On the use and power of the word retard

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet,
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, W.B. Yeats

 

I want to try to explain what happens when I hear people throw the word retard, or retarded, around. I’ll draw on my special powers. I won’t try to judge or harangue or cajole, just explain as best I can.

When people I know use the word, it’s usually the put-down that signals the end of argument, heated or otherwise.

Can’t take it any further with you, retard.

What are you, retarded or something?

You’re such a retard.

In 99.9% of cases they’re not thinking of my son, who actually is retarded, judging by certain societal and medical barometers. (Hmmm.) In fact they’d most likely be horrified to take their words to that conclusion.

I don’t have that luxury. My mind instantly goes there, because I already know that that is the only logical conclusion. The absolute, only one. Where else could it possibly go? Think about the word. Your intended context is only one facet of it, but who your utterance may attach to, once it’s made, is entirely beyond your control. I didn’t, once upon a time, need to consider that, but those words, whether you mean them or not, whether you’re furious with someone or are just being flip with your friend, will always lead back to my son Jacob. And because he is retarded (by some standards, as we all are by some standards), he will not be as well able to defend himself from the accusation of being so, whether through someone’s careless word, or someone’s hate-filled one.

I mention this to you because it is important to me, and so are many of you. I need you to know that you can hurt me this way, and I know that you will not mean to. Some time back I didn’t think it would, but now with each mention in my ear, retard tears a piece of me. I want to grab people, connect and have my feeling flood their bodies. It does not matter that you did not mean it or you cannot feel it or want to counter me with your no doubt well meant points about political correctness. Those who know me know that I am politically incorrect, whatever the fuck that means. Because words have power. I have no idea how powerful this word will be to Jacob, and as yet, from the safety of cute two year old-ness, he’s relatively untouched. But that is changing a little bit every day, as the defences of cuteness give way to coarser features, to imperfect speech and a lack of social fine tuning. The world, with its retarded ways, is moving in.

I know I won’t turn the tide. It will not stop. It’s much more ingrained as an idiom in the US than on this side of the Atlantic, possibly because we have so many rich Irish put-downs, but nevertheless it has a place in the lexicon here too and it won’t be shifting any time soon, I believe. And I’m not addressing the hate use of the word. All of those folks stopped by when we had our heated debate about Tropic Thunder last year. And most of them were binned because they were reta- oops! Close one.

No, I’m talking about the simply careless use of it by people I respect. I’m not going to pull any of you up on it individually. It’s actually not my place. I hope you see it here and, if I’ve managed to explain myself, maybe you’ll think about it. Not just for Jacob’s sake, but for his Dad’s, and his Mum’s, and his brothers’ too.

It hurts. That’s just the way it is.

 

There’s a petition here if you’re the petition-inclined type.

Advertisements

80 comments on “On the use and power of the word retard

  1. Ralph Smith says:

    Your post has given me some food for thought and hopefully made me a little more considerate.

    Thanks.

    Ralph

  2. Elbog says:

    Language is our greatest acheivement as a species. It enables and empowers. Power – from the power of Nelson Mandela from his prison cell to the power of Barack Obama, Rahm Emmanuel, Sarah Palin, and Bill Maher from theirs – we are all prisoners of our experience, and are often the victims of our own blindness, fatigue, and/or insensitivity.
    I’ve learned that the vast majority of us can suffer the slings and arrows of misguided language and humor – from being blonde, where your parents were born; simply being 3 days home from a funeral can ruin a good comedy routine. The question becomes, as you’ve eloquently pointed out, when is it too much, when does one pull the trigger from discomfort to outrage?
    Can we be more considerate? Surely. I think that I am, but it took Emma to make me so.
    Agreeing with you, can I call someone a moron, or an idiot, knowing that these at one time were acceptable, *medical* terms for my daughter not that very long ago? I still think it – I’m less apt to speak it. I guess that means that I’m changing. When I hear it from others, do I launch into a historical tirade for their edification? Not so much, these.
    Yes, I speak out. I did so, just last week. I got embarrased apologies and promises. It did not make me feel better, it should have. I shouldn’t have had to.
    Yes, we have to act – not only against the perjorative and the vulgar, but the attitude that seems to pervade that anything goes in the public arena. The power of Truth and freedom come with responsibility. You and I shouldn’t have to remind others of their responsibilities, but you’re damn straight that we will.

