Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The "R" Word, and Why it Cuts

If you grew up in the 80's or 90's, you've probably heard the word "retarded" and perhaps even used it to hurt someone. If you did, I'm not here to yell at you and try and make you feel badly. I am not even pulling a Harry Potter today, and talking about "the word that shall not be named".

I have gotten a LOT of flack for the name of my blog. I am judged and written off. I have without a doubt, lost followers or fans. I was very deliberate when I chose the name, I got warnings and reprimands within the first few weeks from starting it. I chose it because I wanted everyone to know just how open I am willing to be. I want to be honest and not hide behind terminology. I want to tell you WHY parents are so "militant" about terminology and why they will jump down your throats for your carelessness. I wanted you to understand what our life really is. I wanted you to know how frivolous that diagnosis is to my value of my child. I love Elise for being her. I do not care if she is not what the world views as perfect. I do not care what you think if she has a meltdown in the middle of a store. I do not care what you think about when you hear the word "quality of life", because I know that she is a treasure beyond price!

I value Elise because she is perfect. She loves fully and completely, she is beautiful and a blessing. There is not a soul on this entire Earth that has no failings. There is not a person on Earth that can excel in all areas of life. If my daughter has to struggle more than the average bear to execute her dreams, then she appreciates them more than the average too. She will be very aware of her accomplishments and will be confident in her life.

Retarded used to mean something more simplistic than it does now. It was later used to give an explanation to educate the public. Later yet, it has been used to denigrate, cut, and attack; and it is this consequence that has caused the hue and cry. It used to mean that something or someone may take a little longer to succeed, but they would eventually meet the goal. Now it is the ultimate decree that someone is expendable and not of worth.

Because I am a veteran teacher of the public school system, I was most aware of the diagnosis/explanation. Because I am a word-a-phile, I found comfort in the original definition. As a parent of a child with THAT word in her diagnosis, I am hurt, decimated, and angered by the general and careless definition, because regardless of her IQ, my daughter is a value to her world. She may be a little more work, but she is unequivocally worth it.

I will not attack you if you slip into your 13-year-old self and you are careless. I will be hurt. I will probably correct you, if my mere presence does not make you correct yourself. If it is used against my child, I promise you that I will go Mama Bear on you. But, I encourage you to wipe this word from your vocabulary. I ask that you go mama bear on your kids, so they know what it really means. I beg that you explain to others how hurtful it is. I plead with you not to become anesthetized to the ultimate appraisal that the word "retarded" gives.

Ultimately, if you use that word, you are concluding that something is worthless and a waste. If that is used against a person, can you really wonder at the pain, anger, and defensiveness that it inspires in our community?

I hope that you will commit to not using the word "retarded" or it's variations. I hope that you will remember what it is you are really saying. If a you want something a little more concrete, please check out this site. I particularly like this page of explantion.

Please also take the time to read the article "Redefining Disability" on this page. It is such a great article!

Also, this was a really neat interview, and I really typically dislike Johnny Knoxville! (Thanks to my friend Laura who posted this up on Facebook!)

I hope that you will consider what I've said and take it to heart. Don't react to those who get angry. Do not defend yourself. Understand that it is not the words that are used, but the meanings that supersede the dictionary definition.

What I am talking about is more than political correctness. Love by action. Listen to the craving of respect. Give that respect.