Today is the Spread the Word to End the Word day. A day of awareness to end the use of the “R” word” retarded, retard and any other forms of such, like ‘tard’. A day recognized as a day for change.
But I and many others live this day every day fighting against the use of a word.
A word once used as a diagnosis is now used as a term of insult and mocking.
No place is sacred. Not stores or schools or even church. Corridors and walls echo “That’s retarded “, “I’m so retarded,” “You look like a retard,” and the list goes on. The word invokes such creativity is seems.
From “My hair looks retarded,” (Statements like these are so grammatically incorrect and frankly ridiculous I won’t even waste my time to comment) to a Facebook meme referring to laughing like a retarded seal.
Just how is the seal retarded? He flaps his hands, like one with autism. Is that what is funny? Is this what makes the seal “retarded”?
I ashamedly and reluctantly admit I used to use the word before it became personal.
And I don’t really recall my thought processes as I so flippantly berated myself by mumbling, “I’m so retarded.”
How I wish someone had asked the questions so I would have realized how hurtful it was.
So I ask you who continue to use the word: What makes something “retarded”?
What makes someone or something sound “retarded”? Is it noises like those who cannot speak make?
My son makes that “retarded” noise when he opens his mouth and has so much in him to say but only a grunt will come out.
And I often tear up because he wants to speak so badly and I see the frustration swimming in the pools of his blue almond-eyes.
He acts “retarded” with his obsessive towel-twirling and uncoordinated movements and not being able to use the toilet on his own while having to rely on others to change his large pull-up type pants exposing him in ways that would mortify a typical almost-12 year-old.
But he cannot express his embarrassment. He must deal with it because we have to change him. He cannot tell me when he’s sick, or sad, or just plain in a bad mood.
He’s developmentally delayed.
Do you see my son when you say it?
Or do you see a young man in a wheelchair with his head slumped over with drool seeping from his mouth?
Do you see a little girl with almond-shaped eyes whose tongue might hang out a little when she gets tired?
Or do you see a teenager who talks a little like he has marbles in his mouth and is hard to understand?
Do you see an adult with her caregiver in Walmart who runs up to give you a hug?
Do you see my son when you say it?
I see my son when you say it.
And it breaks my heart.
Because I see a smile that can reduce me to a sobbing mess because the soul behind it is so pure.
Because I feel a chubby hand in mine and on my face and I hear a belly-laugh from a boy who sees angels.
You – the one who still uses the word: Do you realize that it cuts so incredibly deep because I know there is an unspoken idea that maybe you are so thankful you don’t have a “retarded” child?
Or think it will never happen to you.
I sure didn’t.
What about you who are politely asked to stop and yet simply refuse? Who tell me or my kids it’s just what you say and you aren’t going to stop?
Do you think I’m too sensitive?
What about you who tell me that I am and that it’s just what “everyone” says.
And that it’s not aimed at my son.
Does the “N” word offend you? It does me.
But if it’s not aimed at you or one of yours or even one of my friends, should it be okay?
We are to speak life and not death.
The “R” word speaks death because my heart dies a little every time I hear it used by someone in the halls of my church who I know also loves my son.
Death every time my children have to hear friends use it and being mocked for standing up against it.
Would Jesus say “retarded”?
Would He fight so hard for His “freedom of speech” and right to say it?
He came to heal the brokenhearted. He spoke life and love and honor.
The “R” word speaks death and hate and disrespect.
Yet I’ve been told so much to the contrary.
I’ve been told that because the word simply means “slow” I shouldn’t be upset by it.
But is that really what someone means when by using the word? What image do you see?
I see my son who would smile and touch your hand even if you called him that vile, horrid word to his face.
Maybe he’s too “retarded” to know better.
Maybe He is like Jesus and forgives them because they know not what they do.
Maybe he knows his mommy will not stop speaking out for him because he cannot.
What do you see when you say it?