  3. This is the insightful response I got over 2 years ago for expressing an opinion on the same topic along with more general pariah status because I wouldn’t take it lying down.

    http://www.mulley.net/2007/12/31/retard/

    It’s not simply about any individual word in and of itself, but about how it is used to make a comparison that is meant to be viewed negatively. Having a disability is evidently viewed by the speaker as so straightforwardly being outside the pale that comparing the person being spoken to another person with a disability is viewed a cool putdown and as you noted it is intended as a conversation ender. They are equated with someone who is not seen by the speaker as valid and hence their opinion is invalid.

  4. hammiesays says:

    I dunno what to say here Nick. You know I support you – but I can’t help feeling that there has got to be a better way to take the sting out of it than banning it. Because it sneaks in and to me it has no meaning in “other contexts” such as when you just mean that something is underdeveloped. But you are right – at the root is the bad meaning, the one that hurts.
    I also think about words like Fag and Nigger – and how those words were reclaimed and de-stinged to some degree.

    But I get that it hurts you. And when it is deployed as an insult -then by association it insults the people who have been classified as retarded in the past. Whether that was true or not. I really like the term “developmentally delayed” as it implies it is always possible to catch up, if you get the right help.
    But I don’t use to refer to the crazy dog walker who might have had a stroke or was born with special learning needs. We call her “special needs dog walker” when she stops us on the street to engage us in frankly unfathomable conversation.

    There was a time when cretin meant someone who was brain damaged. I’m sure people still say “What a spaz” (Australia) or “what a Spa” (ireland) meaning with reference to cerebal palsy, but really only meaning that someone is being silly or stupid.
    There was a time when slavery was tolerated, and zoos kept all animals in tiny cages. We have changed. I guess we can all do with a little wake up call.

    So I promise that from now on I will only refer to Mrs Palin as “a fuckwit” and a stupid cunt, and her behaviour as “Totally fuckwitted” – even when tempted to take the opposite view out of spite.

    xx

  5. Conor says:

    Hi Nick,

    I’m not sure I agree. Words lose their meaning as they become commonly used. The terms moron (IQ of 50 – 70), imbecile (IQ 20 – 50) and idiot (IQ < 20) once described levels of "mental deficiency", but are now all common words, none of which are particularly slanderous.

    What I find interesting about them is that the term "mental deficiency" is nowadays apparently called – and I kid you not – "mental retardation". Bringing us full circle.

    It's a term I frequently hear my friends call each other; they'd use it in relation to just about anyone except my son!

    At the end of the day, our kids may never solve complex trigonometry, but at least they're not idiots like so many other people in the world.

  6. hammie says:

    Nup, this is personal not political; for Nick and others. And if you know something hurts someone, you stop doing it.

    xx

  7. Nick McGivney says:

    I understand that it’s a box of dynamite as regards some people’s belief that I’m probably trying to censor freedom of expression. I’m not. I don’t think that the word retard will be abolished ever. I don’t believe that it should, either. I take Conor’s point that word meanings evolve through time, and I certainly fall into the trap of using moron, cretin and lots of other pejorative terms regularly. I might as well be King Canute trying to turn back the tide. Not gonna happen. But the term is loaded for me now, and I’m probably just more highly attuned to its use, and the casual use of other words, as Elbog mentions above, that just end up targetting the vulnerable. And not all disabilities are equal in this regard. ‘What are you, blind?’ can be countered at the same intellectual level by a blind person as the speaker, as a general concept. Not the same for people with mental retardation issues. If the only use of the word was a medical one I’d be less likely to flinch, I think, but when it’s a cruel put-down it feels personal.
    Thanks for all the comments, guys.

  8. NAN P. says:

    I am with you on this one Nick. But the strange thing is (as Elbog mentioned) it takes someone close to us to bring us to seriously think about our use of words: for me, Cathal’s birth shifted everything into a different perspective. I also agree with Connor, over time words lose their intensity, their meaning evolve… It’s just that, right now, some words hurt some of us, and hurt bad.

