Thursday, June 5, 2008

Writing to Change the World


It is not often that we encounter in our lives a person who has changed the world. I only knew Harriet McBryde Johnson through the Internet, but I grew to admire her because of her work -- mightier than the sword -- in the venue of civil rights.

Johnson, a lawyer and a disability activist who lived and worked in Charleston, South Carolina, drew national attention when she confronted Peter Singer, the utilitarian ethicist who advocates infanticide, the subject equality of animal and human life, and other Brave New World visions.

Johnson protested at a Singer appearance in Charleston. She found him gracious enough to invite her to speak before his class at Princeton University. She did, and from that came a ground-breaking article in the New York Times Magazine, which begins ...

He insists he doesn't want to kill me. He simply thinks it would have been better, all things considered, to have given my parents the option of killing the baby I once was, and to let other parents kill similar babies as they come along and thereby avoid the suffering that comes with lives like mine and satisfy the reasonable preferences of parents for a different kind of child. It has nothing to do with me. I should not feel threatened.

If we write to make a difference, Harriet McBryde Johnson is a fearless example to emulate.


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