My mom works as a para-educator for the North Thurston Public School District. Every day at 8:40 a.m. she greets a class of 12 special-needs students, and helps them navigate the complex and unforgiving world, which constantly tells them they aren’t good enough.
These students are difficult, yes. They take longer to mature, they act out and they may never be able to function independently. But they are amazing, inside and out.
There’s David who can name every dinosaur and construct a Play-Doh model of it, and Kaitlin who doesn’t let her wheelchair stop her from brightening a room with her contagious smile, or Nathan who can draw anything from memory.
“Anyone who has spent time around them would come to see how much they have to offer,” Mom says.
So when someone insults these children, and all of those like them, you can imagine it’s not a fun night at my house.
About a week or so ago the story broke that Ann Coulter had, in true Ann Coulter fashion, made a gaff regarding President Barack Obama during the second presidential debate. Coulter tweeted, “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”
Yikes. Can she even say that? I didn’t think so. I thought the R-word was up there with the N-word and Holocaust jokes.
Yet there it was, all over the Internet, forever and ever. I expected immediate outrage and a speedy apology from Coulter. I was half right.
Most Americans were horrified at Coulter’s use of the offensive term; many letters and emails were written, phone calls were made and social media went to work condemning Coulter and her thoughtless statement. However, no apology came. After seeing and hearing millions of outraged Americans, Coulter felt no guilt (and apparently no desire to fake it).
In an interview with Piers Morgan, Coulter criticized America for reacting so strongly to the word, saying that it was no more offensive than cretin or idiot. Oh Ann, please just stop talking. Even after being repeatedly chided, and reasoned with, Coulter still doesn’t see where she went wrong.
Name-calling is not acceptable. You can repeat, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” until you turn blue in the face. But we all know that the second the tables are flipped; you’re calling your mommy in tears wondering why people are so mean.
For a special-needs student, or special-needs adult for that matter, the name-calling is constant. People don’t tend to see David’s dinosaurs, Kaitlin’s smile, or Nathan’s drawings. They see someone who’s different, strange and dangerous. Add the bullying to an already challenging existence, and you’ve got yourself a lifetime movie waiting to happen.
Coulter will never understand the impact of her words, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept them. Using the word “retard” derogatorily undermines all of the energy, beauty, and love that developmentally disabled people bring to this world. They have more to offer than anyone who insists on keeping them down.
So I propose a change to our vocabulary. The next time someone makes you angry, don’t call them a “retard” or an idiot or anything else that has been decided by our culture as a reasonable insult.
Instead use this new word: Coulter. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? You Coulter you! Stop being such a Coulter. Someone woke up on the Coulter side of the bed. Coulters like you are what’s wrong with our culture. She Coultered me off!
What the world needs now is love – and less Coulters.Marti Schodt is a student at Timberline High School. A member of The Olympian Board of Contributors, she may be reached at MarthaJane004@aol.com.