    BTW, that video “Suffering” is mesmerising, so powerful!

  9. Jean says:

    The “r” word makes my skin crawl. It’s the manner in which it is uttered that I find so unacceptable. Cool post Nick xxx

  10. Mel says:

    Thought you’d like to see this when I read this post. http://acbyron.blogspot.com/2010/02/johnny-knoxville-on-r-word.html. I’m against the r word, and it is spreading here. Someone used it the other day when talking to me, without thinking. I know she felt terrible, but she is a teacher and should know better. I’m sure she does now.

  11. lisadom says:

    Thanks Nick, Mel and Anne & Whitney.
    Linked ye. xx

  12. Laura says:

    Hi! I found you through a comment left on our blog! I am going to add you to our blogroll – I look forward to coming back soon and reading more about your life with Jacob 🙂 Where in Ireland do you guys live? My grandmother, Kathleen O’Grady still keeps in touch with some of our relatives in Ireland… my mom and dad were there recently and visited with our cousins –
    anyway, I’m happy to have found your blog. Enjoy your weekend!
    ~Laura (Anne & Whitney’s mom)

  13. Hannah says:

    join our group on Facebook. We’ve got close to 50,000 parents of children with special need working hard to take down the offensive sites that mock our kids.
    It’s called Facebook: Stop Allowing Groups that Mock Special Needs and Disabilities. I think you’ll find lots of friends who are like minded.

  14. Jill says:

    I don’t like the word either, it’s used in such a derogatory manner, as if people who have reduced mental faculties are less of a person. In my experience, those with reduced faculties are often more of a person, if the definition of person is ‘non-judgemental, accepting others without judging and kind’.

    It’s us ‘normal’ people (and I use the term loosely) that ought to be used as the insulting word – it’s often people like this who judge our family.

    I guess it’s like any word really, it’s how it is used. If the person saying it is just using it as a throw away comment without thinking then I guess I can (sort of) walk away from that. It’s those who use words to cause hurt – any words – that get the lashing from me. Sometimes this can be quite theraputic 😉

  15. Nick McGivney says:

    Nan P- great to hear from you, Nan. Hope you’re having trouble keeping up with Cathal! Yup, experience is really the only true teacher. And agreed, the movie is powerful. It’s called Powder btw.

    Jean – thanks a million for the comment. The deliberate use of it certainly offends me more, but there is no neutral use of it any more, at least not for me. Hope you’re all well.

    Mel – cheers for the link. I must remember to give it a blogpost all of its own. Fair dues to that jackass! 🙂

    Hi Laura – nice of you to drop in. We’re in Dublin. Drop by to read up on us anytime. Delighted to hear from you.

    Hannah – will do, and thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    Jill – yes, yes and yes. If only everyone saw things as we do, then the world would be perfect! 😀 😀 😀

  16. I sent that Yeats poem with my son Joe’s tiny footprints to everyone I knew the night before he had open-heart surgery (Aug 2003). There is something that is exactly right about that poem.

    Amy
    East Lansing, MI

  17. Jessica A. says:

    Your son is not retarded. I know individuals with down syndrome who are artists, chefs, and some of the most social beings ever.

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=608176966#!/album.php?aid=103732&id=113129531560

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=608176966#!/album.php?aid=156780&id=113129531560
    (my brother, Jimmy, who has autism is on the last picture of the album)

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=608176966#!/album.php?aid=177601&id=113129531560

    this is a company that I work for called TERI Inc. and we never use the word retarded to describe anyone or anything.

    Visit us at teriinc.org were located in Oceanside, California.

  18. autismville says:

    Thank you for this.

  19. Bonnie says:

    We have a son with Downs and I do try to bring informative info to folks that use the word inappropriately. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Thank you Bonnie. We can only try as well as possible to be informed, and it isn’t easy sometimes if you’re not coming into close contact with a subject.

  20. Tracey says:

    This is something that I tried to explain to someone just the other day. THank you for so eloquently doing so!

  21. Skylers Dad says:

    This was an excellent post. My son has CP, and we hear the word far more than you can imagine, simply because his body does not answer what his brain wants it to do.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Hey Skyler’s dad. Thank you. I’m reminded of the the old Kennedy quote, all that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. I think it’s JFK. Whoever said it made a lasting point.

