It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Worst Words

Often what you write is inspired by what you read out in the blogshpere, as is the case with this post. I've been trying to catch up on my blog reading and I'd have to be living under a rock not to have noticed that Tropic Thunder has touched a nerve. I went to see Tropic Thunder with a friend on Thursday. It's one of those instances where I decided I needed to make up my own mind. I'm not part of the Special Olympics crowd. Maybe "they're" being too sensitive. Maybe it really is just satire. I like jokes, I like funny things, I like to joke about my disability. I'm a big fan of Josh Blue. No one was being over sensitive. It was bad. It hurt.

Between the disability blog carnival I hosted, the Aug 28th carnival (on superlatives), and Tropic Thunder, my mind has been on words lately. I used to say that there were no bad words. I'm not sure I agree with censoring f--- or s--- (but just like PFL, I do it anyway). It's not the word in and of itself, it's how the word is used. Is mental retardation offensive? It's an actual medical classification. Is retard offensive? Absolutely. Yes. It's a horrible, nasty, awful, hurtful, stinging word. You see, it is all in how the word is used, the intent behind it. Mental retardation=ok. retard=not ok.

The word retard never bothered me in and of itself. As I said, I'm not part of the Special Olympics crowd, so the word was never directed at me. I've even been known to use the word here and there. At a self-advocacy training when I was 15 I was told not to use the word handicapped to describe myself (but not why that word was bad) but rather to refer to myself as challenged. Quite ironically think I remember telling someone that I thought that was retarded.

Retarded never bothered me, but challenged sure did. And spaz, and most certainly special, and why not throw in brave, courageous, and inspirational as well (don't know why cripple never bothered me). Two months ago I came across a 2003 Ouch! survey of the 10 most offensive words. Some of these words are on there, but not courageous and inspirational. Inspire is my #1 most offensive word I think.

I never did write a piece specifically for my carnival. Most carnival hosts don't. But I'm going to quote my carnival. "Am I a poor cripple or a proud crip? Am I artistic, athletic, brainy, funny, spacy, or stubborn?" Am I challenged, spastic, special, brave, courageous, or inspirational? Well, my top 5 adjectives for myself I think are advocate (passionate???), tired, loud, stubborn, and perplexing. My disabilities are also just as important to me. I just don't consider them adjectives. But I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for my disabilities. So in a nutshell this is what I am.

I guess I am challenged, sort of, in a way. I can't step up a curb or lift my leg up high enough to step into a bathtub. So it is a "challenge" to stay at a friend's apartment if all they have is a tub. But a challenge is something someone tries to overcome. I am not going to overcome my disabilities. That would be discrediting the importance they have in my life. A disability is not something to overcome. It is something to embrace. So I can't step up a curb. Have you ever heard of this thing called the ADA? There are curb cuts everywhere in this country.

Special means something is unusual, better then the norm. Am I unusual? I won't be the judge of that. I am not better then the norm. I'm a pain in the a$$. Special is used to demean. It is often paired with sarcasm and laughter. It does connote that we are unusual, but in the circus freak sort of way, not the rare diamond sort of way. Why does Special Olympics use special? Doesn't it just add fuel to the fire?

Both challenged and special are euphemisms. They're demeaning and patronizing words. A rose by any other name is still a rose. Don't sugar coat or try to cover up my disabilities to try to be PC or not hurt my feelings. You hurt me more by using these words. There's a sting to them. But neither word in and of themselves is hurtful. You can be challenged by a hard math problem or have a special book your grandmother used to read to you. It's all in how the words are used.

Someone who is brave and/or courageous perseveres over great odds. Usually ones that are difficult and frighting. Maybe they do so because they feel they are driven by a force greater then themselves. But PWDs are neither brave or courageous. We are just everyday people who do what we have to do in life just like every AB person out there. More so then the other words, brave and courageous make me mad.

To me someone who is as loud, stubborn, and frequently b!tchy (due to utter exhaustion) as I am is not an inspiration. She's obnoxious. Here are two of the definitions of inspiration from "a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation. the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions." I certainly do not communicate sacred revelations and the main emotions I evoke in people are their levels of annoyance and frustration towards me. Don't you dare ever say that I'm an inspiration simply because I put some effort into doing something AB people do.

Inspiration is definitely one of those words that depends on context. After all, I was inspired to write this post. The word inspiration is very problematic to me. What happens when someone says that I'm an inspiration because I'm "living proof to patients that people with CP do really...honestly have a life?"Or if someone comes up to me after a speaking engagement and tells me how much I inspire people to think about things in a different way? The word still produces an instamatic pit in my stomach no matter which way it is used.

Spaz is the only word here I really like. Spaz used to sting really bad. Here are the first three definitions of spaz from 1) Means a person acts insane or mentally retarded 2) Someone who is hyperactive or overly energetic 3) An irrationally nervous or jumpy person. No one ever called me a spaz to my face, but spaz was my retard. Why do I like the word spaz now? Well sometime maybe a year ago I decided that the word was not going to be eradicated from the english language and that if it was going to be used it might as well be used correctly. I have spastic triplegic cerebral palsy. I am a spaz in the true sense of the word. I've embraced my disability and so I've embraced that word.

As I said, the theme for the 44th disability carnival is superlatives. This is my list of the worst words. What do you think?


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