Saturday, August 09, 2008

Though I generally stay out of it...

This time I can't keep my mouth shut. There is a movie being released soon called Tropic Thunder. In it Ben Stiller coined the term "full retard" and is now selling t-shirts with the phrase on it and inevitably it will become a phrase thrown around by teens, adolescents, adults, and, yes, even children, who think that because it was used in a Hollywood film it is somehow appropriate to use.

I have four children, three of them will eventually hold the label of "mentally retarded" because that is one of the things associated with Down syndrome that most children have (no, not all). I rarely speak up when someone uses the word retard or retarded in my presence, because I recognize that every conversation isn't a soap box. Does that make it any easier? To see a term that refers to my children be used as an insult? A term of "lesser value"? No, it still stings every time.

And the general "excuses of the public" which say "I didn't mean your kids," "Oh, I didn't know you had kids with disabilities," "I've used that word for so long it just comes out," "You know how much I love your kids, I don't mean it bad," well... it still does refer to my kids, intended or not, and it still hurts every time.

Yes, the word retarded is a medical term. Its literal meaning is slow. Yet people aren't using it to say "you're slow," they're using it to mean "you're stupid." And stupid is definitely not a word that refers to my children or any other child with a disability. Stupid is the word needed to describe the people who feel the need to pick on those of society that can't fend for themselves. Reality is that as my children get older and understand the word, they'll know that people are saying it, and they'll know what it means. They will hear someone say "You're retarded" to a person that's done something stupid and they'll look around and wonder why people would say that.

But... there are so many other people already there. So many adults with intellectual disabilities (yes, that's the "PC" way to say it...) that understand the term, know that it refers to them, and are overhearing it in the halls at stores and are walking away just as hurt.

Stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves.

Dave wrote a letter to Ben Stiller today which runs so true. Hop over and read if it you have a minute. Especially if you don't understand where I'm coming from. And, for that matter, watch the video below... It's worth it. Don't stop at the first 2 minutes... watch it to the end... This is a high school senior's speech to his school. Maybe one you'd like to share as well...


  1. meredith- thank you very much for sharing...

  2. Thank you for putting this out on your blog. Unfortunately this just makes our fight of acceptance for our children a lot harder. This is disgusting and for anyone who thinks otherwise I challenge them to examine their hearts. For me, the phrase "what would Jesus do" comes to mind- and I KNOW He would certainly NOT be laughing at the disrespect shown to this group of His children that can't defend themselves. I am praying for Christians to take a stand and refuse to see this movie. We collectively can make a difference.


  3. That was good. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I've been a long time lurker, but this is a subject that I have become passionate about, and I just couldn't lurk on this post :)

    As a 24 year old, the general language of those around me includes daily usage of the word retarded. While I never accepted this word, I never took a stand against it. That is, until I became a mother's helper/nanny for a 5 year old girl with cerebral palsy. Mery is the most intelligent child that I have ever met - I say this truthfully, as she functions at a full cognitive level, reading chapter books in grade primary.

    Unfortunately, there have been many nights when I have put her to bed, and she has curled into my arms sobbing because she hears people calling her retarded. Yes, she is talking about the kids at school, but she's also talking about overhearing adults while she is out and about.

    Sadly, it took a five year old (now 8) child to make me take a stand. The word retarded is not acceptable. And I will stand on my soapbox when people around me use it.

    Just because people are differently-abled does not mean that they deserve to feel worthless. Retarded reduces people to worthlessness.

    (okay...I wrote a book...sorry!)

    Jennine M.

  5. That was unbelievable, I wish that this was show to children at schools so that they would understand our children are people too with feelings just like anyone else.

  6. Thank you for writing this. It's time for all of us to stand up and tell people it's just not okay to use the R word.
    Spread the word about how terrible this movie is and tell your friends to pass.
    Check out the ARC website for up to date information about picketing and boycotts of the movie. Ben Stiller should be ashamed of himself.

  7. Thank you for putting this on your blog. I have read it a few times now on other blogs. This needs to get out so people do not support that movie! Obviously, the actors are ignorant as to how their words can hurt! Very sad!

  8. i read that letter and totally agree - people like him make the world a colder place.

    unfortunately, i don't think little kids even REALIZE what they're doing. (not talking teenagers, but kids in the first couple years of elementary school.) i know when i was little, we used that word for no good reason - we thought it meant "stupid" but to us it was interchangeable. i never knew it had any other meaning... to me it was like switching "bright day" for "sunny day." now that i know better, i don't use that word.

    honestly, if it hadn't been for what i've seen, read, and learned through your blog, i'd probably still have the same view of kids with down syndrome as i always did - not freaks, not really inferior, i just didn't think they could amount to anything. i am ashamed to admit it, but i'm being honest. as i grew older, that view did change, but it changed even further once i read about your little ones. in some ways, they make the world a much better place than those who put them down.

  9. Thank you so much for including this video. I, too, have included the video on my blog and hopefully this message will spread just a little bit more!

    I also have included your blog on my blog list. Please feel free to visit mine and include my link onto your site.

    Keep writing! You are great!

  10. I posted this and that speech last night :)

  11. Thank you for your letter and for sharing that touching video. I agree and stand by you and Olivia's brother.

    We are all one and we are all the same and we should accept each other for what we are "God's children", we all have the same rights and no one is better or worse...

    We should all love and help each other ~

  12. I recently wrote a similar page to my friends and family about using the R word, and emailed it to everyone I knew. If more and more people start saying something, soon it will become unacceptable to say, like the N word. Keep up the great writing! Nikki http://www,

  13. It is time to take the "r" word out of circulation.

    I've written a blog post, Words Hurt: The "r" Word, on Wanda and Rick Felty's campaign to "Ban the R Word", and Jenna Glatzer's pledge campaign, as well as the "Tropic Thunder" controversy. I've included a link to your blog.