Someone I love very much, and whom I have known all my life, used the word "moron" while we were talking on the phone this week. My heart broke into pieces. I started to cry and tried to get off the phone as quickly as possible.
This is someone who loves me, knows my heart, and my life. Yet, the word rolled off her tongue as if it were any other word, completely unconscious of its bigotry, its history of hate, that it caused the inhumane institutionalization of people who were so labeled, and does today.
As I wrote the previous paragraph, I had to admit that is not altogether true. She is not unconscious about the issues... because she knows me. We have talked about these things... in depth.
She has family members with a variety of disabilities: autism, deafness, cognitive delays, cardio-vascular disease, low-vision, mental illness, Alzheimer's and more. But she has been unable to make the jump between my disability, family members' disabilities, and all those "other people" with disabilities.
I wanted to say something. I wanted to shout, "Why in the world would you use such a hateful word when you know that I long for equality for all people with disabilities!" Or maybe quietly say, "You know, the word you just used is just plain hurtful, and I don't ever want you to use it again, whether I'm around or not; OK?"
Wheelchair Dancer wrote this happening to her recently. Even though I understood why she did not confront her loved-ones; I was certain in a similar circumstance, I would.
I did not.
I did not think I was being arrogant when I thought that; however, upon reflection, perhaps I was. I have been speaking out about the relationship between language and liberty for over 30 years. I have done it in small groups and stadiums, bars and meeting rooms. I am not afraid of a fight. Yet, I did nothing.
This has always been a worry of mine, as a leftist. I continually fear that my actions will betray my rhetoric (even if it is unspoken). I would have no trouble saying something to a stranger, acquaintance, or co-worker.
Yet when my loved-one uttered that awful word I felt such a mix of emotions... bewildered, hurt, rage, sadness, and disappointment; and I was unable to act. I am disappointed in myself.