Wednesday, March 06, 2013

You're So....

I grew up in the 80s when the word "retard" was ubiquitous. It was a word slung about with a offhand cruel casualness. Because it was one of many words hurled at me through my childhood, I developed an immunity to its power. I even began to use it myself, and even as an adult, I'm ashamed to say have used an abbreviation cultivated from the holy mother of all swear words. My children even used it at times, although I did at least tell them to stop. But the pain of the word still didn't resonate with me. Until Jude.

Jude is technically mentally retarded. Whenever I read these words it's like someone gut punches me. The images that such a term, even when it's being used in a medical sense, are not pretty or flattering. Now when I hear it I remember the slick casualness the cool kids effected as they taunted the kids from the "special" room. Then I was too painfully insecure to speak up. I was a coward. Those poor teens wanted nothing more than any other teen wants. To have friends. To be safe. To walk through the halls without being molested. Instead they were assaulted by a word that their own Drs. used in describing them.

Words have power. It's that simple. They slash at us on a personal level but they also render deep wounds on a political/cultural level as well. Words are what we use to define other. Words are boxes in which we categorically place humans. At some point, our bodies began to graft to those boxes so that those words are written upon us. 

Judith Butler asks in Excitable Speech: "Could language injure us if we were not, in some sense, linguistic beings, beings who require language in order to be?

What kind of beings do we create with these words?  Ask yourself if it's so innocent. Take a moment, just a moment, to think about what you see in your head when the word "retard" comes out of your mouth? Is this the box in which you wish to use to shape my daughter or any other child with a cognitive disability? It's that simple. Let your speech reflect the world in which you wish to live. 

This is a blog hop:


ernesto sandoval said...

hello ginger: i disappeared from facebook a year ago, but i've kept reading your blog because it's one of the blogs i'm subscribed to and i get all the updates every time you post something. i've been reading your last posts and they really get to me in a level i actually can relate.

my mom's pregnancy of me was a difficult one. the doctor told her from the beginning that there was a fat chance that she would suffer a miscarriage and if that didn't happen, when i got born there would be a slim chance that i wouldn't be a normal kid, probably would have a lot of disabilities. the whole process was very complicated (she had to be in bed the last 6 months of the pregnancy) in every possible way. on the first trimester the doctor told her i might be born with down syndrome. in the end, everything turned out more or less ok, but still as a child i had some sequels of this. my mother struggled so i could have a "normal" development. my problems were that i lacked certain skills, i couldn't (and can't to this day) handwrite straight, can't measure spaces, and anything that is related to space, i was bullied all the time through school because of i also lacked every possible social skill, and developed a kind of autism, however my mom never gave up on me and she kept encouraging me and she never left me alone, although at the same time she worked hard to make me understand that there was nothing wrong with me. to this day i'm grateful for having a mother like mine. and i'm sure jude will grow and love her mother the way i love mine. she is a lucky girl for having such a loving and caring mother.

thank you for sharing all this.

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