Twenty-First Chromosome Leads to Enlightenment

Written by Harold McNeill on November 7th, 2012. Posted in Editorials


Photo (Web Source): Several young people, a few of whom share a quirky 7th or 21st chromosome, gather
for a Christmas Party.  Within the group can been seen a few like our son who has a quirky 7th that is commonly known as
Williams Syndrome (I)

January 3, 2015:  I brought this post forward for two people we met in San Francisco at our B&B. We were chatting about discrimination and how some people simply do not discriminate of the basis of race, creed or colour. For those people (and they are they are in the minority) discrimination would only be based on what is generally held as ‘right’ or ‘wrong”.  (For those who read this, take a moment and try to define this difference – it is very difficult as it all gets tied up in personal values.

Re: Open Letter Penned to Anne Coulter

On October 23, 2012, a young man, John Franklin Stephens, an Olympian, posted a letter to Anne Coulter on the Special Olympics blog. In the letter John chided Anne for her insensitivity by referencing President Barack Obama as a retard. John, a very inquisitive and sensitive man who entered life with a mix-up in his 21st chromosome, inquired of Anne as to why she choose to use the word ‘retard’ to describe President Obama. John’s comments include:

… I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarky sound bite too the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income, and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift…

… After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.   Link here for Letter

John’s words struck a chord, not only with my wife and me (reference footnote 2), but also with the general public. His remarks were shared widely across the internet and in news reports around the world.

In my school years, when kids were called names, they would often resort to the singsong mantra: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Perhaps!  In an earlier age these taunts were often passed singly from person to person or within small groups at school or on the street. The coverage, while hurtful, was relatively narrow.

Today, broadcast media and the internet aided by social media, allows such taunts to go viral. A single tweet can, within very short order, be shared among thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands as in the case of the post by Anne Coulter. We have all read stories of the tragic results and Anne is not the only person responsible for such thoughtless, mean spirited words and actions.

Why are words of a taunt used to describe an individual or groups of people? For many, racism and prejudice likely play a large roll as individuals and groups seek to demonize those who they do not understand or who they might hate for any one of a thousand different reasons. In recent years the Muslim community has taken the brunt of this prejudice, while in earlier years others (Irish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Eastern European, etc) have been the vilified.

For others who carry on this practice, it may be used a means to assuage feelings of inadequacy or inferiority they sense within themselves. For ordinary folks like Anne, these taunts are likely used as a means to gain notoriety and thereby aid her in holding a job that provides a great salary as well as maintaining her notorious, celebrity status. All this is being done while Anne, along with many of her listeners, profess to be a God fearing Christians. Difficult to reconcile, is is not?

Take a moment and think about the following words that have been invoked over the past 100 years to belittle or degrade a defined cultural group or those connected by common interest or orientation (e.g. race, religion, sexual, disability, etc.):  Nip, Kike, Pongo, Nigger, Kraut, Wop, Bow and Arrow, Nestow, Wagon Burner, Chug, Frog, Spick, Bohunk, Wigger or Wegro (for Irish), Chink, Slant Eye, Pollack, DP (Dumb Pollack), Rag Head, Towel Head, Waki Paki, Dogan, Infidel, Bible Thumper, Carpet Kisser, Christ Killer, Jew, Jesus Freak, Faggot, Dyke, Queer, Pansy, Queen, Retard along with dozens upon dozens of others that also include the most despicable pictures and jokes. Have any of you ever received one of those vile emails about another culture or about members of our own society whose lifestyle is different?  For instance, did you hear the one about the Paki (or lesbian or queer)…?

Hateful and hurtful, clearly yes, but does not using these words or publishing this material in a mean spirited way, speak more to the character of taunter than the taunted? Anne’s use of the word retard speaks volumes about the small world Anne and her listeners occupy and very little about those she (and they) seek to disparage.

Yet, the greater harm comes from those within the wider community who use these words and/or actions as a means to spread hatred and fear among the people of a nation or among nations.  Take for example the Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posteninm in which the Prophet Mohammed was displayed in a rather unflattering manner.

