Posted: Apr 21, 2014 11:00 AM
 
Last Wednesday, the Facebook page HuffPost Weird News posted an article about a baby in China born with extra limbs. While the story was unusual, it's time we move away from referring to birth defects as "weird."
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Let me first say that I enjoy reading The Huffington Post, and that's why it is in my news feed in the first place. But last week, an article showed up that left me angry.

I follow the HuffPost Weird News Facebook page, and they posted an article about a baby in China, who was born with four feet and four hands. This disability occurred because "the baby was born joined at the torso to a headless parasitic twin," according to the Huffington Post. So basically, this was a case of conjoined twins, but one twin absorbed the other, and all that was left of it were the extra limbs.

The article goes on to report that the father blamed himself. He believes his baby's physical abnormality is his fault because he didn't take his wife to better doctors. Of course, we know it's not his fault, but he feels it anyway, and we're halfway around the world filing it under "Weird," and making jokes about the situation in the comments. I hope he doesn’t speak English.

Thank goodness doctors have already removed the extra appendages, but this was surely a traumatic ordeal for the family and no doubt recovery from such an invasive surgery must be taxing and painful for the baby. I can't help but wonder what kind of fuss we'd raise if a baby born here in the U.S. made "Weird News" headlines because of a disability. He probably would be called "miraculous" instead.

The keyboard is mightier than the machine gun, and we in the media have a responsibility to lead the discussions that promote tolerance.

The keyboard is mightier than the machine gun, and we in the media have a responsibility to lead the discussions that promote tolerance. That promote peace. That help us to normalize disability and gender and religion and all those issues which so easily isolate us from each other. With the advent of blogging, anyone can be a writer, and there are more words in circulation now than ever before in history. But let's not be fooled into thinking that our words get lost in the noise, or that they don't affect others in a profound way… they very often do.

Why are we so short on empathy, these days? Do none of us want to consider how dehumanizing it feels to be called "weird?"

Huffington Post, you can do better.

How about, next time, we remember that these are actual people — not just headlines. People who didn’t choose to make their story top news. People who certainly don't want to be seen as weird by strangers across the globe.

I know we all want to write the post that goes viral. But as writers, we have tremendous power to influence public opinion, for the good or the not-so-good.

Let us do our best to choose good.

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