It is March 2; the day we spread the word about how hurtful the word "retard" can be. It is always startling to realize how many people think Joey is retarded. Not long ago, he would have been labeled mentally retarded, and the efforts to educate him would have been curtailed, because it would have been assumed he couldn't learn. Not long before that, he would have been excluded from school altogether. Even now, trying to get people to understand that Joey is intelligent and wonderful is all too often a challenge.
All too often, we have moments where this hurtful word comes into our lives, and the need for more awareness, more understanding, more acceptance, more true diversity comes blazing up and smacks us in the face. Parents whispering at the spelling bee. Kids on the playground. People in restaurants, in museums, in malls, in parks...
The insistence to clinging to this horrible, hurtful language can be fierce and vicious. The violence of the response to my request for respectful courtesy increases the pain exponentially. It is one thing to be thoughtless and ignorant. It is quite another to know you have hurt someone's feelings, and have your response be that they need to shut up, or that they even deserve to be hurt. People treat their dogs better, and look upon them with more respect, than they sometimes look upon my son. My brilliant, loving, generous, intelligent, wonderful son, who tries with all his heart and soul to be a good friend to all and sundry, every day of his life.
If you still use this word, please stop. For respect of my son, for those who stand with him, and for any who are meeting their challenges the best way they can- including you- please, let this word fade into oblivion. We have so, so many more we can use, that are far more appropriate, and far less hurtful.
We have freedom of speech in this country. Use your freedoms responsibly.