  22. Brooksie says:

    It is just a word, nothing more, you are the one giving it the power it needs to make it into something it is not. I use to be an AID to kids that were mentally challenged, and when someone said retard, they did not think of themselves, they never gave the word the power you are giving it. Words are weapons, but the best weapon is the word WHATEVER as if someone calls you a name, say WHATEVER as if you give it the power you just did in this post, then the weapon used, worked to destoy, when in reality, we give to much power to a word, that means nothing.

    Teach your child words are not powerful, and to not let the word retard hurt them, but to shrug it off, as it is just a word, like moron, jerk, ass and so on.

    Your child is not retarded, unless you let him think he is.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Hi Brooksie. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I get your point about certain uses of words like retard being thoughtless, but thoughtless doesn’t mean harmless. While there’s mean spiritedness in the world I think that words will be used as weapons. I’d prefer to teach my kids that words ARE powerful, and loving words more powerful than hating ones in the end.

  23. My son has Autism and I also have a teenage daughter 16 who favors using the word retard. My son looked at her and her friends one day when they were throwing the word around. He said ” Is that what you think of me to his sister?” She stopped and looked at him and cried and told him “No”. He said then quit using that because Mom says I am special and different in many ways. His wisdom after that made me cry, because they didn’t know I was listening ” I am different because we can’t all be the same, and the people who can’t see that I am okay are the ones that are retarded.” Wisdom of a 12 year old who truly understands. So she still slips but I also watch her struggle for better words to use. So this is a daily battle I am willing to fight for my child. Thank you for putting things out there for uninformed people.

    • Michelle fromt Iowa says:

      Good for him! I have a daughter with Asperger’s and I work with some students with autism. They sometimes have a lot more insight than “normal” kids. What better person to teach your daughter than her own brother. It would not have had the same effect coming from a parent or teacher!

  24. Melissa says:

    Yes, yes, yes! I love your post. I have friends and family who still, despite my asking otherwise, still throw this word around. I have been meaning to write a post as it really bothers me, but you have done such a great job, that I’m going to send people your way.

    Thanks again!

  25. Meg says:

    I admit it – I say it, though only ever in reference to myself when I’m being particularly… slow about something. But your point is well-taken, and I after reading your post I know I’ll hesitate and stop and find a different, self-effacing put-down next time. And the time after that.

    Thank you for posting this.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      This may be the best response here, Meg. And I’ve never been so inundated with fantastic visitors and comments. Just sayn.

  26. Sally says:

    Great post – I’m here today via the facebook group Spread the Word to End the r-Word” which featured your post. I completely agree wiht you and have posted on this a couple of times on my blog. I am raising a daughter with severe physical disabilities, not downs, but I’ll bet we can find lots of parallels. check it out. http://www.sfmaggie.blogspot.com Go to the tag Language cop for the specific “r-word” posts.

    We are in San Francisco, California. I’ll be checking in on your blog too if you don’t mind.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Be delighted to have you visit, Sally. Any time. Thanks for your kind words here too, and my best wishes to your family.

  27. ruthseeley says:

    When my dad was finally able to retire (he was one of those people who leapt at the concept of ‘Freedom 55’ altho to keep the peace with my mother he didn’t actually achieve it), he went around (not being particularly political correct either) telling everyone, “I’m retarded now!” Naturally I cringed every time I heard him say it. Nowhere near as much as I cringed whenever I thought of the short year and a half he’d spent making his proud announcement before he was felled by a stroke that did indeed leave him with brain damage. I’m not suggesting there was any kind of cause and effect – or karma – going on. After several more strokes his overall IQ had sunk to the 60-70 range. But in a supreme case of irony, his spatial ability was still ranked over the genius scale, which left the neuro-psychologist doing the testing just shaking his head in wonder (and my mother and I profoundly grateful that we could rely on him to navigate for us as we drove him to medical appointments in cities we didn’t know well – or at all).

