Today is Spread the Word to End the Word Day, a campaign spearheaded by the Special Olympics to put an end to the use of the words "retarded" and "retard." I and my family have very strong feelings about this, but it goes a lot deeper than just eliminating hate words from the world's lexicon. What I want, in my heart of hearts, is a change in attitude. Yes, please stop using the R-word. It's not about being "politically correct," it's about human decency. But don't stop there. Examine your feelings about people who you perceive to be different than you. Do you see them as less than? Is this what you are passing along to your children? These attitudes ripple outward like a stone thrown into a pond. If you turn the other way when you see somebody in a wheelchair, if you hiss at your children "Don't stare!" when you encounter a pair of deaf individuals communicating in sign language, if you avoid the checkout line at the store in which the girl with Down syndrome is bagging groceries, if you get all up in arms because your child has been placed in a classroom with a child who has learning disabilities, you are promoting an attitude of intolerance and non-acceptance. You can stop using the R-word, and you can tell your children not to use the R-word, but if there is not a change in basic attitudes about and towards people who are different, then no real change has taken place.
I want the world to be a better place for my children. It rips my heart out to think that Finn will grow up facing these attitudes and hearing words like "retard" being thrown around. But it's not just Finn, it's my other kids too. They are also growing up seeing these attitudes and hearing these words. I want them to grow up in a world where difference is just another flavor. And you know what? I want that for your kids too.