A must read article in Vanity Fair for those with an interest in literary figures, in disabilities, or in the relationship between individual rights and the community, which is both a touchstone of Miller's work and part of what has made disabilities issues my own life work.
The playwright Arthur Miller's son, Daniel, was born with Down Syndrome in 1966. Miller, although an activist for a number of causes on the Left relating to personal liberty, immediately institutionalized Daniel, then ignored and hid his existence. The story of Daniel's experience in a state-run institution for 17 years, his release with the consent of his parents, his self-advocacy, and ultimately, his inclusion into the younger generation of his family and inheritance when his father died is a fascinating illustration of the ways that American policies and attitudes toward people with disabilities have changed through time. It also captures better than any recent major magazine article I can remember, why it is an injury and loss for everyone, when people with disabilities are "written out of the picture" through institutional segregation.
No photograph of him has ever been published, but those who know Daniel Miller say that he resembles his father. Some say it's the nose, others the mischievous glimmer in the eyes when he smiles, but the most telling feature, the one that clearly identifies him as Arthur Miller's son, is his high forehead and identically receding hairline. He is almost 41 now, but it's impossible to say whether his father's friends would notice the resemblance, because the few who have ever seen Daniel have not laid eyes on him since he was a week old. When his father died, in February 2005, he was not at the funeral that took place near Arthur Miller's home, in Roxbury, Connecticut. Nor was he at the public memorial service that May, at Broadway's Majestic Theatre, where hundreds of admirers gathered to pay homage to his father, who was, if not the greatest American playwright of the last century, then certainly the most famous. In the days after his death, at the age of 89, Arthur Miller was eulogized around the world. Newspaper obituaries and television commentators hailed his work—including those keystones of the American canon Death of a Salesman and The Crucible—and recalled his many moments in the public eye: his marriage to Marilyn Monroe; his courageous refusal, in 1956, to "name names" before the House Un-American Activities Committee; his eloquent and active opposition to the Vietnam War; his work, as the international president of pen, on behalf of oppressed writers around the world. The Denver Post called him "the moralist of the past American century," and The New York Times extolled his "fierce belief in man's responsibility to his fellow man—and [in] the self-destruction that followed on his betrayal of that responsibility."
In a moving speech at the Majestic, the playwright Tony Kushner said Miller had possessed the "curse of empathy." Edward Albee said that Miller had held up a mirror and told society, "Here is how you behave." Among the many other speakers were Miller's sister, the actress Joan Copeland, his son the producer Robert Miller, his daughter the writer and film director Rebecca Miller, and her husband, the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Miller's oldest child, Jane Doyle, was in the audience but did not speak.
Only a handful of people in the theater knew that Miller had a fourth child. Those who did said nothing, out of respect for his wishes, because, for nearly four decades, Miller had never publicly acknowledged the existence of Daniel....