    Some words are – and have always been – and always will be – ugly. ‘Retard’ is particularly so, because it suggests there’s only one form and one measurement of intelligence – the ability to score well on IQ tests. Great post, Nick.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Powerful story, Ruth, and thanks ever so much for sharing. I’m trying to learn to enjoy what I have as opposed to what I think I want, and I’m getting better at it. Jacob has helped hugely there, of course. 🙂 I’m not there yet though. Be seeing you around, I hope…

  28. Kelly Cote says:

    I have a 26 yo with down syndrome, and every time I hear that word, I cringe. Makes me crazy. Here is a link to an article that explains it so much better than I ever could.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/2007-07-04-opcom_N.htm

  29. Cat *Autumn* Carter says:

    I’ve a sweetie son with Down Syndrome too and I love your post..it so says it all…I have actual close fam members who still flip the word at each other. 😦 even after I have asked them politely not to do so…

    btw, the pic above…sooooo cute! 🙂

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Glad you could stop by, Cat. It’s a long road we’re on, and it’s nice to meet people who understand along the way. 🙂

  30. Brian says:

    What kills me is the incessant need to defend the use of “retard”, suggesting that it somehow relates to to “fire retardant” or some medical connotation. If it weren’t so bizarre, it would be comical.

    As Nick has pointed out here, saying “I’m such a retard” or “that’s retarded” has no conclusion other than to PEJORATIVELY equate yourself or something as deficient or less than desirable. That context has nothing to do with any “proper” use or definition of the word retard. What you’ve really done is shown that you don’t even know what the word means. In that context, it is used specifically to illicit an emotional response. There are many, far more clever use of words.

    My take is that if you can’t come up with a more clever use of language, you truly are deficient. It’s the equivalent of calling someone a “stupidhead”. In other words, lame. However, it doesn’t make you retarded.

    No reasonable person is calling for the banning of words. As the parent of child with Down syndrome, I only want people to stop and think about what they’re saying. What is it that you really mean? My goal is to get people to not want to use that word.

    Of course, if you are the type of person who thinks words like “nigger” are actually socially acceptable, you won’t understand of of this and have bigger problems to deal with.

  31. Rita Rebello says:

    Thank you for putting into words what i could not. i have a 20mth old son with DS and it is so sad to me how many peolpe just don’t get how much that word hurts. So again THANK YOU!

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Rita, you are more than welcome. That little man of yours must be just about getting a bad ole twinkle in his eye! That’s around when Jacob started to be a real little imp. I hope you’re all having fun, and thank you for your nice words.

  32. Anna says:

    I once jokingly called my little brother “retarded” when talking about him to a friend in high school. She politely told me that I shouldn’t use that word because her sister actually was retarded and it was terrible for her. I haven’t used it since. So thank you for writing this post as surely your words will reach someone, as my friend’s words reached me.

  33. Bonnie L says:

    I have supported the “end the word” campaign for a while. I agree with what you have written . . .except for one jarring word. We need to end the use of the “F” word. Words are powerful and we should be mindful of what we say. We can learn not to say ANY hurtful or derogatory word.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Hi Bonnie. Thank you for commenting. I’m a way off the end of the F word yet, but one day… Meanwhile I’m concentrating on the one that hurts more. Best to you.

  34. Tonya says:

    At the beginning of each school year, I explain to students why “the R-word” is hurtful to me and many others. I explain that they are so lucky to have the ability to develop a wide vocabulary and should take advantage of that ability to find better words to make their intended point. Then I tell them that if I hear them using the word – in class, outside of class, at a football game, whenever – they will spend 1/2 hour with me doing work before or after school as time to think over their actions. This is the same action I take with them using the word “gay” inappropriately.

    Next fall, I will also be reading most of this post to them in an attempt to get them to understand the power of their word choice. So many times, it becomes a word that they don’t even REALIZE they are using – and that is the part that is so hurtful.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  35. Margaret says:

    A friend of mine shared your blog post with me. I have tried to cut this word out of my vocabulary because I do understand how it affects and hurts people even if the user does not mean to offend a group of people. Still as you say, words have power and if that word causes you pain or worse yet,pain to an innocent child, well then there is no excuse for using it ever. I will not use it. I’ve never met you and probably never will since I live across the pond in the U.S., but I will remember your words and carry them with me as a way to remember that this is a hurtful word and now you know that your kind, thoughtful words have made and impact and one less user of the “R” word.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      You’re going to make me cry if you keep that line up, Margaret. A beautiful comment, and I thank you.

