Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No More Useless Words

It's a pretty safe bet that no one will ever peg me as too politically correct. I think it's the "politically" part of that phrase that keeps me completely uninterested. I mean, really, how many things can be both political and correct? Most days I look around and see political correctness run amuck. It grates on every one of my nerves. I will even admit that sometimes I purposely choose political incorrectness...just to annoy the p.c. police. (It's really liberating, you should try it sometime!)

I wonder why phrases like politically correct have overtaken common courtesy and decency in our society. There are a lot of words you will hear me say, some are nice: please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry, You only have two items, go right ahead, etc. You know, those simple words that could really improve day to day life in this country.

But some of my words, they aren't quite as nice: bite me, jackass jerk, idiot, waste of skin (I could go on and on here). You know, those simple words that don't improve much of anything except my mood, and allow me to let off steam.

Then, there are the words you will never hear me use. They are useless words. Words that I choose not to speak...not because I'm afraid the p.c. police will come after me, but because no good comes from them. They sting and humiliate. Now, you may say that some of my above-mentioned words sting and humiliate. Probably so. I do make attempts at filtering rather than speaking those words aloud...well, unless I'm yelling them at the computer, or t.v. (And, as I've said before, as long as Pelosi is sittin' on the Hill, idiot will be firmly planted in my vocabulary.)

Two words that have always made me uncomfortable are retard and retarded. When I hear those words, I feel unsettled. I instantly look around, hoping no one else heard them as well. Those two words are useless. For many, they are painful words. I've heard kids use the word when talking to a friend: "Dude, you are such a retard." or "Why do you act so retarded?" I've asked why they use those words. Often the response is something along the lines of: "I didn't mean anything by it." or "I was just joking around." Well, then that's perfect. If you didn't mean anything by it, it shouldn't be too difficult replacing those words with something else.

Today, the Special Olympics launched a campaign to stop the use of the R-word. I don't believe this is political correctness run amuck. This is about the preservation of dignity. I see this campaign as a way of honoring, and showing respect to, people who deserve it...they deserve respect simply because of who they are. I was especially touched to learn that the campaign plan was devised by a group of students attending a Special Olympics youth summit. The group included students with and without disabilities. Because of their efforts, over 700 rallies and events were held today, kicking off the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign.

This has been on my mind recently, as I've read blogs concerning the topic. It struck me that had Victoria lived, I probably wouldn't have waited for a Special Olympics campaign to spread the word. There is no doubt, that in addition to extreme physical disabilities, she would have had severe intellectual disabilities. So, if those words pop into your mind, please do me a favor. Could you remember my precious baby girl? Surely, you would never have disrespected or humiliated her. I'm certainly not intending to make anyone feel badly, or to make myself sound holier-than-thou...just scroll back up and reread my words (remember bite me, and jackass jerk). I have more than enough to work on.

I am committed to this campaign. The Special Olympics has super cool "Spread the Word" tshirts for sale. So, I've decided it's time for another tshirt GIVEAWAY! Yippee!! To be entered, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post, then visit the R-word site (yes, site meter will spill the beans on whether or not you visited R-word). Followers get an extra entry...that's right, there are times a girl has no shame. Winner will be randomly selected...that means I let Princie pull a name out of her Cowgirl hat! We're so high tech like that.


Amy said...

OK, I had to leave a comment this time. I am very ashamed to admit that I used to throw around the "R" word when I was "just joking around". About a year ago I realized that it could really hurt someone's feelings. I decided then and there not to say it ever again. I even prayed for help to think about what I was saying before I said it. So far so good and I feel better about the words I am using. I too am a fan of "idiot" and a friend taught me a good one to use in front of the kiddos -"D.A." (stands for dumb "butt"). Thanks for yet another great, insightful post.

Mommy (You can call me OM) said...

I completely agree with you, but I can't say that I'm innocent. Over the years, I stopped saying that word. But, I caught myself saying it about the resident who discharged me from the hospital. I justified saying that word by telling myself that I didn't mean people with actual disabilities -- I meant people without actual disabilities who choose to act foolishly. I think I used the word twice before doing a real self-inventory and deciding it still wasn't right, no matter the justification. So, now I've called him the moron resident. Still not a 'nice' word, but definitely more fitting.
I will now follow the link to the 'R word site'.

Amy said...

I am so glad that they are doing this. I completely agree with you about the PC going a bit over board in most things. I think because of it, our society has become way too touchy, but when it comes to the people who have it much harder than us because of their limitations, there is no such thing as too touchy. Thank you for this post and helping us all be a little more aware of those around us who may need a little extra love.

em said...

oh girl, you go;-)

Rachel T. said...

