Last year, I let this day slip by. I'd written about it the three previous years. I spend a lot of my time trying to create empathy for people (all people), and this--the casual disregard for people with intellectual disabilities, the widespread belief in our society that people with disabilities are disposable--hurts. It isn't the word that hurts--though it does--it's the WORLD that hurts.
And it breaks my heart. As my friends on facebook and in the blogging community do their part to raise awareness of the effects of this word, my news feed on facebook and on sites across the internet is full of mockery and disdain for actresses who've had plastic surgery, for actors who fumbled a singer's name, for a college student porn star.
I see more and more nastiness and hate, and even when that is cloaked, there are people pushing for isolation, segregation, separation and making other people with different belief systems or different lifestyles into second class citizens--which is still hate even when it's cloaked in religious belief.
None of us are exempt. None of us are free from mocking someone else or laughing at someone else's expense, and our typical response is to react as if the other person is being hypersensitive.
Really, what was so wrong about Ellen's joke to Liza Minelli? To the transgender/transsexual community, it was yet again proof that they are outsiders whose function in our society is to be laughed at, mocked, belittled, and beaten. But it was just a joke, people say. They should have thicker skin if they're going to choose that lifestyle.
None of us asks to be mocked, belittled, abused, made fun, or disposed of. And when we do that to others, be it to a group or to an individual, we are making the world hurt. We are a part of the problem. We are the problem.
And I don't see that changing any time soon. And it hurts because I know that I'm not exempt from this--that I have mocked, been snarky, I have hurt other's feelings, been insensitive, and I don't know that it's possible to change this element of human nature.
Look at the contrast between John C. McGinley's real life work to help end the r-word and his character on Scrubs. We enjoy watching people mocking others. Humor is often cruel to outsiders--Carlos Mencia's humor focused on dee-dee-Dee (making fun of the intellectually challenged). And people laughed away.
The world hurts. And it's not just the words. It's not just the mockery. It's the actual discrimination. It's the abuse and the torture and the murder of those who are disabled and different.
It's the deep-seated belief that human beings are expendable and disposable. It's the joy we take in watching movies that glorify violence and in video games that let us be the slaughterers of hundreds of virtual people.
It's ignoring genocide in Africa. It's ignoring the persecution of gay people in Russia and dozens upon dozens of other countries. It's closing our eyes to euthanasia of the disabled. It's pretending that not all people are human beings of equal value.
So, yes, please...stop the r-word. It's a start. But if you're just substituting another word to continue to mock someone different...you haven't changed anything but the word. And the world will go on hurting.