  36. barb says:

    Thank you for this eloquent explanation. I am the grandmother of a beautiful little girl with DS. I know the hurt you talk about when you hear the use of this word. I want to print your letter and just start handing it out to people when I hear them use the R word. I don’t want to try and explain to them why it is not appropriate, so many times they just don’t get it. Your letter brought me to tears.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Thank you hugely, Barb. Why don’t we charge ’em a buck and get rich too? Nah… 🙂 Seriously, I’m overwhelmed with so many of these comments, especially ones like yours.

  37. […] blogging friend wrote this post. Please take the time to read it. Posted by Lily @ 4:39 […]

  38. Michelle fromt Iowa says:

    I have a daughter with Asperger’s Syndrome and I cringe whenever I hear that awful word. I work at a high school and students, even adults sling it out without thinking. As the article said, it’s become such a natural part of everyday language that no one thinks twice about it anymore. Unfortunately, along with the “r” word, I hear my share of “f” bombs on a daily basis as well. Those expletives are not needed as punctuation marks. I’ve suggested that some funny but benign word be substituted but the response is: “Oh, it would still have the same connotation so don’t bother.” No one understands unless they walk in a parent’s shoes.

  39. Karen Brock says:

    I feel similar about the word, but I don’t expect people to stop using it anymore than I expect my 4 year old to never say “stupid” or “dummy”, until he is old enough or mature enough to understand that there are consequences to calling names — either trouble from me, or trouble from some child bigger than he is who won’t tolerate it either. It is a shame that the entire world…. oh nevermind, you get the picture. I have told my family that the word “retard,” while I understand its just a word to convey that someone is being stupid, well, wouldn’t they think I was a horrible mother if I said to my son when he’s not understanding something, “You’re so Down’s!” ???( and he is.) In the end, God’s power to change someone’s heart, mind, or words, is not dependent on me doing anything at all about it.

  40. LOUISE CLARK says:

    IT JUST MAKE’S ME SICK TO HEAR ANYONE CALL OR SAY RETARD,I DON’T THINK ANYONE SHOULD USE WORD’S THAT HURT OTHER PEOPLE, AND THEIR FEELING’S. I HAVE CARED FOR CHILDREN LIKE LITTLE JACOB, THEY ARE THE MOST PRESCIOUS LITTLE PEOPLE, JUST AS SWEET AS THEY CAN BE, THEY HAVE MORE COMPASION FOR OTHER’S, YOU CAN CARRY ON A CONSERVATION WITH THEM JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE. PLEASE BE KIND IF IT IS THE LAST THING ON EARTH YOU DO.

  41. Hope says:

    I feel the same way and have never been able to say it so eloquently. Thank you.

  42. Laura Cousino says:

    I work in an adult day center for MRDD adults and I love them so much it hurts. Hearing people throw around language that could really hurt somebody makes me very sad. Most disabled people have more compassion than most what everyone seems to believe a “normal person” is. there is no such thing as normal in my eyes everyone is equal with different ways of life. God Bless those who can stand up for those who can’t.

  43. KORRIE says:

    I just want to say that I agree with you about the use of that word. I hate it and I forbid it in my house and in my presence. I’m the mom of a beautiful, loving, amazing 7 year old boy with Down syndrome. Jacob will enrich your life more and more as he grows. He will amaze you, frustrate you, and bring you more joy than you can ever imagine. anyone who gets to know him will be richly blessed as well. It’s like looking into the face of pure love and innocence. 🙂 Your son is gorgeous- I adore his baby photo! Keep up the fight to eradicate that word! Don’t let anyone tell you ” it’s just a word” or “it’s harmless.” words have power and that word will never be harmless. God Bless

  44. Libby Lovell says:

    My precious grandson has Down Syndrome and there is not a more pure, loving person on this earth. And with Karen I disagree….it is up to all of us to educate peole on the use of that word. My family has made a big inpact on lots of people who used to use the R word at the drop of a hat. Now they too are educationg others as well. It all starts with you….

