28 February, 2010

It's just a word.

The whole language debate about what's cool to say and not say is back. This time it's the "R" word, retarded or retard. I find myself in a most uncomfortable position, in agreement with Sarah Palin in believing that Rahm Emanuel should have been fired for his words about liberal activists. I'm a hard-core bleeding heart liberal, so bear with me while I deal with that reality.

I've said it before, and I will say it again, the word "retard" is valid when used to describe something that slows you down or gets in your way. It's not a term to use to abuse or belittle someone. Because when used that way, that's just what you are doing, just not to the person you might think or intend.

I can be in agreement with Sarah Palin because she has a child with Down Syndrome, like I do. There are certain things she and I have in common. We know and experience things through our children that no one else that does not parent a child with notable developmental and cognitive disabilities will ever truly know.

I agree with her that Rahm Emanuel should have been fired for saying that liberal activists were "fucking retarded". If he had said some group of folks were "chinks", or "spics", or…, his head would have been on a plate before dinner time. I don't question that. Do you? Yet, somehow, it's okay that he called them retarded. Why?

I voted for President Obama and to say I'm disappointed at the lack of any further discussion on this is an understatement. To date, no further intelligent discussion on this issue appears to be happening in this country. There has certainly been plenty of unintelligent discussion on the issue. To the extent there has been intelligent discussion in the media, in particular Stephen Colbert points out the irony of Sarah Palin not calling out Rush Limbaugh on his use of the word "retarded." Colbert's bit, while offensive for it's unabashed use of the word, was an actual case of satire. That Sarah Palin not only belittled the issue of Limbaugh but brushed it off as satire, is sad and cognitively dissonant.

My son Samuel has needed his parents, his family, his church, teachers, friends, all to be with him in the process of reaching his full potential. My and my wife's' roles in this process, to the extent we are able, has been to be his advocate. That is my interest in writing this piece; not just for my son, but for all of those with developmental and cognitive disabilities. The truth of the matter is, our kids, our loved ones, our friends with these disabilities are not be able to march on Washington for their rights and for their dignity. Perhaps because of this, the nation, certainly our schools, and now our main stream media seem to feel this word is okay to just toss around (6:35 - 6:45 in the clip).

I'm really quite angry at the lack of sensitivity to a whole population who among our global population are least able to stand up for themselves. As a people sharing this same speeding ball through space, we have a responsibility to be more, to do more, to do what we can to reach our own full potential. Using this term, retard not only diminishes the developmentally and cognitively disabled, it diminishes us and makes it less likely that we as a people will reach our potential.

Being angry and writing about it isn't really good enough for me. I need to do more and I've finally decided that I want to do that directly with Jon Stewart. I'd like to ask him why this language is okay? Stewart has become perhaps the most important journalist of our time, albeit a "fake" journalist. Some of the work he does is quite in depth and he's asking political and social questions none others in the media ask. He speaks to the younger generation like no other media outlet does.

I'd like to find out why it is that attacking this group of people has become free game? I'd like for Jon Stewart to meet my son on his show and look at him and explain why using "retard" is funny. I think I win that debate. From there, I want more. I want Stewart, Colbert, Limbaugh, Emanuel, Ben Stiller, and President Barack Obama to connect with Special Olympics and pledge their support to end the use of the "R" word. I want them to make PSA's to help inform the nation that the time has come to respect and for us all to be that village that supports those in our societies that need it the most. This was the basis for the creation of the Special Olympics, and this should be the basis and opportunity for this country to continue to mature and provide simple human compassion to those with developmental and cognitive disabilities.

I need your help. Please pass the link to this blog post to your friends, family, co-workers. I need a contact at the Daily Show who can get me a spot on that show. I want to do my part to help Spread the word to end the word. Because sometimes, words hurt.

1 comment:

Chrystal said...

I think you would make a great addition to the Oz Squad. Have you heard of it? Lots of like-minded parents looking for change.