This is a tough one, I use this word all the time and I of course don't mean it against anyone, I work with these kids after all. But I was in a patients room one time, and the child had Downs Syndrome and apparently when I was in the room I referred to something as retarded. Boy was he quick to remind me that I was never to use that word, especially in his sons presence. (who was maybe 9 months at the time) At first I was like woah there tiger, I didn't call your son that, but then I realized I just need to replace the word, just like I probably shouldn't say everything is "gay" either lol.
Oh and im "special" lol cause i put my pledge on their twice, it didn't seem to work the first time lol

jen said...

You were so much more articulate than the website. This is a hard one in our house, because LDS teenagers use it with abandon. But I commit to the cause!

mom said...

Another great post...I truly believe "learning to filter" some of the words or phrases most of us have "thrown around" in our lifetime is just that..." a learning process."

For me, I am so grateful that I did not "grow up" with all the technology of today. I am afraid I would cringe at so much of my behavior I would never stand upright again. I loved Amy's comment about "even praying to think about what she said before she says it." I used to use a lot of words, very casually, way too casually, that I would never freely use today. Thank Goodness!

I can honestly say that I never really "thought" about using some of those words. I made a statement one time many many years ago that I believe was the most ignorant and cruel thing I have ever said. I assure you the people who heard me don't even remember it...(I was the only non-intoxicated person in the room...whew, at least I don't have that burden, in addition). But, I do remember it..36 years later!

My point is that I have learned... a lot. I have learned that just because you "always heard it growing up, etc." does not mean you have to keep up the tradition. Some "traditions" are meant to be broken.

I have also learned that some of the most seemingly benign words can hurt deeply. Unfortunately, unless "it hits home" sometimes we just "don't get it."

For me, it is not about being politically correct...it is about being correct...getting it right...thinking before you speak.

My father, known to the world as "Doc", will be 80 years old this year. I have never heard that man utter ONE unkind or insensitive "label."...they are not in his vocabulary. What a tribute to his Christlike example. Is he perfect...nope...but his love for people..all people...is pretty darn close to being perfect.

I wish I could say that I have "learned to filter" to the point of my father. Well, I haven't...but I have outgrown a number of words and phrases...however, some I will hold onto, forever! Like Snarky's "bite me"...makes me laugh every time! :)

But, isn't that the great part about this life...we get to keep on living so we can keep on learning....I guess if I can just aim as high as my father stands tall in his speech and actions, then I will only be better...who knows, one day...I might even get it somewhere near right!

And in case I don't meet the "Doc" standard...I can always fall back on Cher..."Words are like weapons, they wound deep inside."
(Told you people...Cher rocks!)

Brad said...

Gosh dang it, you make too good of a point for me to keep saying it.

KC Mom said...

You're probably right. But I'm pretty guilty of saying it.
I grew up hearing that word not attached to anyone with a disability but to actions that were silly. We use that word a lot in our house and never really have thought about what others have thought. We should probably be more thoughtful about that.

RitterB's said...

Thanks fore the gentle reminder that our words, may hurt someones soul. Have a great day...

Jamie said...

I have a newphew with Down's Syndrome and this was one of the first things we did as an extended family when he was diagnosed. It's an awful word, and I applaud the Special Olympics, and you for bringing this to our attention. Good work!

Carly Marie said...

Beautiful post. Beautiful beautiful post.

I hate the R word. HATE IT. I cringe when I hear it joked around.

My son was so retarded that he did not have enough brain capacity to tell him to swallow so he never grew a stomach. He had no chance at ever meeting his family.

I don't look down at people who say it. I just feel like crap when they do.

Thank you for writing on this x

Fiauna said...

I was so happy to find out about this campaign. It's not about political correctness, it's about discrimination. It's about defending the defenseless. It's about teaching our children that ALL children are valuable!

Laretha said...

..."as long as Pelosi is sittin' on the Hill, idiot will be firmly planted in my vocabulary..."

Indeed my friend!

I completely agree. It's about respect.

Another boy called Micah some pretty bad names last week at school. He locked himself in the bathroom crying when he got home. He was SO upset. The teacher heard it. Handled it very well.

Still he was very hurt. Apologies and extending forgiveness doesn't take away the wound of words.

The Bible says out of the mouth the heart speaks.

The R word doesn't speak what I want my heart to say.


karen said...

I completely agree - a little sensitivity to how our words affect others would be nice. Our youngest son has struggled for the last two years with mental illness. He is much better now than when first diagnosed, but he still sometimes acts "not right." Some people giggle, some just look away, but it's rare for anyone to have the good sense to act as if he hadn't just done or said something completely wierd. And it hurts, because he is such a sweet young man himself, and would never laugh at, or make fun of anyone. So yes, we're a little sensitive to things like this.

Valsy said...

