I’ve always been a staunch advocate for people being able to say what they intend to, or want to.
“Freedom of Speech” is something my viewpoint was always based on. I’m not a fan of censorship, nor do I typically condone people stifling their own voices for others’ comfort.
Now, I also have always believed strongly in taking whatever lumps you’re dealt for what you say. While I value freedom of speech, I also recognize that there are consequences for what comes out of your mouth. I also believe in taking responsibility for those consequences.
I also frequently speak in movie quotes. My brother and I are known for carrying on full conversations only using lines from movies. It drives my wife mad. Seems random, but play along.
There’s a scene in a movie I used to watch where one of the actors tells another that he “went full r<+@rd”, shaming him for acting too closely like someone with Down Syndrome in a previous role. The dialogue in the conversation is fast-moving, and regrettably I have to admit that it used to make me laugh.
Now, please understand – this isn’t some, “I used to say it but now I have a differently-abled child so you shouldn’t say it” speech. It’s true, yes… I used to use that term frequently for things, processes and people that I didn’t particularly care for. But this was long before David came along.
My 13-year old nephew was diagnosed with autism when he was very young. He had some challenges, but overall he’s thriving today. I’m sincerely proud of the young man he is. My sister has been a fierce advocate for him, and is directly responsible for much of his growth. She worked extremely hard in his early years to make sure he had every resource possible at his disposal. I can’t describe today, after my wife and I doing the same for our son, how much respect and admiration I have for her. My sister is a soldier.
One day, my brother posted a status on Facebook, talking in movie quotes. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but without giving it a moment’s thought, I commented “you went full r….., man. You never go full r…..”
I went full idiot.
Quite deserving of it, I caught my sister’s full wrath for what I said, in public forum.
At first, I was a touch resentful if I’m being honest. The defensive, proud side of me wanted to respond first. But I didn’t want to fight with her in public. I had to think about how I’d made her so angry in the first place.
I mean what was her problem, anyway? Her son isn’t even r….
Oh. That’s why. That’s why she was upset. The only reason to use that word is to be mean, period.
I was instantly, and have been since, sorry for ever using that word the way I used it. I also stopped using it at all that day.
The thing is, if you’re using that word, it’s almost a certainty that you’re using it to diminish another person’s intelligence. There’s no context where you use that word with respect.
So if this makes me a hypocrite, so be it – but I learned it the hard way. I learned by hurting someone that I love and respect immensely, and by then taking responsibility for that pain.
And truth be told, not only is there no good reason the use the word, there are an infinite number of other things you can say that aren’t pointed at diminishing the value of an entire group of people.
So learn from my mistake. #EraseTheWord.