You may be wondering what word it is talking about [Tangent:...because frankly, if it were entirely up to me the term "slider" would be terminated. ] Today is a day that focuses on bringing awareness to the rampant and wrongful overuse of a word that is hurtful to many. The word is "retarded" or any form thereof. [Tangent: I don't take pleasure in even typing that word...but I will use it only once in the post, and hereafter call it "the word".]
I am instinctively not politically correct, and I tend to be liberal on people's choice of words. I've never cared if someone calls me disabled or frankly even crippled. I was raised possessing a very sticks and stones mentality, so frankly until about a year ago, I thought people who got offended by such things were just overly sensitive. As someone who claims to have an extensive vocabulary, I shamefully admit that I would recklessly use "the word" to describe a lot of things I deemed dumb or pointless.(movies....people...phrases...books...the word "slider.")
Being a communications major and someone who writes, I know that words are powerful and sometimes you need a specific word to communicate a certain thing just the way you want to. I get it. The problem is when the choice of words brings hurt to a person. Then all bets are off. [Tangent: Historically there have been a lot of words that fall under this umbrella. Words like the N-word were once commonplace and used by even the most educated of people, but today you would never dream of using that word because you know the pain it has caused.]
Maybe I never took the time to kick this habit because prior to last fall, I have never, as an adult, had someone in my daily life with an intellectual or developmental disability. I have never seen someone personally affected by "the word." Then I met Claire....someone I can attest is neither "dumb" nor "pointless."
The day I found out she was going to be living with Down Syndrome, I made a personal pledge to stop using "that word." Dropping one stupid hurtful word from my vocabulary has been a surprisingly easy habit to break...everytime it even tries to roll off my tongue...I picture this lady...
...then it is impossible to utter it. Since eradicating it from my personal dictionary, I have also become so keenly aware of how much it is used by people in my life. It's a term I hear daily in all kinds of environments. [Tangent:It's not always maliciousness...just sometimes people, like myself, who are ignorant of it's effects.] Every time I hear "the word" spoken, it almost hits my ear in a strange tone...like a dog whistle. It hurts and makes me sad that I was not more careful of my words earlier. [Tangent: I tell my 2 year old niece to use her words. Why wasn't I taking that same advice?]
I consider myself very lucky to have her in my life...it only makes me wish everyone had a Claire to make them better and teach them to use their words more carefully.