  45. Sarah Lamballe says:

    You know that words are what I do, so like you I employ their power to motivate and move people – usually in the soulless pursuit of conspicuous consumerism but that’s the day job!

    What I wanted to share here is how many of us, especially those who should know better, have been lifelong lazy with spoken language. Too much swearing, plenty of brutal humour, not enough thought before opening mouth. A loud proponent of the one line put down, a pathetic teenage desire to shock.

    My ‘say no to the R word’ lightbulb moment came when my daughter chipped into a conversation I was having with her dad. She said “who’s a total cock, mummy?” Now I know this is not the term in question but it was the clincher and made me cast my mind back to times I’ve said spaz etc so big in the Boro vernacular of my youth that its hurtful power had been lost to me. I realised it was time to rethink everything I said, not just in front of her, but in general. Clearly it is my duty as a parent to shape and mould her into a responsible citizen, to set an example and to show genuine kindness to others through her actions and her words.

    About 2 years ago I came across Ghandi’s quote ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’ and I’ve tried to make it our mantra. (Pre-motherhood me would have ridiculed such hippy wisdom but when you become a parent – you get the strength to stand up and be counted – you grow up I suppose!)

    It’s so simple, but so true. I genuinely believe if we could all hold that one thought in mind, which means challenging others who use brutally hurtful language lightly, standing up and being counted and speaking out for those who are less able to speak out for themselves, then the world would be kinder to Jacob.

    I admire you greatly for being that change.

  46. Sarah Lamballe says:

    Pick up the typos would you love?

  47. Jon Smith says:

    What a kind treatment you did of the word “retarded”. Truth be told, we all are in some way. May God bless you and your special child. Jon

  48. jean mearin says:

    I also have a son with Down Syndrome. People who use the word “Retard” or retarded in an off handed manner are truely not thinking. You never know what someone has in their family or their life. The word retard only means slower. My son has been missing for 3 years now, and I feel such an incredible loss. He made me a better person. Not a mean bone in his body. Kind to everyone. It’s the people who use the term that have the problem. I will think of you and your child in my prayers. God gave you a gift.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      You never know is exactly right, Jean. I know so much more than I did three years ago, and still I know nothing. I’m sorry that you don’t have your son with you. He sounds like a great guy.

  49. Tara says:

    I just wanted to state my opinion on this matter. Words are used in many contexts, and not always meant to hurt or make fun of any particular thing or any particular person. I am not one to use the word myself…..but unless its put into the wrong perspective, I dont take offense either. Words are used in so many ways & by many ignorant people. Sometimes you just have to let go & not put so much energy into letting the small things in life get to you so. I just wanted to tell this from my own personal experience. I am a lesbian, people throw around the words “gay” and “fag” all the time….I dont let it get to me. I also suffer from mental illness….but unless they say that IM crazy or IM insane, I just must let that go for my own personal sanity. Censorship is never an answer……but the best action in any matter is education.

  50. Nick McGivney says:

    Tara, thank you for coming and leaving your opinion. I know we’ll never see the back of prejudice, and I agree with you that censorship won’t work. A lot of people feel differently, but I don’t think you actually can ban a word. It’s important too to learn to let many small things slide. I’m learning, but God knows I’m a slow picker upper. 🙂 That said, I can’t fully agree either. You are clearly articulate and reason things out in a way that makes sense for you. Fantastic. Jacob isn’t yet three, and I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to meet that prejudice and be able to deal with it in the same way. I hope so, but until I see it I guess I will be taking ignorant prejudice and trying to educate people who as you say do not mean to hurt or make fun. Exactly what I meant for this post. Thanks sincerely for coming and commenting.

  51. regina says:

    Its amazing how when we have children with special needs the way people look at you or the things they say can hurt you so much.. I think we are chosen to educate others. From one special needs parent to another…Great Job, way to go dad!

  52. Damon Cummins says:

    Just wanted to say that Jacob is a beautiful boy,and he is perfect just the way God intended him to be.As for me and my family we do not approve of the R word and are qiuck to let those who say it how we feel.

  53. Ellen Seidman says:

    This was SO eloquently and powerfully said. Bravo. And thanks for the support you gave me today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s