An online friend of mine posted a picture on her blog of her young daughter looking at the french fries she was about to eat. It was a cute picture. But someone came along and stole it. They put the title "cannibalism" on it and passed it around the Internet.
I felt sorry for my friend. I know how much it hurts. After all, I have three girls whose pictures betray their #1 disability... their low IQs. I know what it is like to worry that someone will take something that is precious to me and turn it into a retard joke.
What I don’t get, what I don’t understand is why the world allows it. There are moderators on every board where my friend’s daughter’s altered picture appeared. Those mods did not take it down when they saw it. The general public did not comment that the picture was hateful and unacceptable.
When will the disabled stop being the butt of the joke? Long gone are the days when someone could make a meme like that using a racial slur and have it remain posted anywhere for more than 30 seconds. Likewise, gay-bashing is well on its way out of style and it is doubtful you have to worry about a public space allowing your gay child to be strung up as the joke of the day. But the cognitively impaired are still fair game? Five year olds with Down syndrome are the final frontier of hurtful humor that we just can’t let go of? Why is that?
I know what you’re thinking. It is just a few mean creepy people doing stuff like this and who can stop mean creepy people? But it’s not. It is all of us, every one of us who says "retarded" as an insult. It is every one of us that uses its catch-all abbreviated cousin, "tard" for anything we don’t like. It is everyone of us that condones Ann Coulter and Bill Maher, and even Rachel Jeantel’s use of the r-word. It is every mod that doesn’t take down the insulting meme, and every one of us that turns away in silence after we see it.
We as a culture need to decide to stop insulting our disabled population. We need to refuse to accept them as the butt of the joke. We need to refuse to allow those on either side of the political aisle to get away with the r-bomb. We need to reach out to those around us and ask them not to say it, and to stick up for the disabled. Only then, only when you care as much as I do, will it end.
Only then will these beautiful faces be safe.
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