Dear Rahm Emanuel, et al…I think you’re pretty much a tool. I elected a progressive, liberal, Democratic President and so far I haven’t seen him, and I blame you, Rahm. I actually think it’s a pretty brilliant idea to run ads chastising conservative Democrats for going all soft on health care (among other) reforms. Unfortunately, the first pol I’d target would be your boss — he’s the leader of the party, he should lead by his own progressive, liberal, example. So when you, Mr. Chief of Staff, characterized that particular strategy as “f**king retarded” I disagreed strategically, but was also aghast at your choice of words….and no, the f-word doesn’t bother me–bombs away on that one. (oh wait…it gets better….)
(So Rahm apologizes to Tim Shriver, who doesn’t accept the apology —God, I love the Shrivers–, but agrees to meet and continue the conversation. OK, there’s not much more that he can do. Of course this whole event, following the President’s own gaffe on The Tonight Show with Who the Hell Knows has me a little disconcerted that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue might need some sensitivity training.
But here’s what really pissed me off — the comments. Look at the comments section or the tweet feeds on any of these articles, over and over and over again, the word retarded is used — not informationally — but in comments like “making Emanuel apologize is f**king retarded“, and “PC is f**cking retarded.” I was so mortified when I read the comments. What in the hell is wrong with people?
Newsflash, you a**hole commenters on Politico, Huffpost, etc…. we don’t refrain from using the R-word because we’re being politically correct, we don’t use that word because we are decent, compassionate human beings (just like we haven’t stopped using the N-word because it’s politically incorrect, usage of that word became a big no-no long before the heyday of political correctness.)
Now, I’m literate, I understand that the word ‘retarded’ has a legitimate definition and use. But I also realize that today’s professional organizations, medical groups, and psychiatric groups — by and large — try to avoid using that term because they recognize that it was long-ago co-opted by school yard bullies and other a**holes as a put-down, a word meant to taunt, torment, and inflict pain on human beings–often those inherently less-capable of defending themselves. In every single encounter I have had with a professional since receiving Hope’s diagnosis, when that word has been used it has always–ALWAYS–been sandwiched between apologies….”I’m sorry, it’s the legal term…the legal classification…I wish they wouldn’t use it anymore.” And I understand that, there was a time when the R-word was just that, a legal classification, a diagnosis — and reams of legislation and policies from bygone eras still exist with that terminology. Someday, I’m sure that the word will be purged from those areas as well — because we understand that, unfortunately, it is a word we no longer safely own.)
I was 35 years old when Hope was born. For 35 years I heard the word ‘retarded’ with a completely different set of ears. But when it applies to your child — believe me — you can hear that word across a crowded room….and it stings. And that, I suppose, is what people just don’t get. It doesn’t matter that when you used the word you weren’t referring to a person but to an idea, what matters is that the image of somebody’s child is used to characterize that idea as flawed, horrible, and dumb. The fact is, when you used that word, you weren’t diagnosing or classifying something in legal terms — you were drawing a picture of a human being, one apparently without dignity or feelings, and saying “it’s as bad as that.” And I will admit, that as much as I like to think of myself as sensitive and compassionate, I have used that word to describe things….but I don’t anymore–because that word has a face for me…this one:
This is Hope, she is somebody’s child (mine), somebody’s sibling, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend. We’re not asking you to be politically correct, we’re asking you to be decent — to take two extra seconds to think of another term to use when you’re disgusted or angry at someone or something, another word that makes the world just a little bit nicer, a little bit safer, and a little more understanding for her to grow up in.
(And if they can’t do that, they should just resign and/or shut the hell up and stay off the message boards.)