Wednesday, October 13, 2010
This Blogzilly is Rated 'R' for Use of the Word Retard
If that sounds harsh to you, it should. It is meant to. I wrote it that way to prove a point though, not to offend. So bear with me please before you shred me a new one.
I've always feared hearing the word 'Retard' applied to my son. That's as honest and brutally truthful as I can be. Bennett, as he rounds the corner and approaches his 3rd birthday, is getting bigger, and as cute as he is, as much as I love him, as much as he is progressing (albeit slowly), I am not going to be able to protect him that much longer from the harshness that the species to which he belongs is able to spit in his direction.
And part of that harshness happens to include the word 'Retard' or 'Retarded', words which I am absolutely certain, should his situation not dramatically change in the next year or so, some child will call him. Will Bennett be aware of these terms and will they hurt him in any way?
I can't know the answer to that.
But I do know this. I have waffled back and forth on whether I was against or behind the whole movement to 'Ban the R-Word', as they say. And MAN-I-SCHEWITZ have I waffled, believe you me, unable to actually face reality.
No...un-WILLING to face it.
That, and I have an instinctive revulsion (and this is a GOOD thing) to the word BAN. This is why my blood, in addition to red, also runs blue and white. I hear the word ban I head for ze hills. I'm supposed to be anti-ban. I'm American.
But the reality is...some things are better left unsaid.
There is no real danger of the loss of freedom of speech if a law is passed that removes the word 'retarded' from federal health, education and labor laws, something that the Marcellino family has been fighting to achieve for quite a while now.
They achieved their victory, and that victory is something that deserves a lot more recognition that it is getting. It certainly had a major influence on helping me come to terms with my own understanding of the word and the necessity for its removal from legislation.
You ever notice that while you are on certain paths in your life, there are indicators, certain signs, that lead you places? Some people call those signs acts of God or miracles or messages from Jesus. Others call them some kind of cosmic flow of Karma, some consider them mere coincidence that our brains connect together as our conscious mind begins to make conclusions that our subconscious was kind of cooking up over a period of time.
Somehow, as much as I kept trying to avoid this topic, it kept coming to find me.
Different blogs addressing it as their subject. At first my reactions in the Comments was to to point out that it was 'just a word' and that people were over-reacting, that this was getting blown way too out of proportion. But man, it was always making for lively discussions.
I was hearing the word more and cringing at it while listening to The Howard Stern Show in the morning. Now, c'mon, I ain't no dummy, I get it, Howard Stern is not everyone's Cup of Soup. I happen to like the show. Most of the time I'm laughing or at least very entertained. And the man is very, very smart in the way he often exposes very subtle hypocrisy in people and his interviews are, well, the stuff of legend.
Sometimes I'm horrified at what goes on during the show, but in a morbidly curious kind of way. But I do find that the word 'retarded' is tossed around a bit too casually, and often, and I've noticed that it bothers me more than it used to.
One night, while playing on X-Box Live with some high school kids (OMG I AM A GEEK) one of them said 'OMG duuuuuuuuude, that's so freakin' retarded.' and I found myself correcting the kid, telling him that he really shouldn't use the word in that way. The kid didn't get all uppity about it. If he had I would have shot his character in the face with my Double Action Revolver, but that's beside the point.
But I thought...Man, that was weird. Look at you. What are you some kind of a cause guy now? You can't get involved. It's not like you like the Empire you hate it. But what are YOU gonna do about it? It's such a long way from here.
Now that's downright spooky.
Then I find myself on Facebook, wondering why I have no life, and in one of the little mini-threads about a politician I see someone comment that the guy was something something and then something and then oh yeah...'just some fucking retard!'.
I can't remember what I wrote exactly, but it was something like 'if you wanna bash a politician if you could find some word other than 'retard' amongst the other hundreds of thousands of words in the English language to use instead it would be very much appreciated by many of us parents who have kids with special needs.'
I didn't know where this stuff was coming from.
I thought I didn't care.
But I guess the truth was I was starting to realize I actually might. When I saw the story on the Marcellino family, and when I saw that they were from Edgewater, where I came THIS close to buying a house back when I lived in Maryland, I was like...OK now that's just too weird. So I looked into the story a little more and started paying a lot more attention.
Not just out there, but in here. But that I mean My Noggin. I tried to imagine Bennett, as an older boy, being called a 'retard'. How would he feel? How would I feel if I saw it? How would I feel if I saw ANOTHER child being called that by my 'typical' son Carter? How mortified would I be? How ashamed?
Then I just sort of had the last piece I needed to finish the puzzle, and the desire to never really use the word in a hurtful or thoughtless way just vanished. I might still use it descriptively, referencing the past, using it in a sentence like 'Hey now...they used to call people Mentally Retarded who they now call Intellectually Disabled.'*
But that's about as far as it goes.
I guess Dylan was right, the times really are a-Changin'.
And so am I.
*Extra special bonus points to anyone who can tell me why this is actually the funniest part of the entire blog.