My older brother has taught me two very smart lessons. 1) Never play kid music in your car. Your car, your music. Unless you want to listen to Cailou's Greatest Hits for eternity. (Good advice Big Bro. That's why my kiddo requests Queen and James Taylor when we drive.) 2) "The hill you die upon." He was saying it in regards to a person we both knew that had started a Facebook scuffle. The topic? The "R" word. On my own personal profile page. One person just could not wrap his head around the idea that this might be offensive, demeaning and just plain hurtful despite my own and others' request to drop it. I will never forget talking about it later with my brother and how he just summed it up perfectly. "Like that's the hill he wanted to die upon. Really?"
In case you haven't figured it out by now, autism is one of the hills I will do battle on but spreading the word to end the word is another. Let's just take a moment and explore the stages of a person who uses this word and is corrected for it. Most of the time it is a case of they just didn't think or know better. They usually make amends and we all move on. There are others who cannot take being told that their speech is offensive and it usually goes something like this;
Yes, free speech protects you. It gives you the right to say it. It also gives me the right to react to it. It doesn't protect you from hearing my retort because there's me using my right to free speech. Isn't that marvelous how that works?
You are offended that you have been ask to NOT use a word that you used to use when you were on the playground as a ten year old. Haven't you changed since then? You used to think New Kids on the Block was the best band ever. Still do? Didn't think so. Perhaps it's time to embrace that's using the word "retard" or saying "that's retarded" makes you sound about as outdated as an 8 track player.
You can't understand why I get so worked up over this word. I can't
understand why you get so worked up over defending your right to it. Hear what I am about to say. You're not offended until it effects you. Then you will be up in arms. So understand this is my up in arms moment and always will be. This is the hill I am willing to die upon. I have a son with autism so of course, this is extremely personal to me. Look around my friend, autism is everywhere. Closer to you than you might even be aware of and I haven't even touched on those with other disabilities. If you are kind enough to hold a door for someone, why can't you hold your tongue about a single word?
Oh you want to bust out a dictionary and point out how this word is used in music. How right on the sheet music of a song you see it, alerting the reader the song is to be played slowly. Yeah, are we really at this moment talking about that? We're not. You know it. I know it. You know when you hear someone use that argument of "Oh why can't I say the "N" word cause rappers do". You're not Jay Z and no I"m not a fan of that word either. When you defend your right to use the "R" word, that's what you sound like to me. Just as ridiculous. You will never hear my son refer to another person who has any sort of intellectual disability by this term and mean it in some endearing/bonding way. Nope.
Oh it's a medical term! Yes, a completely outdated and no longer used one. If you see a doctor that still uses it, I urge you to find new medical care. Chances are they aren't up on a lot of medical information either.
Things can be fire retardant. Why yes, they can be and thank goodness for such a technological advance. I am rather firmly against things catching fire. I am also against you pretending this argument is valid when you try to compare fire retardant treated items and the phrase "That's retarded!" as the same. It's not. One keeps kid's pajamas from catching fire. The other is used to liken a human being to an object that no one wants or values.
It's boils down to this. Be kind. Compassion is missing far too often in this world. You may say "I didn't mean your kiddo." but here's the thing. You referred to some body's kid. Another human being, who has a family and friends. Likes and dislikes. Strengths and weaknesses. Something to offer this Earth we all live on. If you have not already, I urge you to take the pledge at http://www.r-word.org/.
We all have many battles to fight but don't let this be the hill you choose to die upon. Choose kindness. Choose empathy. Choose anything but this word. Choose to have an open mind.