ethan Saylor was “…compromised by his Down’s syndrome…” and concludes that no criminal charges are necessary in Mr. Saylor’s death.
I believe that the above decision speaks to a continuing bias in society to see Down syndrome as a disease, those with Down syndrome as lesser humans and not deserving of the same respect warranted to those without Down syndrome. I strongly believe, and do not stand alone, that it is a violation of basic human rights to view Mr. Saylor’s death as somehow due to his genetic makeup when his death has been classified a HOMICIDE.
I’m contacting you today to ask you to launch an independent inquiry into the death of Mr. Saylor. I am asking you to prove to me that your department believes in the humanity and equality of everyone, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
And again, the change.org petition:
You are acting for Robert “Ethan” Saylor, acting for justice, acting against prejudice.
You are helping to make your own story great.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.