The word is out.

November 13, 2014 at 4:28 PM (Uncategorized)

Lawrence Carter Long, a well-known leader in the disability community has been having a debate on his Facebook page about the uses of the word stupid.

Evidently, just like the word retarded, there are some of the community that prefer this not be used in public.  Regarding the word retarded, I would never use it. For any reason. And I would not characterize someone with cognitive impairments as stupid. That is profound disrespect. They are doing the best they can with the cards that they have been dealt.

Where I think the word stupid should still have some latitude in a place in the world is when we’re talking about actions not people. Actions that people take who have full use of their faculties. Actions that are amusing or astonishing from people that family, acquaintances, and society at large might assume should know better. I think there’s some legitimate use for the word stupid in that context. 

I will agree on this point: the word stupid is generically mean to both able bodied people and  people with disabilities. It’s a nasty thing to call anyone in public.

But then there’s private discourse. When you’re discussing someone’s actions with a third party aren’t some of the actions people take stupid? As long as its not done to their face , or they admit it themselves, as I am prepared to do right now.

I was very stupid at 17. I was trying to carry a full bowl of soup from one room to another. Someone with cerebral palsy should not try to do that. The soup ended up on the floor and instead of mopping it up or sponging it up I felt the brand new Hoover was the best answer. Of course the Hoover was destroyed and my mother was less than amused. It was a stupid move by any measure.

I preface this next anecdote by saying it actually happened. A guy with disabilities that I used to date got into the following quandary. One day he asked me,” is it really okay for my mother to actually ask me to give her some of my social security money for the roof over my head and my food? I don’t think that’s fair… ”
If you were the girlfriend who had disabilities since the day she was born, but worked for a living either full or part time until she was 42, paid rent, had an apartment, got married got widowed, got functional, and knew the basics about the world, you blinked and stared for a minute because this was an amazing question for him to ask.

I said, trying hard not to laugh, “Yes, it is appropriate . This happens all the time. People have to pay for where they live and the food that they eat.”  Puzzled, I asked,” well what is the money used for now? ”

” Pop, snacks, books and comic books.” he answered seriously . 

I blinked again. Here was someone with a 146 IQ, two bachelors degrees, knowledge of several languages, an expert in etymology , and a photographic memory. This grown man also genuinely and sincerely thought it was unjust that he should have to pay room and board at all.

I had no answer for him I went back home, shut my door and back on my own home ground in my house laughed myself almost to death and called a mutual friend.  I said to her, and thought as I did many times while interacting with him, “How can a guy with so many brains be so effing

It is mean, but I think it’s an accurate label. I think the ‘if a tree falls in the forest and nobody sees it did it really fall’ argument applies here. The mutual friend didn’t pass it on and I didn’t tell him my thoughts on that day till many years later, when he was able to take the remark with a degree of objectivity and look back on it and laugh with me instead of being offended. I also have some interactions with able bodied who commit acts that might be worthy of that label. I don’t call them out to their face, but I admit I do  use the word when talking about such situations with third parties, in part to try to get the best advice to eventually give to the person so that the thing that they are doing that’s stupid will stop.

Sometimes the only word in the world that seems to fit is stupid.

So privately yes, if I believe an action merits that label I I will give it.


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