Monday, August 11, 2008

Never go full retard

Saturday was a rainy day so S and I took the girls and headed out to the suburbs to make a friendly visit to IKEA. It was one of those outings that we weren’t 100% sure about doing. Traffic, rain, cranky kids, the chance of spending too much money on things we never knew we “needed” until we were there. But off we went.

I was grouchy because it was my turn for the gooey eyes. I had to wear my old pair of glasses with an even older prescription. The sun hurt my eyes and I couldn’t figure out a way to fit my huge sunglasses over my thick eye glasses.

Walking into the store, Zoya decided we all needed to try the large revolving door. Lainie and Zo and I shared our compartment with a group of teenage guys. S and Polly chose the open/close door route.

One of the teenagers thought it was funny to do the hokey pokey with the revolving door, he stuck his right foot in and out and our whole compartment started and stopped, started and stopped. His peers reprimanded him. Other people gave him dirty looks. Elaina grabbed my hand. This was exactly what she was afraid of. Getting stuck in the door.

Another guy in the teenage group told the kid messing around with the door he was a retard. He called him retarded two or three times.

And I felt a stab in my heart. My shoulders stiffened. I gulped and stared at the kid.

I wanted to hold Polly up to him and say that at some point in her life she will probably officially be labelled ”mentally retarded” on a piece of paper stored away in a tan file cabinet. I wanted to tell him that my third daughter has Down syndrome and that his words offended me greatly.

I looked down at my arms. They were empty. I remembered that S had Polly with him.

I said nothing. I did nothing.

I walked away from the revolving door holding tightly to my other daughters’ hands. My eyes were watery and it wasn’t because of Pink Eye.

Now, I’ve heard the word “retard” a bunch of times. Though I am ashamed to admit it, I am sure I used the word in high school and junior high. Some family and friends have said it in my presence. Most have quickly apologized. I graciously accepted saying I understood they were not thinking of Polly with this term, therefore I was not offended.

I am learning that I need to be offended for my daughter’s sake.

Polly is two years old. I have learned more than I ever deemed possible about stereotypes and the world of disability and about actions and words that hurt people with disabilities and their families. And I’ve learned that like it or not, I need to be an advocate for my daughter. Of course, there is still a lot to learn. My family is a part of the disability community. We are blessed that we are.

This morning I add my voice to many others; mothers and fathers, siblings, friends, grandparents, to fight for those who some times are unable to fight for themselves.

Ben Stiller’s new movie Tropic Thunder premieres today in Los Angeles.

S and I have enjoyed some of Stiller’s movies over the years. But we will not be watching Tropic Thunder.

Because of a scene in this movie now there are t-shirts for sale with the words “Never go full retard.” Go here to read what Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics wrote about the movie for the Washington Post. Go here to catch a paraphrase of the scene I am referencing.

I am writing this post because I want to fight against the phrase “never go full retard” albeit in a small way.

In my mind’s eye I see another family, a few years down the road, stuck in a revolving door at IKEA, a mother holding a new baby who happens to have a disability and some kid telling another to “never go full retard.”

The goal of this post is to save that mother from that pain.

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