I posted yesterday about an abuse of language and a mistreatment of people that is going on during the Toronto mayoral campaign. I was so upset by the story of what was going on that I was moved to email all those involved. Here's the letter...
For shame gentlemen!Sadly, only one of the three people (Mr. Ford) this letter was addressed to has bothered to respond respond. And, while Mr. Ford did take the time to respond, he doesn't seem to get the fact that it is his misuse of the language that precipitated this debacle and says "Please don't let my political opponents convince you that this means I have anything but respect and empathy for people with disabilities." Furthermore, he doesn't bother to say he will stop using the word retarded as an insult and only says "If you were offended by my comments, I apologize." In my opinion it is a half-assed response to a situation that deserves so much more.
I know in this modern era that political campaigns often devolve into mud slinging battles but HOW DARE YOU center your campaign around a word that is so hurtful to so many. What word and behavior am I talking about? I'm talking about Mr. Ford using the word retarded to refer to someone being so shortsighted as to not see the obvious. I am talking about Mr. Smitherman's total lack of judgment in plastering Mr. Ford's quote across website with electronic postcards. And, I am talking about the feeding frenzy that the media seems to be indulging in, pictures and all, without regard to the minority that word hurts. For so many years, people with mental disabilities have been devalued, disregarded, and ignored. We make adjustments (but not as many as we should) to structures and rules so people with physical disabilities can be active members of society. We strike words like spic and wetback and nigger (yes, the dreaded n-word) from our language because they are derogatory and hurtful to minorities who are valued members of society. But, we can't stop using the word retarded as an insult? What does that say to society about the value of these people?
I'm not black. I'm not physically handicapped. I'm not a repressed minority of any type. I'm not even a resident of Toronto or Canada. Despite this, I am standing up for the rights of the mentally handicapped. I'm demanding that you, Mr. Ford, stop using this term as an insult. You are asking the people of Toronto to trust you to run their city. Show your intelligence by using words that appropriately describe a situation, not words that demoralize a part of your constituency that you should be protecting. And, Mr. Smitherman, stop using this as a campaign tactic right now. Sure, it makes Mr. Ford out to be less of a decent person but, in doing so, you are hurting the very people you are pretending to be offended for. And, media members, stop giving this juvenile slugfest more of a life than it should have. If you must report on this insanity, at least have the decency to refer to it as the r word and DO NOT show any more of those electronic postcards. When this term is bandied about to insult others, you are perpetuating the repression of the mentally handicapped and you are continuing to devalue their voice. I speak up for these people because it is simply the right thing to do. I hope, if I am ever in a similar situation, someone might do the same for me.
Cary, NC *****