Monday, March 1, 2010

More about words...repost

From March 2009.

Spread the Word day is 3/3/2010 this year. Take the pledge.

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You see the link below - the end the misuse of the R-word campaign. Wednesday is the day and I will be wearing my snappy blue shirt with the Respect logo on it, as will thousands and thousands of others.

I don't talk about it much, as there are all sorts of assumptions about a mother's perspective floating around. Sometimes it's assumed I am speaking from a gaping wound I have, one caused by having a daughter who was born with mental retardation. Bitterness is often attributed.

I don't have any gaping wounds or bitterness. What I have for my daughter is pride, hope and respect. I have what every mother of every kid has, the desire for her child to find her place in the world and make the most of it. I want for her to know what fulfillment feels like.

But the misuse of a clinical term is a bit of an obstacle to this. As long as people choose to use the word as an insult, there will exist a misconception about the capabilities and value of people who are indeed affected by cognitive differences.

The usual counter to what is packaged into political correctness is to piffle at it - bah, it's just a word and it's my problem if I choose to be hurt by it. I am not actually hurt by it. Nor is my daughter. Hurt is not the right word. I am disappointed by the choice to use the word this way. If regular joe's think it's fine to say, then we are far from the society we can be, we profess to be: one that not only accepts differences, but celebrates them. We're just not there yet.

And this is not a freedom of speech issue - a rule that the word be erased from today's vernacular altogether is not what the campaign is about. We all know it's just a word. It's about rising and becoming a culture where people opt in to respecting those that are often either invisible or marginalized. Use the word all you want. Just keep it clinical and factual.

I know this - when the word retard or retarded is flung to amuse and insult(those of typical cognitive function, that is) simultaneously, I do know that it is not with direct, intended malice to my daughter or anyone intellectually diverse. The effort to encourage thought before throwing out this word to describe something less than desirable is not about the uprooting of purposefully bad intentions people have towards those with developmental disabilities, towards my child - I think those intentions rarely exist, if at all - it's about looking at the big picture to see the affects misuse of this word has on general acceptance and true inclusion (as opposed to just tolerance and/or patronization) of people like Addie. It's about awareness and mindfulness, really. Perpetuating the misdirected use of a word that describes part of who my daughter is stands in the way of my ultimate goal of ensuring she is a full citizen of the planet, contributing in meaningful and valuable ways.

A soapbox this is not. I am on the ground with everyone else. I too, have used this word in the past in just the ignorant ways this campaign is attempting to enlighten. A small chunk of awareness was bundled in with the packet from the geneticist containing our daughter's diagnosis a few years back. Bonus free gift.

You got Addie's back? Somebody else's back? Post a comment here on Farmer John and then make yourself heard by clicking here:

Spread the Word to End the Word

***photo, smile and wonderful afternoon furnished by Addie's other family: The Bautistas***

10 comments:

John B. said...

Terri, you're a better person than I for not letting that offensive word get to you. Use of the R-word, N-word, etc. should be unacceptable to anyone with a pulse. The sooner they can be eliminated from the vernacular of the ignorant and the mean-spirited, the better.

Kristi said...

I will always have your back
Addie.

Angelica mom to JesusRTS said...

Got your back!=)

Kelly said...

Terri...you writing always touches me. Can I post some of this on my blog tomorrow?...of course I will give the highest credit to you!

Our family will have Addie's back!

Kelly

Terri H-E said...

Kelly - you are welcome to post it. All the credit goes to my muses, though - sweet Cate and Addie (and AnnaKate and Alex and Will and Max and Frankie and Noah and Natalie and Caden...well, you get me)

Susie said...

I'll be wearing blue tomorrow for Alex and Addie. Since Jessica first brought it up last year, I've made an effort not to use the r-word derogatorily. My boy Joshua, had he lived past his 10th week on earth, would have been a very special boy with a different way of living than the average child. I won't disrespect my son, even though he's no longer here.

Sallie said...

Hopped over from Susie's blog - also follow Jessica's. I'm with you!

Post Tenebras Lux said...

Thank you, Terri, for this post! My uncle (who had Down Syndrome) died a few years ago in his early fifties; my younger brothers still use "retarded" as an insult, and it steams me. Thanks for giving me a tool to approach them with. I'm posting a link to our family blog!

Finding Normal said...

Coming over from Jessica's.
I've got my own Addi's back.
I continue to be amazed by the ignorance.

Sawyer said...

I couldn't have said it better myself.

We've got Addie's back! Always!