As a society, we have become desensitized to words and images that should affect us.
We act without thinking, speak without knowing, and create harmful habits simply because we aren’t inclined to care about how our words effect other people.
We are all guilty of this and maybe we don’t realize it unless uncomfort- able situations are thrust upon us, but I challenge everyone who is reading this to think before you speak. It’s such an old concept, so simple, but so powerful.
If we would only take that extra fraction of time to contem- plate the consequences of our words before we say them, maybe this world could take one more step toward peace.
I am going to focus on one word that has really been getting to me lately, — that word is “retarded.” It didn’t get you detentions in high school or get your mouth washed out with soap when you were a kid, however it is being used in a way that is more obscene than any four letter word that I can think of.
I don’t think that people use the term retarded on purpose to offend people with disabilities, but regardless if it is intentional or not, it is still hurtful and disrespectful. Imagine someone is in line at the movie theatre and they get to the teller, who tells them that the show they were waiting for has sold out and their in- stant response is, “That’s retarded.”
Is it? Is it retarded that the movie is sold out? Does the theatre have some kind of mental handicap because they didn’t have enough seats for you?
The answer to all of those questions is obviously no, so why do we label a negative circumstance as being retard- ed? Bad luck, maybe. Unfortunate, defi- nitely. But neither of these is a synonym for retarded.
If I were describing a mentally hand- icapped person I may say that they are unique, strong, and beautiful, so why does the word retarded have to carry such a negative connotation. Some may say that it doesn’t have negative attachments and to those I ask this, would you go up to your friend and tell her that her cute scarf looked retarded as a compliment?
No, she would probably take this as an insult, because that is the kind of meaning that our society has attached to the word. People with mental disabilities may be different then you, but they are cer- tainly not less, so let’s stop demeaning the word retarded.
Different is good, different is beautiful, and different is needed.
Next time you hear someone use the word retarded as an insult or with a negative connotation, challenge them. Ask them to explain what makes that situation retarded.