I also think I'm pretty laid back when it comes to words. Throughout my life, I've had lots of experience with the things-people-say-with-good-intentions-that-come-out-all-wrong types of things, and I've learned to let them roll off my back. That can be hard, because I honestly don't have a very thick skin, but I've learned to give people the benefit of the doubt.
It wasn't until after Roo was born that I realized what a big push is out there to end the use of the "R-word"--retarded. To be honest, I hadn't thought much about the word at all, mainly because it just wasn't a part of my vocabulary... but I also wasn't ready to jump on the bandwagon. Before you send me nasty e-mails about how I'll feel when someone calls my son that word, please let me explain. I absolutely think that people use that word to tear others down and that is terrible and sad--but is the problem really with the word? Or is it with the attitudes of the people using it? My feeling was--and still is, to a degree--if we "forbid" people to use this word, they'll just replace it with another.
Do you know what's really sad to me about that? I was originally going to write that kids use that word to tear others down, and then I realized that it's not limited to kids.
And over the past year, I've heard lots of stories of how offended people have been by this word--some very rightfully so, others (in my humble opinion) maybe went just a teeny bit over-the-top in their reaction. But I've come to realize... as I've listened to their stories... as I've heard acquaintances use it in casual conversation... as I've overheard it in public places... that it's just not a nice word. Period.
Have I stormed out of the room when someone used the word to refer to their phone? No. Have I kicked someone out of my house for mumbling it after a bad football play? No. Would I prefer that people think twice and come up with a more intelligent way of expressing themselves? You better believe it.
Why? Because someday, chances are somebody mean is going to use that word to hurt my son. And someday after that, he might hear someone else--someone he loves and respects--use that same word to vent frustration over their broken DVD player. And I don't want him to think, "You mean you're angry at that thing because it's like me. It's bad, like me. It's worthless, like me."
It's not a nice word. And yes, mean people will come up with other ways to be mean. But nice people who use the word without thinking... those people will understand. Those people can be taught that, even though it doesn't seem like a big deal to them, it's a big deal to someone else. And they have hundreds of other words to choose from to describe their thoughts and feelings. And they will.
So tonight, I'm spreading the word. Let's end the word.
And if I didn't convince you, maybe this will:
This video was made by a girl whose brother has Down's and Autism. She is awesome. I hope Lamb grows up to be like her.
It's Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Help me spread the word.