Monday, February 8, 2010

Retard: Emanuel’s True Feelings About Those with Intellectual Challenges

It’s been interesting watching the media coverage of Presidential advisor Rahm Emanuel’s recent rant that included referring to some members of his own party as “f------ retards.”

Of course, the moment this was made public, Emanuel swung into damage control mode by apologizing to the disability community and meeting with several disability leaders to now, suddenly, begin working to expunge all federal documents of what the media called the dreaded “R-word.”

Mmm. The R-word. It has a long history.

Way back when, people with intellectual disabilities were called morons, idiots, and imbeciles, depending on the severity of their disability. Over the years those terms became as distasteful then as, apparently, the R-word is now.

So, instead of imbeciles, morons, and idiots, we talked about the feebleminded. That also became a term of derision often used as an epithet to describe anyone that the name-caller thought was, well, stupid.

Then came another iteration – retarded, and in three categories no less: Educable Mentally Retarded (children with intellectual disabilities who would be capable of some academic schoolwork), the Trainable Mentally Retarded (those who were not capable of academic schoolwork but who could be “trained” in personal self-care and some other life tasks), and the Severely and Profoundly Retarded whose intellectual functioning was so low that they almost always survived only in institutional and group care settings.

You’ve guessed it – retarded eventually became a derogatory term meaning stupid, incompetent, brainless, and not-very-smart.

So we changed the label again. Its latest iteration is Intellectual Disability, or perhaps Intellectual Challenge.

What Emanuel meant of course, was that the people he was referring to were stupid. Behaving like retards.

He would have been better off saying stupid than retard, obviously. But that's what he meant - retard.

Seems like for this administration it’s OK to deride those who, through no fault of their own, are intellectually different.

The most disappointing part? That it’s apparently open season on those with intellectual disabilities, with the administration leading the way.

Oh yes, and let's remember that Emanuel’s in the good company of his boss, President Obama, who a while ago yukked it up by telling a national television audience that he “bowls like a retard.”

They’ve merrily reinforced the ignorance that if you are intellectually different, you’re worth a joke or epithet or two.

Just so everyone gets the message.

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