Monday, November 26, 2012

The R Word Remix

I had a killer post about Thanksgiving and gratitude, but I'm going to put that on hold to respond to a comment on my first "r" word post. Here is the comment:

I do agree with you, however if someone like me uses the word as a put down, it is to say like that was a retarded statement i,e that is dumb. It doesn't reflect Down's syndrome children and their beauty in the least. Unless,there is something I'm not seeing. This society has become, because of the liberal agenda, too sensitive over semantics too. You must admit that. Hell, I am a blond and how many dumb blond jokes are out there? What if someone said a dumb blond joke in the presence of your beautiful blond child, would you take offense to that, as well? Just wondering. Also, a lot of Catholics take offense to the word asshole. At least putting it in written form. If it is spoken, accidentally in anger, that is one thing, but to put it out in the blogosphere is permanent and you want your Catholic light to shine and we have to realize what our written language kind of dims that light. I guess the same could be said about writing the word retard too. Just something for us all to ponder. You have a beautiful little girl, btw.

First of all, thank you. She is beautiful, and funny, and sweet and as jerky as every other baby with her biting and grinning when I tell her no. So, thanks.

On to what I think is the main thrust of your comment, which is that people are too sensitive about using certain descriptive words as derogatory (blond, retarded, asshole). Most of the time I get very eye-rolly at the idea of getting offended by something like a blond joke. A joke is a joke, we all get that. It is meant to be playful, not hurtful, so intention does matter. Also, most people can defend themselves, and that is a huge factor as to how appropriate something is. I don't like jokes about the sacred because I hold some things sacred. Hair color is not one of them.

However, in your example of using retarded to describe someone's statement as dumb, well, that is offensive. Why? Because the word retarded means something. My daughter's geneticist told us she would likely be mentally and physically retarded. That word was used to describe something about her. When my daughter grows up and hears that word used as a put down, she will associate that word with her deficiencies. She also likely won't be able to process a response fast enough to explain the offense. So, my daughter, who is a kind and cheerful girl, will be hearing people using a word used in her diagnosis, as something to put others down. And she will be unable to defend herself. And that is terrible.

Retarded doesn't mean dumb. It means slowed. My daughter's development will be retarded by Down syndrome. Her speech will probably be retarded by Down syndrome. Her cognition will be retarded by Down syndrome. What she won't be is dumb or ignorant. She'll be retarded. And no one should hurt her by using that description to call someone else a name. If someone were to do that in front of me I would defend her against that kind of ignorant treatment. If the person is a jerk, I'll tell her that person has terrible manners. Because those of us who can should protect the weak. 

As for the use of "asshole", yes, you are right, that is not the Light of Christ type word. It is vulgar, and I used that word to describe the vulgar people who defend the use of the word "retard" because they don't mean it offensively to those with Down syndrome. Except it is and all the semantics in the world will not change that unless we can no longer use the word for its intended purpose. Which circles back to my original point that I do not want assholes determining the lexicon.
To sum up, I don't think the words "retard or retarded" should be banned. I think anyone who uses those words as a put down are either ignorant, or complete jerks. My faith dictates that I help instruct the ignorant and love the jerks. I can do that, but I might accidentally call a jerk an asshole on occasion. Please forgive my vulgar mama bear moments.


  1. Dear Barbara,
    I love you, and I love Mariana. She has made our family better by being a part of it. I want to reiterate and add to what dad said to me about your little beauty when she was born. The highest compliment God gives is to those he has chosen to parent his special children. With Scott and Barbara it's not so mysterious to see why he has chosen to compliment them.