Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The "WORD"

I don't advocate violence for solving issues--no matter how big or small the issue might be.  At least that is what I think now, but there have been a few times when I resorted to violence.  In my life time I would say that I have had three fist fights--of which I like to think of myself as having a record of 2 and 1, and there may be those who disagree but my opponents are long gone and cannot dispute the facts as I remember them.  As I have written many times, the older I get the better I was.  In another ten years my record will probably be 3 and 0!  But the fact it has been many, many years since I believed in violence to settle an issue.

Of those three fights the first one was probably the most noble one.  The second one occurred when I got tired of a friend making fun of me and I walloped him with a couple of quick punches.  It surprised me when he fell down and started crying like a baby.  Since his father was my father's best friend I worried about what was going to happen to me when he told on me.  The third fight was basically the same sort of thing--I got tired of the class bully picking on me and told him to knock it off.  Which he was more than willing to do once we got off the bus.  We introverts need to remember to ask ourselves, "Did we say that out loud or was that just in our heads?"  It was out loud.

The fight was short.  I figured I had only one shot against the guy who was at least a foot taller than me and outweighed me by 50 pounds--I had to hit him in the mouth which we loaded with braces.  So that is what I did--punched him right in the mouth.  There was blood and everything.  There is a reason why they say one should leave sleeping dogs alone . . . needless to say the next couple of minutes were not pleasant.  I got whooped.  I hurt for a week.  But the nice thing was no one every picked on me again--no one wanted to mess with the crazy kid!

The first fight was when I was eight or nine years old.  We were in the neighbor's yard playing some sort of a game.  At that stage of the game I was not one of the most athletic kids--usually I was the one who got picked last.  Apparently I did something during the game that was good for our team, but really irritated the other team--especially one guy whose father worked with my father.   Whatever it did brought the kid's ire on me.  Instead of attacking me directly he began making fun of my brother--started calling him a "retard".

Well, the fact is my brother has Cerebral Palsy.  Cerebral Palsy has nothing to do with intellectual disability.  My brother was not "retarded".  Something snapped within me and I was all over the kid.  All the while I was punching him I was yelling, "He's not retarded!"  Needless to say it was a messy scene, but I think that the kid got the point.  Words do hurt . . . and they can hurt for a long, long time.

 Pretty much my whole life I have advocated for people with disabilities--partly because my brother had a disability, and partly because I really do not like the way that most people treat those who are different than others.  I have never liked using words to separate people--words like "retard".  These words are unacceptable in my life and in the house I share with my family and friends.  So are other words that put people down because of who God created them to be.  Those sorts of words are fighting words.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the discovery yesterday that it was the designated day to "Spread the word to end the word".  "Spread the Word to End the Word" is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and our supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word. The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support at www.r-word.org and to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The founders of the "Spread the Word to End the Word:--two college students named Soeren Palumbo (Notre Dame 2011) and Tim Shriver (Yale 2011)--state: "Respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.  However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the word 'retard(ed)'."

I couldn't agree more with the movement and its goal--the "R-word" has to go.  So do a lot of other words as they relate to age, sex, gender, ability/disability, culture, education, financial standing, and on and on the list could go--what someone once said were all the "ism" words. Life is tough enough without having the added burden of being excluded and prejudiced against--these words have got to go.  I gladly joined in yesterday to "spread the word".  

As nice as it is to call attention to this issue on one special day a year, it is not enough.  It has to be an everyday part of all of our lives.  It is necessary for us to become conscious of our "words" as we speak them and our "actions" as we live them.  Violence doesn't only come in the form of physical harm, but it also comes in the form of the words that we speak and the actions or inaction we take.  A bruise will eventually go away, a spiritual bruise never leaves.  

I have, for years, have witnessed the cruelty of the world towards those who are different.  I have seen it first hand when it came to my brother and to my own sons.  The "R-word" hurts . . . it hurts for a lifetime. I hope that you would join me in spreading the word to end all  words that are used to hurt and separate.  Join the crusade by signing up at:

Real change only begins when it begins within ourselves first and spreads out to include others.  This is your invitation to be a part of change to make the world a better place.  If it does not begin with ourselves how can we ever expect anyone else to change.  Spread the word to end the word(s).  Not only yesterday, today, or tomorrow but every day.

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