Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Spread the Word to End the Word: Yes, It Hurts

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.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Follow-Up: Toaster Friends

So I got a note from Mrs. C. Remember how she left the question box up in case anyone else had questions? Well, apparently someone put a note in the question box.

It read: "Joey IS a good friend!"

Toasters and hair dryers. They can live in harmony.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Many Angles

One thing I love about friends and friendship is that we don't always agree. Connecting with people, for me, is about having new eyes to look at the world and new views of experience, and sharing them. I don't mind if we disagree, even on some very big issues. There is nothing so much fun as having involved conversations where I present my evidence and views, and get to hear and see someone else's, even if I don't agree.

Apparently, I am very weird.

I have some really excellent, intelligent friends. I love to talk about religion, and politics (though that is harder for me, because I always feel like I should more information). If we vary so very widely and vehemently that it would cause a problem, I'm probably not friends with you (for example, I don't believe you have the right to kill another person for any reason, though I will tolerate a difference in opinion as to defining "person"- but you probably aren't going to change my mind about my own definition). It sometimes takes me by surprise that others are shocked that I don't agree with them, or see the world a they do. For example, I was having a conversation with a friend the other morning, and she suddenly interpreted something I said as a personal comment. When I thought about it, I realized how I said what I said could very well be taken personally if you were taking the whole conversation very personally- and I apologized. I didn't mean it as personal, and I didn't want to hurt my friend's feelings; I just was trying to get a good look at her point of view, since we have very different political views and values, and she has a lot of information about her views that gives me something to think about (after all, media outlets all have their biases...) But I was surprised to realize that to her, it was personal. To me, it was just a discussion of possibilities, problems, and various possible solutions.

Religion is another topic I love that gets me into trouble. The fact that I am religious is potentially offensive to some folks. The fact that I don't take any religious narrative dead-set literally is very offensive to some other folks. Religion, by its very nature, tends to be interpreted personally. Take my post about how I believe in Santa Claus. What a variety of responses, opinions, and attitudes I got, and not just in the comment section! My head spun, especially with how personally so many people took the whole post... which missed the whole point.

To me, such conversations help get you thinking. It allows for connections, weaving thoughts and information together with a focus on a topic or hypothesis. To draw on a myriad of sources, thoughts, facts, and observations is the whole point of having discussions. You can't do that if everybody agrees with you all the time. Well, not very well. How would you really learn anything?