Today is a national campaign targeted at ending the derogatory use of the word "retarded." If you know me you know that I am 1) for the right of free speech and 2) do not buy into political correctness. Still, you would also know that I am one who always tries to show respect. When I challenge a person, I challenge their ideas, their teachings, and their comments, not their physical appearance, skin color, or any other personal trait. Even then, I still respect their right to disagree. Respect is something that people with disabilities and special challenges never seem to get, and they are the one group of people who deserve it more than anyone else.
People with special needs like my daughter who has Down Syndrome work extra hard to accomplish the most simple tasks of life. Instead of cheering and applauding their accomplishments we use words that are supposed to simply describe their delays, such as retarded, and use it to insult others. This group of people would do almost anything to earn our respect and instead of giving it to them, we use them as the butt of our jokes. We find humor in their difficulties and feel a false sense of superiority and security because we are not like them.
The next time you think of using the R word, or hear someone else use it, think of all the people who are hurt by the comment. They may not be standing around you, but they are out there, working extra hard to be a productive citizen of society. They don't want you to do it for them and they don't want your sympathy. All they want is a little respect and a little dignity. For just once, they would like to live in a world that understands that a person who has a cognitive disability has probably done more in their life to earn respect and admiration than we will ever do in our lifetime. They deserve our love and acceptance, not our ridicule. So join with us in our campaign to end the use of the R-word as a way of making fun of others. Instead let us educate others about the accomplishments of a segment of society that is so little understood.