Today across the country twitter feeds will be twittering and FB Home Pages will be rife with postings about ending the "r" word. While many of my "friends" here on FB have lived in the disability world for quite awhile as a parent, sibling or grandparent of a child with a disability, there are also lots of folks here who don't have daily interactions with families who have kids with special needs.
Ending the use of the "r" word in our popular culture is important because it represents a small step toward eliminating the ugly and demeaning distinction between those who can score higher on a standardized IQ test and those who don't. Many people in the disability world may not score very "high" on an IQ test, but the people I've met in that category possess more spiritual and emotional accuity than I can ever hope to attain (and if you've been my friend here on FB for any length of time, you know the feats and exploits of both of our kids who have "special needs"). When someone uses the "r" word, the idea behind it is that the person in their mind who IS "r", is that that person isn't even worth the bother. They are nameless and faceless, so there's no need to bother to educate, to befriend, or heaven-forbid, employ (the current rate of unemployment among the "disabled" is @ 90%). If someone remains nameless and faceless they have far less worth in any society and are therefor FAR easier to be relegated to the bottom of the social heirarchy.
Quite frankly I don't even know what "retarded" means because my son brings gifts into my heart every single day and makes my life fuller than I could have possibly imagined, and I know for a fact I don't deserve one bit of it. We have hope, we have joy, we have a very full life of exploration, imagination, accomplishment and pure satisfaction. Quite the opposite of "r" to me, it's a life accelerated and invigorating!!
My hope for today is that my friends here on FB who DON'T know someone with an intellectual disability will do a thorough gut-check on how they talk about others and that they boldly speak up when someone in their company uses the "r" word in any context. It's time to bury that word and the stigma that goes along with it. Tell them you have a friend named Hayden who is anything but "r" and that he is living his life as a messenger of hope and healing to all who will listen.