I grew up in the 80s when the word "retard" was ubiquitous. It was a word slung about with a offhand cruel casualness. Because it was one of many words hurled at me through my childhood, I developed an immunity to its power. I even began to use it myself, and even as an adult, I'm ashamed to say have used an abbreviation cultivated from the holy mother of all swear words. My children even used it at times, although I did at least tell them to stop. But the pain of the word still didn't resonate with me. Until Jude.
Jude is technically mentally retarded. Whenever I read these words it's like someone gut punches me. The images that such a term, even when it's being used in a medical sense, are not pretty or flattering. Now when I hear it I remember the slick casualness the cool kids effected as they taunted the kids from the "special" room. Then I was too painfully insecure to speak up. I was a coward. Those poor teens wanted nothing more than any other teen wants. To have friends. To be safe. To walk through the halls without being molested. Instead they were assaulted by a word that their own Drs. used in describing them.
Words have power. It's that simple. They slash at us on a personal level but they also render deep wounds on a political/cultural level as well. Words are what we use to define other. Words are boxes in which we categorically place humans. At some point, our bodies began to graft to those boxes so that those words are written upon us.
Judith Butler asks in Excitable Speech: "Could language injure us if we were not, in some sense, linguistic beings, beings who require language in order to be?”
What kind of beings do we create with these words? Ask yourself if it's so innocent. Take a moment, just a moment, to think about what you see in your head when the word "retard" comes out of your mouth? Is this the box in which you wish to use to shape my daughter or any other child with a cognitive disability? It's that simple. Let your speech reflect the world in which you wish to live.
This is a blog hop: