Because of this girl

Stop.

Just stop it.

Stop being “retarded”.

Stop calling him a “retard”.

Stop using insults like “libtard” and “fucktard”.

Just stop it.

Two years ago, I wrote a post called “Being Retarded” and how I felt about people using that phrase.  Since then, the misuse of the word has become a bit of a soapbox moment for me.

Why?

Because of this girl.

photo by Elisha Clarke
photo by Elisha Clarke

This girl who was born “different”,  who despite all her issues wakes up every day and finds a reason to smile.  This girl who loves unconditionally, who finds joy in the small things, who appreciates the tiniest of gestures.

This girl is who you refer to you when you use the word “retard”.

Maura 2007
Maura 2007

This child who has worked so hard her whole life to learn how to walk, to talk, to master skills, who is still learning basic life skills, who trusts us to make sure her needs are met and who will never be fully independent despite her independent spirit  – she’s what you’re referring to when you say you’re “being retarded”.

Maura 2011
Maura 2011

And this girl – this sweet child who greets people with big smiles – is the “fucktard” you refer to when you think you’re being hilariously insulting to some “deserving” person who you’ve decided is so stupid, they must be fucking retarded.

2012
2012

But when I call people out on it, on their word usage, what do I get?

“Stop being so sensitive.”

Am I being sensitive?  Maybe.  Have I earned the right to be sensitive with every blood draw, ER visit, and IEP?  With every odd look from strangers when Maura’s behaving strangely? With all the worry and stress and juggling I do?

Oh yeah, I’ve earned the right to be sensitive.  Not just for Maura, but for her siblings who love and care about her, who have come to her defense, who have felt the glares of people staring, and had peers ask about their “weird” sister.  See, when you insult Maura, you don’t just offend her, you offend everyone who loves her. And that is a lot of people.  And that goes for every person with special needs out there.

So just stop using it.

But still, people argue with me –

“It’s just a word!”

Is it?

Really?

In our world – no.  It’s not “just” a word.  As a writer, I know words have power.  Words can make you think, words can heal, and words can definitely hurt.  Words can leave scars that others don’t see, which is why some words and phrases are considered socially unacceptable these days.

And really, if it’s just a word – why do you need it?  Why do you hold onto this particular word with all its ugliness, and deem it okay to fling out there?  What makes this word so cherished and irreplaceable that it must stay in your vocabulary?

There is no answer to that, because there is no good reason to keep it.

So just stop using it.

“But! But! Freedom of SPEECH!”

Hush.  No one is marching upon the Capitol screaming for law changes.  What we are asking is that you stop and think for a moment.

Think of the hurt these words cause.

Think of who you are hurting.

Think of the people you are referring to when you call someone a “retard”.

What I’m asking is for you to have a little more compassion for a section of society that is already struggling to be seen as worthy.  To treat those who face more challenges than you with respect.

Compassion and respect.  Those are good things.

I’m asking for you to do a good thing.

All because of a few words.

And all because of this girl here.

Maura on her First Communion
Maura

 

 

You can take the pledge to stop using the R-word at r-word.org

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