Tuesday, March 5, 2013

That r-word

*Contains language. 

There are few words within the English dictionary for which I take offense. I'm an adult and know that words cannot really hurt someone like punches or slaps can. However, that really is not true, is it? Some words hurt more than others because certain words carry connotations of pure malice or disrespect given your situation or background, even if the bearer of those words is not aware of your situation or background. One word in particular stands out to me - retarded.

I hate to even write that word. I loathe that word with a passion. When I hear or read it, I feel slapped. Since I am on Facebook and Twitter (though infrequently), I unfortunately read it unintentionally almost daily. I see it used as a synonym for "stupid," "lame," and "idiotic," among other things. The r-word, it seems just won't die.

People, when I correct them, tell me one of two, or both, of these things: (1) the medical establishment has used the term "mentally retarded" for an incredibly long time to describe individuals who are intellectually disabled or (2) First Amendment right- right to free speech (this is usually not expressed so eloquently).

1. The medical establish has effectively phased out that term, so that argument is invalid. If you catch a doctor saying this, slap him/her- they deserve it.

2. I'm not trying to infringe on First Amendment rights. I love my First Amendment rights! That I am writing a flippin' blog says I am exercising them, doesn't it?

What I am asking, when I ask for someone to not use that hateful word, is for people to not be assholes. To consider who they hurt. People like me. People like my son. He can read and hear, you know. Ask yourself, before you say it, if you would be willing to say that to this face:

pretty cute kid

Morgan was first called retarded when he was about three. At least, that's the first time I was clear headed enough to comprehend what was being said. A very pretty little girl with pigtails said, "get away, you retard!" on a playground in South Carolina. Furious, I marched her over to her mom to tell her what her daughter had said, expecting for some reason some civility. But no, what I received was, "well, is he?" 

That wouldn't be the last time. Morgan has been called that by quite a few people, both children and adults. Other words have entered the fray, but that one sticks in my brain and his. My husband and I have both admitted to using that awful word before but not after Morgan. We're ashamed. Neither of us ever realized exactly how much it could hurt. Now that we do, we want to end its use. This isn't hypocritical as I know I've been called, this is a learning experience and a hard one. To anyone I may have ever hurt, I am deeply sorry.

So, remember the next time you go to utter that word or words that can be used interchangeably for something else. You know which ones I speak of - they're bad and words hurt. If you are unsure as to the substitution you may use for the r-word, get a dictionary. Or, you can refer to this handy little picture I've been posting on Facebook. It's available as a poster! Hey, poster and thesaurus in one!


March 6 is Spread the Word to End the Word Day. Please, click here to sign the pledge to help end the use of the r-word. No, I'm not enough of a dreamer to think that this will actually end this awful word. But I'm enough of one to hope that this movement will eventually catch on and help weed out jerks. Tell a friend. Hey, tell five.