As you'll see when you finally get a chance to read SCHUYLER'S MONSTER, I don't shy away from talking about my own shortcomings as a father. No one's perfect, and sometimes I feel farther from from that perfection than most. And today, I need to address something.
I owe an apology. To Schuyler.
The first time I wrote an article for PajamasMedia.com, I wasn't completely aware of just how conservative their readership was, but if I had gotten a better feel for the site, I probably would have written for them anyway. My own liberal outlook doesn't mean I'm closed to conservatives and their beliefs. One of Schuyler's most adamant and consistent supporters, going back for years, is standing out on the very leading edge of the right wing, his toes dangling happily in the wind. Julie's parents are pretty conservative, and few people do more for Schuyler on a daily basis than they do. One of the themes of my first essay on PajamasMedia, and a big chunk of the book as well, addresses how wrong I was to prejudge the conservatives of Plano in the first place. I don't believe that the issues surrounding special needs parenting fall into partisan ideological areas, any more than the monsters that stalk these kids do so according to how their parents vote.
Nevertheless, after some of the personal comments left on that first essay, I wrote a second essay with some hesitation, and sure enough, the reactions were incrementally worse. I wasn't bothered by the personal attacks this time, either, although I did make an attempt to clarify a few things and also to defend myself against one particularly dishonest remark. (And a reminder to the kids: RESPONDING TO TROLLS IS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS A MISTAKE.) I was accused of being bitter and rude, as if the opponents of inclusion would happily invite our broken kids into their kids' classrooms, if only we'd just ask politely. I was accused of ignoring the plight of kids whose problem is that they are too gifted for their public schools, which is absolutely true. I certainly don't oppose the same kinds of programs for exceptionally gifted children as for those with disabilities. Not one bit. Why would I? It's simply not my fight, and it's not an issue that I know much about, so I didn't take it on. And best of all, I was even accused on one site of being a wealthy, pretentious snob, mostly because I have a hyphenated last name. Everyone knows that hyphens are plated in gold. I keep mine in a special vault.
But when someone posted at length last night about how my "feeble minded" child was destroying the schools for the rest of the kids, it bothered me. It bothered me even more when PajamasMedia deleted the comment today. The comment was rude, and it was vile. But it wasn't obscene and it wasn't threatening. I feel like perhaps they cut it because they were embarrassed by having one of their readers say something so ugly about a little girl, but I can also accept that they chose to delete the comment because they felt responsible for exposing Schuyler to something like that.
But they're wrong. They're not responsible. I am.
This blog and the upcoming book are going to open the door for all sorts of experiences for Schuyler, and while I expect most of them to be positive, we're prepared for the occasional ugliness as well. But in the case of PajamasMedia, I chose to go back into an arena that I knew from experience was likely to be hostile, and I took her with me. My only excuse is that I didn't think it through, and once again I underestimated the capacity for people to become animals when sitting safely and anonymously behind their keyboards.
Schuyler is a warrior, and she gives her monster a thorough beatdown on a regular basis. I suspect that if she were old enough to understand the worst of what was being said about her online, she'd simply fire up her Big Box of Words and send a two word response (hint: not "happy birthday") before going off to live her life, loudly and unhesitatingly.
Nevertheless, I invited more monsters into her home, and for that, I can only say that I was wrong to do so, and I am very, very sorry.