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Do You Use the Word 'Retarded'?

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I want to thank Aria Brown for recently reposting John Franklin Stephens' 2012 open letter to Ann Coulter on Facebook, because I think there are people out there who still dismiss the affects of this word, and it is inexcusable. In fact, I sincerely believe that this controversy from 3 years ago (in which Coulter called President Obama a retard on Twitter) resurfaced because the R-word is still a problem. The word was not only used by Coulter to insult the president, but it's in some people's everyday vernacular. These people may accuse me of overstepping political correctness, when really I see this issue as something far more serious, with shades of a particularly cruel ignorance that simply do not belong in the 21st century. Period.

I strongly encourage you to view Stephens' poignant letter in its entirety here, but I wanted to point out the part which had the most impact on me (even though, as a whole, I couldn't get through it with dry eyes).

I wondered if you meant to degrade [President Obama] as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift. Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more. 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.

I am sick and tired of people using this word and thinking they can get away with it. You cannot. Not as a member of modern society. Stephens is spot-on when he says that Ms. Coulter is "not dumb" and "not shallow". Yes, there is plenty that she says to be disagreed with, but you know what Coulter, and anyone else who uses the R-Word really is? Mean-spirited. I want to shame Coulter not only as a mean-spirited human being, but also as a fellow history major. World history is pockmarked with instances of special-needs individuals being persecuted and mistreated. In fact, Nazi Germany's main logic behind systematically sterilizing and murdering people with special needs was that they were a burden on the supposed Aryan state and deserved to be pitied.

We have so much to learn from our history, most of all that individuals with special needs do not need our pity. In fact, they should be looked up to. It is our privilege as 21st century human beings that we get to learn from John Franklin Stephens and the thousands of others like him. The people who desperately need our pity are those like Coulter who have not yet opened themselves to that life-changing experience.
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