When I was in the 9th grade, some of my best friends were throwing pennies for one the girls, Virginia, in the school who had learning disabilities. They would toss them, she would chase them and bring them back like a dog (this all during our lunch hour). They even would have her bark. I remember once being so appalled that I asked them why they did that, and their answer was "Who cares. She's retarded."

Dr Phil would say that that was one of the defining moments of my entire life. I packed up my lunch, got up from the table of cool kids I was close to my whole life (small town living you know) moved tables and never went back. I got close to new friends. The old ones couldn't understand why I didn't want to be friends with them anymore and I couldn't understand how they could talk that way to or about someone else.

I too read about the R word campaign and was going to Bob the Builder it. No need. You did a great job. It is a word I don't use and my children are not allowed to. Never have been.

mom said...

Awesome story, Valsy...

I had a similar experience in high school..the "too cool for school" senior jocks would make this sweet little guy, (who was intellectually challenged, as well as very poor) slither like a snake for a dollar...they even told him one of the cheerleaders wanted to go to homecoming with him...he thought she was beautiful, so he "slithered" until he earned enough to buy her a corsage.

I think that was a real life defining moment for me...until then I probably did not think too much about people saying those things and had, more than once, been as guilty as the next person to laugh or snicker, like a lot of kids do...but, that for me was a "game changer." Actually, still makes me ill when I think of that scene.

Unfortunately, they are probably still crappy kids who grew into adult bodies!!!

Good for you...I bet lunch tasted better at a different table!

K2cole said...

What a great idea!! I love it! This has always been a no-no in my house (I am sure outside the teen boys are not so great). I plan to have my boys visit the website.

Thanks for the heads up!

(Princie - Pick me!!)

Sue said...

My siblings and I used to use this word all the time until my mom put a stop to it. I've used it occasionally since, too, even as an adult. But I will not be using it again.

KatieB said...

Excellent Post and Valsy I appreciated your "Life's defining moment" comment. It brought back memories of a defining moment for me: I was in Junior High and a new kid in a new school. My locker was right by the room where the mentally challenged kids would have their classes. They would often hang out by the door to their classroom and talk with me. I shared my name and always tried to add a little sunshine to their day as kids in Junior High can be BRUTAL! Well, they got to a point where they would look for me and run down the hallway after me yelling my name. Now, I have to admit...being a new kid, in a new school and in JUNIOR HIGH...I wasn't exactly THRILLED that my fastest growing group of friends were the special needs kids. Pretty soon the "cool" kids were referring to me as "Katie and the Retards". I've NEVER understood how people can be so cruel, so uncaring towards special needs individuals. Fortunately, I gained MUCH more than the "self-pride" that was lost. Sadly, those young "cool kids" missed out on the blessing of interacting with special needs kids. By seeing these kids as just an "R" word, they missed out on a whole dictionary worth of words that these special individuals could have taught them.

I am LoW said...

I have the button on my blog, I made the pledge (although I did that a long time ago, just not on a site) and I am a follower. That should count for a few entries! :)

Angie said...

"I wonder why phrases like politically correct have overtaken common courtesy and decency in our society. There are a lot of words you will hear me say, some are nice: please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry, You only have two items, go right ahead, etc. You know, those simple words that could really improve day to day life in this country."

I love this paragraph. I have no use for political correctness if the underlying sentiment is still the same. This is the same reason that the word du jour to describe different ethnic and other groups always changes. The new one doesn't yet have a negative connotation, but one develops soon enough.

For the record, I can't recall ever using the r word in that way, because it makes me sad. And many people don't realize that other words we hear every day (idiot, moron) were originally words that designated specific ranges on IQ tests.

I've been meaning to add you to the blogs I follow for a while--thanks for the reminder.

Grace said...

I hate the R-Word. Actually, there are many others I dislike too. Anything that I see that could be considered a cutdown to a person is not to be used. Actually, when my girls were very little my DH and I purposely didn't use some words (such as stupid) and if they were used around the girls we would tell them (the girls) that they were not nice words (the same phrase we would use for curse words)... they would tell their friends in elementary school (when those 'not nice words' were used) that they were curse words... the R-Word is right up there at the top of the list.

Thank you for making me aware of the movement. You are a passionate lady. WTG!

Lindsay said...

Had my daughter lived, she too would have been probably severly retarded. Zoe is buried in a spot that was reserved for her, next to her little boy. He was born with a very rare disease that caused severe physical and mental retardation.
So, you could say that the word was a no-no in our family then and now. I'm glad they made a campaign to try and stop it, and I'm glad that you touched on it as well...

Lindsay said...

There's a sentence missing. The second sentence makes more sense when I add: My aunt gave me her plot for Zoe, next to HER son who was severly retarded. Sorry, just re-read my jibberish..xo