Just for some background, I’m not writing this open letter as an angry far-left wing liberal zealot. Other than a few naive years as a teen, I’ve been a staunch conservative and defender of individual liberties and an unabashed patriotic American. More recently, I’d describe myself as a conservative libertarian, at odds with the entrenched power and money-hungry leadership of the Republican party, while agreeing, for the most part, with their policies. At the moment, I can’t think of much that you and I disagree on politically speaking. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and read the posts on my blog, Dave’s Dominion, and I’m sure you’ll agree with most of what I have to say there.
Though while we agree on much of what we passionately believe in, I sometimes disagree with your tactics. This brings me to your recent use of the word “retard” in one of your tweets:
I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.
I know what you’re probably thinking. Actually, I think you already commented on that today when you said “screw them” to the “word police”. Being the word police is not my intention. I fully support your and everyone else’s right to use whatever words you wish to use, even ones that are personally offensive to me. If someone were to try, by use of force or law, to prevent you from using that word, I’d be one of the first in line to defend your right to do so. I’m not a free speech denier by any means.
However, as the parent of a special needs child, your use of the word “retard” in this context is offensive to me. One of my favorite sayings is “He who is offended by nothing likely cares little about anything to be offended by in the first place.” I care deeply about this issue. Parents of special needs kids know the feeling that word evokes.
Look, no one would refer to a Down Syndrome child, someone with an actual mental handicap, by saying ‘retard.’ Where do you think the words ‘imbecile,’ ‘idiot,’ ‘moron,’ ‘cretin’ come from? These were all technical terms at one time. ‘Retard’ had been used colloquially to just mean ‘loser’ for 30 years. But no, no — these aggressive victims have to come out and tell you what words to use.
Your above statement is technically true. However, unless you’re the parent of a special needs child yourself, it’s difficult to describe the feelings and images the word “retard” dredges up. These are the feelings of knowing that your child, as much as you love them, will never measure up to other “normal” children. It’s hard for me sometimes to listen to other parents brag about how their child made the Honor Roll at school, has a genius level IQ, or whatever the astonishing accomplishment is. Those are good things and, in a way, I’m happy for them. The sadness comes in the thoughts about my child never having a “normal” life. I accept my child for how she is and love her deeply but, at the same time, I think all parents have visions when their child is still an infant of how the future will be for them and when the realization sets in that there are going to be a lot of obstacles to that future, we go through a period of real mourning. That’s not to say that we’re constantly depressed about the future and running around saying “Woe is me!” but there are certainly times of worry and mourning over what it holds for them.
With great admiration, I read another open letter to you from John Franklin Stephens, a young man with Down Syndrome.
After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV…
Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.
As previously stated, this letter probably does little to convey how parents of special needs kids feel about your use of the word “retard”. My hope is that you’d at least consider it as coming from something other than an attempt at being the “word police” but from someone who cares deeply about their special needs child.
Dave Kellogg, “Dave’s Dominion” author