Those printed images and dozens of similar others can be found all over the internet, just as it is easy to find items that belittle and/or poke fun a Christians, Jews and other belief systems.  That the Danish publisher approved those pictures seems rather stupid, petty and mean spirited, but, really, who actually reads a Danish newspaper? Perhaps a few thousand Danes at best and the majority of those Danes would likely look upon those caricatures with disdain. Perhaps a few would even cancel their subscriptions while only a few, would be laughing, clapping and stating: “here, here” (in Danish of course).1 (A footnote on Freedom of Speech)

The tragic result, however was that other media, primarily mainstream, as well as a few Muslim Imams in Denmark and elsewhere sensed an opportunity. If those images could be widely distributed, particularly within Muslim world, the outcome would be predictable – large scale protests, perhaps riots against the ‘infidels’. Think about the dual standard at work here – Muslims, Muslim Imams and Muslim Media distributing images that are (apparently) forbidden by the Koran (at least as interpreted by some Muslims) to be distributed. Of course, the whole thing went virile.

Some of the worst images that came to be circulated in the Muslim world never even appeared in Danish newspaper, but were created by others in a manner designed to incite the greatest possible offence and damage. Bingo!  The entire Danish people and their embassies around the world were being attacked, all this while the vast majority of Danish people never did one single thing to offend the Muslim community.

A similar event happened when a little known Florida preacher, Terry Jones, first burned a copy of the Koran then strung up President Barack Obama in effigy along the street in front of his little church.  Why, in ‘Heavens’ name, would a man who claims to be a Christian leader think that burning a copy of the Koran or hanging an effigy of President Obama in front of his church, would help to advance the interests of Christianity and help to bring about ‘peace on earth, good will to men’, let alone help to define the path to salvation.

As with the caricatures in the Danish newspaper, no one would have ever known about this small congregation in Florida unless someone sensed an opportunity? Of course someone did and it was not long before mainstream media, religious leaders of all faiths and politicians around the world, jumped on the bandwagon and gave Terry Jones and his flock the world stage.

The outcome was predictable as the Muslim world again became incensed as the media. Muslim religious leaders and others continued to ferociously stir the pot of hatred. It became a hot-button issue in the US election and at one point Reverend Jones was refused entry to Canada. All this precipitated by individuals, groups and organizations who express one set of values while practicing another.

As for Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and countless others on far right or left who continue to drawn people in with to their thoughtless, hate filled and politically motivated comments in order gather viewers, listeners, readers and voters, there is little can be done other than follow the lead of young John Franklin Stephens whose 21st chromosome led him along a path of enlightenment. Is it not neat, that a young man with some real limitations can make a difference on the world stage?

Perhaps under his inspired leadership the Moral Majority, as first conceived under leadership of Jerry Falwell (for political purposes), might again be convinced to join hands with honest people of all colours and creeds around the world to clearly and unequivocally distance themselves from those who seek to divide people, countries and nations of the world through fear-mongering, hate literature and speeches as well as racial, ethnic, religious and sexual epithets.

Perhaps if Anne, Rush, Glen, Terry or any of the many who use words, jokes, pictures and videos to damage and demean others, had been born with a quirky twenty-first or seventh chromosome1, they would be much more compassionate, thoughtful, loving, caring and more likely (if that is what they desire) to find the path to enlightenment and salvation that many of them seem to so desperately seek.

Harold McNeill
Victoria, BC
November, 2012

(1) Freedom of Speech: (November 29, 2012…a new post discusses Freedom of Speech in Denmark)

Someone (perhaps it was my father) once said: “If you intend to poke that hornets nest with a stick, you had better be certain as to why you are doing it and you had better consider the possible outcome.”

As a result of side discussions following the posting of this article (including the comment in the footer of this post), addtional consideration is being given to the position taken in the paragraph about whether the actions of the Danish newspaper were: “…stupid, petty and mean spirited…”.

As for the actions of the Danish Imans and others following the posting of those images, they were also “stupid, petty and mean spirited”, as they fueled the latent rage that exists in a small proportion of the Muslim community most particularily in developing countries. That being said, the whole issue of ‘freedom of speech’ in the age of the internet is not nearly as clear cut as it was in the age before the internet.  The writing of an editorial on the subject will take some time.

Back to the thrust of this article, would a person having a quirky 7th or 21st chromosome have considered taking the actions as was taken by these various groups? I think not, as there is a better way. That is, caring about how you treat other people.

