Last night while reading over at Hot Air I stumbled on this article. There is a TV show called “WifeSwap”. I remember hearing about this show in 2005 when they aired “Margaret” from Louisiana who was a bit of a nut-case if the YouTube clip I saw of them time was any where close to accurate. At any rate apparently there is a new nut-case by the name of Stephen Fowler who spent two weeks belittling and verbally torturing his “swap-wife” Gayla Long in front of his children, even encouraging them to be disrespectful of her. The last segment of the show is here. Reason #763 not to watch television – shows like this. I feel so badly for this “gentleman’s” children because what they are being taught is pride and intolerance and both are love killers.
I would like to say that I was shocked by this Mr Fowler’s opinions, but the truth is that while his behavior shocks and appalls I am very aware that a good number of people hold his opinions. At one point I was very much in danger of being one of them. Then God gave me Rachel and she taught me what an idiot I was and through her God saved my heart.
I grew up being the “bright girl” the smart one in my class, the one with the high test scores. Gifted and Talented education was just coming along when I was in school and I was plucked into it immediately. So I was quickly surrounded by people telling me how great I was for being smart. I really wanted to believe them. I wanted to be special. It didn’t take long to internalize the values of the people around and I found that I began judging people around me much more on how intelligent I perceived them to be than on the type of person they were.
Now intelligence is a wretched thing to judge people on. It is every bit as superficial a judgment as beauty. Judging someone on their education (as Stephan Fowler was) is like judging someone on their appearance. Beauty and intelligence are both God given blessings which we have absolutely no control over. Appearance and education are a extension of those respective gifts improved through opportunities we pursue, the environment we are raised in and the personal habits we develop. But neither appearance nor education is a indication of a meritorious character and they most certainly are not the summa of a person’s worth.
It is seductively easy to judge people on the things we feel that we ourselves possess and even easier to judge people on those things we feel are important but secretly fear that we lack. If we ourselves are not good enough, at least we are better than those folks. But that is pride, and it kills love.
The thing in my life that shook me out of this was having to come to terms with Rachel’s autism. I was coasting through life thinking that smart was better. I didn’t see the danger of this utilitarian thinking. I didn’t realise how fast life could change and how difficult it can be at times. When Rachel was diagnosed I remember being told by a rather wise education specialist, “She is still the same littler girl that she was yesterday”. This was true. I still loved my daughter just as passionately, I wanted the best for her, I knew her worth despite the reality that she wasn’t capable of expressing her intelligence. She was still worthwhile and I still loved her.
This cracked and ruined my neat little world view of how people should be valued. It fixed it and it healed me. While I wouldn’t ever wish such a painful lesson on anyone I wish that we could help fix our world so that love and an understanding of the intrinsic worth of each individual could get a better foothold in the public discourse and that the “culture of life” could have better purchase against the current culture that determines the worth of each of us as a function of our utility to society.
*I originally has his name as Stephan Fowler, the correct seems to be Stephen Fowler.