What a dreadful, ugly, soul stealing, hope shattering, gut wrenching word. If this word makes you uncomfortable, I recommend you read no further.
Retard was in the news last week and after much thought, I decided I wanted to respond in my own forum:
The news coverage started when the press reported that back in August, in a closed white house meeting, Rahm Emmanuel called some members of congress “effing retards”.
Predictably, there was much negative coverage, but it didn’t seem like much of an outcry until Sarah Palin called on Obama to fire Emmanuel stating “his comments were offensive to children with developmental disabilities.”
But it does not end there. A Palin aide criticized an aide of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for using the word “retarded” in a conference call regarding political logistics during his campaign.
Finally, in an effort to call attention to how ultra sensitive we’ve become, Rush Limbaugh stood forth with his assertions that “Our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards”.
Asked for a comment, Sarah Palin’s aide responded by saying “Governor Palin believes crude and demeaning name calling at the expense of others is disrespectful.”
I’m stopping there because this piece isn’t purposed for political observations. It’s personal.
When K3 was labeled retarded early in her kindergarten career, I took it personally. Having the label Retarded applied to your child meant the end of possibilities. The hope and vision I had for my child came to a screeching halt. Moving from “delayed” to retarded implied not just a different life, but a partial life, a life with limited opportunities… Further, it gave me many sleepless nights thinking of how she would be perceived by her peers… devalued, mocked, ignored….
I became hyper sensitive and hyper vigilant about short bus jokes, retard references and name calling. I coached… I educated…I got in blazing arguments with family members… I might have continued down that path, but I came to realize that it wasn’t a healthy focus. Changing the words people spoke was a far cry from changing their thoughts of K3 or anyone else with a disability.
And I needed to concentrate on my daughter and her needs. Policing everyone in my vicinity wasn’t a productive use of my energy. And as a strategy, it lacked realism. The odds that I could change the world to conform to my daughter’s needs were nil. I was far more likely to succeed in keeping my daughter’s corner of the world K3-friendly. And long term, I needed to focus on getting K3 “world ready”.
And that I suppose may be the difference between someone still coming to terms with a child with a disability… or it may just be me. Either way, I’m happy to be at peace with K3’s differences.
In closing, my opinion is that people like Rush Limbaugh harbor a special kind of evil in his heart, one that goes beyond ignorance or naiveté or even showmanship. If our purpose on this planet is to help each other and accept our differences and live in harmony, I think Mr. Limbaugh shows his limitations through both his thoughts and his words.
My little K3 is worlds ahead of him.