Dear Margaret Cho…

I’ve spent the afternoon trying to figure out how properly to respond to your “I don’t necessarily want to have a retard” statement you made on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” talk show.  As a mom of a child with special needs who’s dealt with the word “retarded” before, let’s just say it went over like a lead ballon in my house.

Words beginning with the letter F came to mind.  Okay, variations of just one F word.  I think you could figure it out which one. But that won’t make my point.

And then, I read up on you, on Wikipedia (yeah, I know, fabulous source) as people were all “Gee, and she’s usually so pro-acceptance” and was horrified to find that yes, indeed, you have won a slew of awards dealing with tolerance and acceptance.  Things like “a pioneer, has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” and “pressing us to see how false constructions of race, sexuality, and gender operate similarly to obscure and demean identity.” were written in the award listing.  Awards from the ACLU, GLAAD, and NOW.  You’ve toured with a group that helps the likes of the Human Rights Campaign. (at least, according to Wikipedia.)

So in reading all this, it sounds like you’re out there to Fight the Good Fight, making life fair and equal for all.

Unless they’re a “retard” I guess.

Here’s the deal – you can’t scream “ACCEPTANCE” and use the word “retard”.  Especially in a sentence like “I don’t want a retard.”

You’re all about acceptance.  Well guess what?  Most of us with children with special needs didn’t get a choice – but we accept them.  We love them.  We take joy and learn from them.  And in return, the special people in our lives will love us back.  Unabashedly.  Unconditionally.

If my daughter Maura met you tomorrow, she’d probably smile big, say “HI!” and then show off her shoes or go “ooo…pretty” at whatever jewelry you might be wearing. She would accept you instantly, without another thought.

Would you be as accepting of her?

Listen Margaret – the first lesson of parenthood is accepting what you get.  No one gets the perfect child.  No one.  Why?  Because the perfect child doesn’t exist.  And just because they’re born “normal” doesn’t guarantee they’ll stay that way.  Life has a way of going “Comfy?  Great!  Screw you!” and pulling the rug out from under you. Cancer, accidents, diagnoses long after they were born.  Maura was “normal” for the first fifteen months of her life. Yeah, guess what?  I gave birth to a “retard”, I just didn’t know it at the time.

You don’t get a refund if your child isn’t born perfect.  You don’t get to return them if they become a rebellious teen.  There are no take-backs in parenthood.

Having a child is a crap shoot.  If you’re not willing to embrace ALL the risks, then maybe you shouldn’t throw the dice.

I know you’re a comedian. I know that’s all about pushing the envelope.  But some things just. aren’t. funny.  And saying “Oh, was I not supposed to say that?” doesn’t make things all better.

You didn’t make a joke.  All you did was piss off a whole lot of mama bears.  Including this one.  Your ignorant words were extremely painful to many people. You caused people who deal with more than their share of trials pain.  You put the proverbial knife to their hearts, caused their stomachs to drop, shoulders to droop, and thoughts of “Great, another person rejecting a person I love, reminding me that MY child is worthless in the eyes of others.” go through their head.

But hey, you got the laugh.  You got noticed.

Was it worth it though?  For a laugh, was it worth stabbing a whole community of defenseless people in the back?  Was it worth the pain you caused in countless mothers’ hearts?

Was it?

And you should know better Margaret Cho – in a world where phrases like “that’s so gay” is unacceptable, as someone who has worked hard for equal rights for everyone, you should know better than to fling the word “retard” around.

It’s not acceptable.

It’s not okay.

It’s not funny.


Update – shortly after posting this, Margaret Cho sent out an apology on her blog

“I’m so sorry for my insanely offensive comments on Watch What Happens Live. I certainly didn’t mean to hurt anyone, and this is a good lesson for me to make sure I’m aware of the power of negative speech. Please forgive my ignorance as I have little experience with children and mothers and I’m often likely to act very childish myself. All my love and apologies to anyone who may have been hurt by my statements and my inexcusable remarks.”