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ISSN: 2151-0806

face of the Other, transfigured. Those eyes… The eyes of a brother, sacrificed in a jealous rage. The eyes of a young Jewish rabbi, crucified out of religious zeal and political fear. The eyes of a Muslim, slaughtered for nation and sacred space. The eyes of a young black woman, enslaved for commercial pursuit and colonial power. The eyes of a Jewish mother, torn from her family due to ultranationalism and racism. Finally, I see the eyes of a person with a disability, their life quietly extinguished because…

Despite my familiarity with the story of Abraham and Isaac, it was Søren Kierkegaard who first held me close to the scene. In the work Fear and Trembling, written under the pseudonym of Johannes de Silentio (John the Silent), Kierkegaard returns again and again to the possible thoughts of Abraham as he prepares to sacrifice his only son, upon whom Israel’s hope lay for future generations. Ultimately Johannes de Silentio concludes that Abraham sacrifices Isaac as a result of a teleological suspension of the ethical. Abraham’s ethical instinct (to not murder, to protect his son, etc.) is suspended as a result of his ultimate allegiance to his telos, an ultimate end or goal. In the story of Abraham and Isaac this telos manifests itself as his absolute relation to the Absolute, the One who has commanded that he sacrifice his son (Kierkegaard, 2006). In this paper, I will argue that modern Western culture teleologically suspends the ethical in its death-making treatment of persons with disabilities. Where peace is defined apart from shalom or ‘wholeness’, these devaluing practices could even be argued to be ‘peace-making’. This ‘peace’ amounts to no more than that which the prophet Jeremiah alludes to when he writes “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14, see also Jeremiah 8:11). In light of a complete picture of peace as shalom the societal telos of individual autonomy must be identified as the ‘Absolute’ if we are to confront the root causes of this suspension of the ethical. The outcome of this line of thinking may even result in what appears to be the absence of ‘peace’ – intrusion on private serenity and disruption of communal space – that necessitates active and sometimes difficult involvement in the lives of others. This outcome is inevitable when we dare to look in the eyes of those we place under our knives and may be the only way to achieve shalom or ‘wholeness’ of community. Death-making First, what are these “death-making” practices? Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger (1994) first coined the phrase to refer to a wide range of practices that attempt to legitimize or ignore behaviours that minimize the death of people who have been devalued by a society. He observes that persons with disabilities, for example, are “commonly denied relatively elementary life supports such as antibiotics, basic resuscitation, or even the simplest medical procedures” (Race, 2003, p. 191). Having witnessed stories of simple medical procedures not being carried out at a family’s preemptive enactment of a DNR, Dr. Wolfensberger’s observations have been confirmed in my own experience. Our ethical framework as a society professes that persons with disabilities have the same human rights as those without a disability, but when a situation arises where the theory becomes actuality, the ethical is often suspended. Peace Studies Journal, Vol. 6, Issue 4, August 2013

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Peace Studies Journal Vol 6 Issue 4 2013  

Peace Studies Journal, an online peer-reviewed academic-activist scholarly journal.

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