It's old news by now, and I contemplated not even addressing Jennifer Aniston's gaff from yesterday, beyond posting about my disappointment on Facebook. I don't know that there's anything I can say that hasn't been said out there on thousands of blogs concerning this incident already. However, I have a responsibility to Finn, and to my family, and to society to speak out.
Let me say first that I have been a fan of Jennifer Aniston's for a long time. One of her most admirable qualities, I think, has been her poise; in the public eye, at least, she's always seemed like a classy chick. Until yesterday when she offhandedly called herself a "retard." Wow. It just stung to hear that word come out of her mouth, and so casually, and to see Regis and Kelly chuckle. The sad thing is that it's almost certainly not an isolated incident - if she got caught on camera saying it, chances are pretty good that it's a word she's tossed out before.
I brought it up to Michael last night, and he reminded me that, back in the day, before Finn came along, I wasn't above using language like that either. I am ashamed to admit that it's true. You don't know what you don't know. It's true that when I used to use language like that, I didn't connect it to anyone specific. It was just a funny put-down that never occurred to me might hurt anyone. Cringe, cringe, cringe. It's no excuse. How or why it didn't occur to me is unfathomable. I'd certainly like to believe that had anyone said to me, "Hey, that's pretty hurtful and offensive," that I would have felt ashamed and really taken some time to think about it and understand it.
However fair or unfair it might be, people who choose to be in the public eye should be held to a higher standard than the average person. Like the CEO of ARC said about JA, "A person in her position ought to know better." She should. She should know that she's influencing millions of people and that any words she speaks in public affect millions of people.
"Auntie Jen, what's a retard?" "Oh, Coco, it's nothing. Just a silly word that means dumb, that's all."
(I imagined that, but probably not too far off the mark, you know?)
I've searched and searched online and can't find any indication that she's even addressed the incident. She must know that people are up in arms about it.
"Ms. Aniston, sorry to bother you, but the emails and letters are rolling in about the 'retard' comment you made. We've got ARC and the Special Olympics writing in, and a lot of parents of retarded kids. It's all the buzz in the blogosphere. We better do some damage control. Your new movie is coming out, and this might hurt potential box office . . ."
"Oh, let's just ignore it. I have a million appearances to make. Anyway, I'm sure all the reasonable people out there realize that I didn't mean any harm. Geez."
(Okay, I imagined that, too.)
The thing is, the people who are up in arms about it are people who are personally touched in some way by disability. The general public? Not so much. In my online attempt to find some response by JA to the incident, I came across a shitload of support for her, defense of her comment, and outrage that anyone at all is getting their knickers in a twist over this. And I think that's what bothers me most of all. Collectively, as a society, we still excuse and allow slurs against the disabled. It's no big deal. It's funny. My son is still largely invisible and inconsequential. He's never going to make millions, he's never going to discover the cure for anything or come up with some groundbreaking invention, he's never going to be a CEO or a politician or anyone's mentor, he's never going to get anything more than a token higher education, and it's reasonable to expect that he may never be able to live independently. So he doesn't matter. He's hardly human. He certainly doesn't have feelings (he's not intelligent enough to have real feelings), so backhanded comments against the disabled can hardly mean anything to him. And his family? Well, we're just too fucking sensitive. Nobody means any harm. We need to just get over it.
Ahhh, the whole thing just makes me feel incredibly tired and sad. Such an uphill battle to get a little respect. Why is that so much to ask? Why are so many people so much more interested in their right to freely express themselves at any cost to their fellow humans than in showing a little sensitivity, a little compassion, a little acceptance, a little respect?
Adieu - After more than two years and 555 posts (556 counting this one!), I'm saying goodbye to Adventures in Motherhood. I'm ready for a change, and I've started ...
6 years ago