(2) The Pixie Children

Williams Syndrome: “Is caused by a deletion of about 26 genes from the long arm of chromosome 7. The syndrome was first identified in 1961 by New Zealander J.C.P. Williams and has an estimated prevalence of 1 in 7,500 to 1 in 20,000 births”, a relatively rare occurrence at best. (Wikipedia)

I have the distinct privilege of being the step-father to a young man whose quirky 7th chromosome gifted him with a charming and extraordinarily kind character. I would venture to say the young man, now forty, and his group of brothers and sisters around the world, do not have a mean bone in their bodies. These children and adults are always ready, willing and able to lend a hand to someone (anyone) in need and while they may chide others for being ‘mean’, I have never seen one of them judge others harshly because of mental incapacity, religion, ethnic origin or socio-economic status.

On a literary note, it seems likely those gifted with this extraordinary 7th chromosome, have, in centuries past, lead many to believe they possess a kind of magical or mystical power.

Over the decades these children have come to be known widely as the ‘pixie’ kids and it seems likely their stature and facial features may have lead to a folklore filled with elves, fairies and other forms of the ‘good people’ or ‘wee folk’ as is so often present in English literature. Coincidently, it was in an article by a British Physician that my wife and I first learned about the nature of the syndrome in our own son.

Drawing: Poor little birdie teased by Victorian era illustrator Richard Doyle who depicted an elf with the facial features associated with Williams Syndrome.

Since having become this young man’s step-father and having been drawn more deeply into a world of individuals who face life challenges that most of us will never experience and of which few of us have any real understanding, I have found that community to be filled with individuals who are loving, caring and helping, without reservation and without condition.

An intriguing question, and one that as far as I know has yet to been answered, is why individuals with quirky chromosomes at locations such as ‘7’ (as in Williams Syndrome) and ‘21’ (as in Downs) are gifted with a full range of similar personality traits of which most of the mainstream population is not. Well, perhaps the mainstream is likewise gifted, but simply choose to park those traits on a back shelf as being ‘inconsistent’ with some of their practices.

Think for a moment of how differently our world be if those personality traits were brought to the forefront and shared on a regular basis among the majority of mankind?


Also, check out the post on the Power of Religious Symbols


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Comments (3)

  • Ted
    November 7, 2012 at 11:25 pm |

    I think that it is a mistake to try equate the Danish cartoons with the kind of filth spewed by Ann Coulter. Coulter’s remarks were intended to be hurtful and were hateful.

    The cartoons were commissioned by the newspaper to make a statement about freedom of speech and censorship. Defending free speech is one of the jobs of a newspaper and offering thoughtful, rational criticism is neither hateful nor hurtful.

    I have no problem with people being offended and might even sympathize if they wanted to protest in some peaceful way. However, killing people and destroying property over these images crosses a line far worse than anything the Danes did.

    Would you approve if John Franklin Stephens had bought a gun and shot Ann Coulter? Would it be OK for him to fire-bomb the station that broadcast her words?

    Blaming the Danes for the violence is like blaming a rape victim for wearing a short skirt.

    Your right to be offended does not override my right to live and sometimes a little “offense” is needed and warranted to move a discussion forward. Coulter had no such justification (she seldom does). The Danes had every right to challenge intolerance and zealotry and the deaths are the fault of bigots and zealots.

  • November 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

    Someone (perhaps it was my father) once said: “If you intend to poke that hornets nest with a stick, you had better be certain as to why you are doing it and you had better consider the possible outcome.” As a result of side discussions following the posting of this article (including the comment in the footer of this post), addtional consideration is being given to the position taken in the paragraph about whether the actions of the Danish newspaper were: “…stupid, petty and mean spirited…”. As for the actions of the Danish Imams and others following the posting of those images, they were also “stupid, petty and mean spirited”, as they fueled the latent rage that exists in a small proportion of the Muslim community most particularily in developing countries. That being said, the whole issue of ‘freedom of speech’ in the age of the internet is not nearly as clear cut as it was in the age before the internet. The writing of an editorial on the subject will take some time. Back to the thrust of this article, would a person having a quirky 7th or 21st chromosome have considered taking the actions as was taken by these various groups? I think not, as there is a better way. That is, caring about how you treat other people. Harold

  • Harold McNeill
    July 8, 2015 at 10:13 am |

    The above comments obviously became attached to the wrong post.

Leave a comment



  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

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    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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