Lately I've been writing most of my posts about disability over on Disaboom, and inviting you guys to check it out if you've got a moment.
But I've been thinking about a couple of things for awhile, and to be perfectly honest, if I was to write it over there, I'd be preaching to the choir, and it wouldn't change a thing. And since today is my birthday, I'm just going to speak my mind.
If you're not interested, please, please back out. This is going to be a bit of a rant.
Let me just start this off with...
Language is powerful.
A couple of days ago, Little Guy and I were in the grocery store. One of his gifts is that he never forgets a face or a name (once he ran out of Great Clips to greet a substitute teacher he'd had in 3rd grade), and he's so sweet and friendly, that he's pretty unforgettable too. So every time we go into town, he probably stops and talks to 10 or so people.
We ran into a lady who worked as a para-educator in his transitions-skills class for several years, but who had left the school system last year. She'd never been his particular para, so I didn't recognize her. They chatted for a minute, and then she asked ME how he was doing. That should have been a clue. I turned to Little Guy, and said "how you doing?"
He told her about his girlfriend, about his classes, and his part-time job doing data entry. He told her about his artwork. Then he told her that his transitions leader Mrs. P. was going on maternity leave and he was really excited about it.
Mrs. B (the ex-para) said to me, "Oh, so SHE'S pregnant? I hadn't heard."
I assured her that Mrs. P was planning on coming back in the fall. Now for a little back-story---this is the 2nd year that Mrs. P has been the transitions leader. Mr. R, who was our first transitions leader and a wonderful, wonderful man moved to a different position. So I guess Mrs. B only lasted one year under Mrs. P, but I'm only speculating why.
Mrs. B continued with some seriously caustic comments on how she thought the severe needs program was going to hell under the direction of Mrs. P. I was neutral (remember I didn't know this woman from Adam) and said, "well it seems to be working out ok for Little Guy."
And my son chimed in, "I like Mrs. P. She's my friend."
Mrs. B. continued on the subject for a little more, and I managed to extricate us. Obviously it was a personal problem. We said our goodbyes and Little Guy and I went on shopping. A few minutes later, Mrs. B circled around and came up to us.
"This was between you and me, right?"
I looked at her in astonishment. As someone who worked with teens in the transitions class for at least a couple of years, did she really imagine that they were invisible? My son was standing next to me during our entire exchange and soaked in every word. If she didn't intend for him to hear it, why in the world did she open her yap?
Did she expect me to sit him down and tell him to keep it a secret? I don't do that with any of OUR family life, good or bad, no matter WHO he talks to (even if it results in embarrassing moments for us), and I wasn't going to start now.
I said shortly, "I'm certainly not going to say anything, but you can probably bet that your views aren't going to be a secret in the transitions class for very long. Little Guy may have autism, but he can hear and speak quite well, in case you forgot."
Many people made New Year's resolutions this year to quit smoking, or lose weight, or stop fighting with their in-laws, etc.
I made one that I admitted to publically. It was to learn how to make the perfect authentic chili relleno. Egg batter and all.
But to be honest, I had another resolution.
In the past, I've read blogs whose authors liberally use the term "fucktard" (which is a ::koff:: "trendy and cool" term, but is really short for "fucking retard") or just "retard". Some make jokey comments about "short bus riders". If I didn't like their blog that much, I just backed out and never came back.
If it was someone whose blog I liked, I wouldn't comment on those posts. But my heart shriveled a little inside. I dropped a couple of people notes, but I wasn't vigilant about doing it with everyone. And I have to say that the people I dropped notes to were completely receptive and appalled at how their language affected me.
My New Year's resolution is to step up and say something. In every case.
I'm not trying to be the language police. Write your blog however you want. But please be aware that to those of us who have friends or family with cognitive disabilities, the terms "retard" or "fucktard" aren't funny or trendy. You might as well be sporting a white hood and using the "n" word. It's as equally as offensive.
So be on notice. I like to think that I've got a great sense of humor, I'm open-minded, and somewhat intelligent.
But language is powerful. And this stuff hurts me. It really really hurts me. If you read my blog on a regular basis you know that my kids have issues, so why put me on your blogroll or elicit comments if you think that these terms are benign or humorous? They aren't. They're like a stab in the heart.
And for everyone who is reading this. I just ask you to notice and let other writers know that you also feel that language is powerful. If you see it, please take a stand.
I don't think these writers are setting out to be hurtful. They think they're being funny. Please let them know that they aren't. My guy isn't "less", and doesn't deserve to be reduced to some trendy word that the "I'm-so-edgy" have adopted.
Last week, Jacqui at Terrible Palsy linked to a powerful post about tone as well. If you don't feel too beat up by my post, give it a look. It really brought tears to my eyes.