Did you gasp when you read that? Were you appalled? Of all people, why would I use such a term? How dare I say that? I dared to use it because I used it correctly. My usage was to refer to being slow or slower than most in doing what I have set out to do. The word itself is not what is at issue for me, it is all in the attitude and use of the word.
Rosa'a Law has wonderful intent and if you read the family's quotes, they got it right. Unfortunately, the law misses the point. The law legislates how the federal government uses the word in describing individuals with intellectual disabilities. They are no longer allowed to use the term "mentally retarded". Instead it reads,S. 2781, the "Rosa's Law," which changes references in many Federal statutes that currently refer to "mental retardation" to refer, instead, to "intellectual disability". If you are wondering what my point is, trust me, I have one (The Coffee Guy will tell you I "always have a point"!).
My memory is very clear about when the misuse of this word first stung me. I was in a darling coffee house, relaxed on an overstuffed couch with a sweet fragrant hard caramel latte warming up my hands. The music played in the background while folks quietly chattered around me at their tables. As I was settling into the moment when a laughing teenaged girl loudly gushed "He is so retarded!".
I boiled inside. It had been years since I had heard anyone use that term in that way. Back in the days before my incredible Princess had joined our family and before I knew so deeply that a person's value does not lie in their intellect, their perceived contribution to society or their outward beauty I was unaffected by the word. Now I knew more that their worth lies in the simple innocence of having to trust in others completely. In being uniquely able to have an intimate relationship with their Creator on a level that I will never attain.
This word, "retarded", that was originally used to be more sensitive had been turned around to become a slur. It has been used for years now as slang for someone who actions are just plain stupid. It has been interchanged with other meanings and has equated the condition of "Mental Retardation" with idiotic behavior. The use of the word is what became cruel, not the word itself.
I am a huge fan of the R-word campaign. Educating those in our schools and communities that no matter what words you strike from legislation, you have to work harder to change attitudes. There have to be enough people who are willing to stand up to those who laugh or mock those who are different than they are. Sadly, I tried two years in a row to convince the child development specialist at one of our schools to make the students aware of the campaign and she just didn't "find the time". We can give lip service to stopping bullies, raising self esteem in typical children but when it comes to those without a voice, there just isn't time. My eldest daughter even tried to get her leadership to hold an assembly but the student body president didn't think the other students would accept the message.
There are so many special interest groups that have been heard from in the area of tolerance. Its time for those of us who speak for those who can't and to give them a voice. We can't legislate acceptance but as the media has shown with other groups, (how many millions have gone into telling us it is uncool to say that something is "gay"?) we certainly can educate if we stop accepting bad behavior.If we can stand up for a group of people that are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves then we certainly can speak up for our most vulnerable and I dare to say valuable members of the human race. They have already earned a great deal of respect. I will continue to cheer on Rosa and her peers. I will pledge to speak up even if I make some around me uncomfortable and I will endeavor to make The Princess proud!