I'm normally not the confrontational type, I promise.
I find that the majority of people who want to argue with you on any given subject are usually the very people who are determined not to listen to a word you say, so it's kind of pointless, really.
But I made an exception tonight, on a subject I feel very strongly about, and about which I try to start a conversation when I can.
It started with this tweet by a fellow autism parent:
"Even though the insult came out of crossdresser#stopsayingretard"
@anncoulter ,he, I mean she needs to apologize. http://tinyurl.com/9qbtdch
After reading what I felt was a very heartfelt and thought-provoking article, I re-posted the link itself on Twitter, copying to Facebook:
"Eloquently put. Insensitivity knows no political bias. http://moms.today.com/_news/
Go ahead, click through and read it. It's good.
Back? Okay, good. Moving on.
Within seconds, someone commented on the link via Facebook. I won't post the verbatim here, but suffice it to say that he thought the article and its argument was "retarded."
My first reaction was a sigh of irritation. My second was to start typing a reply, then immediately erase it, feeling it would be pointless to argue about something this person had obviously already made up his mind about.
Maybe it's age, maybe it's perspective, but it's no longer enough for me to know what I believe is right and wrong, I find myself constantly re-evaluating the why of my beliefs as well. When someone has a differing opinion than I do, I want to know more--whether to reaffirm my own stance, or to re-evaluate it. The only problem with this is that I tend to expect the same of others, and others don't always go along with this in real life like they do in my head. Mostly, people are content to just believe what they've always believed, and get defensive when they're challenged.
For my part, I try to challenge respectfully, when I do at all. This was one of those times that I chose to challenge.
I explained that I was fully aware that in most instances of the use of the word in everyday conversation, people mean no harm in using it. I'd used the word myself, prior to smacking face-first into its impact. I tried to explain, though, that meaning no harm is not the same as doing no harm. Your perspective changes, I said, when it's you and yours on the other end of "harmless." I explained that I felt the "R" word was the worst of the worst, in my opinion. A black person can defend himself against his particular brand of slur. A gay person can, as well.
But you know who can't?
My kid. And countless other kids who take the brunt of this word every day. Their lives are hard enough, I tried to explain, without someone sneering that word just because it makes them feel cool, or for sheer shock factor. These kids' parents--their long-suffering, beleaguered, weary parents--deserve better than to be forced to try to explain this word to their precious children.
Their children whose hearts are a million times larger than anyone who would utter that hurtful word in such a way.
The conversation deteriorated from there. The commenter seemed bent on making the post about politics, but our kids are bigger than politics, aren't they? Disability is not Democratic or Republican. Much as I tried to convey this, I'm not sure it got through.
All I know is that nothing changes if we all stay silent.