Friday, January 10, 2014

Ban the R-Word...

I was at Walgreens today (technically yesterday, I guess) to pick up some photos and I heard a lady with her daughter walking by me on her way out say something. I didn't catch the full sentence but I heard the words "He is just so retarded."

I've never been so disgusted by a stranger. And while I'll admit that Liberty isn't the classiest town (and there's no use in denying it, we've got like 12 banks) and that some of the "kids" in this town aren't the most mature, but I was incredibly dumb founded that a middle-aged woman, in front of an impressionable child, say a word in such a demeaning and ignorant context.

Sometimes you slip up. We're human. Everyone makes mistakes, I get it. I'm guilty of slipping up too. But it's the fact that people throw the word around like it doesn't mean anything that gets my blood boiling.

If there's anything MASC taught me, it's that you should respect and love everyone no matter their cognitive level, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc.

Not tolerate. I hate that word. Tolerance. Saying you "tolerate" someone implies that they are beneath you, but you'll let them continue their mediocre way of living. You tolerate a bad attitude. You tolerate body odor. You don't tolerate someone being something they didn't ask for.

Because I won't deny that a mental handicap is something that most people wouldn't want. You don't sit in your mother's womb and say "Yeah. I think I'll be handicapped."

Some people will argue that the R-word is a valid medical term, and I can't deny that at one point it was.

However, the fifth (and most recent) edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states has since replaced the phrase "mental retardation" with the term "intellectual disability disorder."

And for good reason.

The website campaigns and asks for people to pledge that they will eliminate the R-word from their vocabulary, and here's a few reasons why (that I totally stole off of their site and I hope they don't mind because I can't word it any better than they did):

The R-word is EXCLUSIVE“What’s wrong with "retard"? I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the "in" group. We are someone that is not your kind. I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone.” – Joseph Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger 
The R-word IGNORES INDIVIDUALITY“Words matter. People don't need to scoff at others to make a point. Everyone has a gift and the world would be better off if we recognized it.” – Tim Shriver, CEO of Special Olympics
The R-word equates intellectual disability with being DUMB OR STUPIDWhen saying the R-word, “What we mean is that he is as stupid as someone who is mentally handicapped, and we mean that in the most derogatory sense. The implication is that the only characteristic of mentally handicapped individuals is their stupidity.” – Crystal, Stanford, CA  
The R-word spreads HURT“It is wrong to pain people with your language. Especially, when you have already been made aware of your oral transgression's impact. Make no mistake about it: WORDS DO HURT! And when you pepper your speak with "retard" and "retarded," you are spreading hurt.” – John C. McGinley, actor and star of the hit TV show “Scrubs”
The R-word is OFFENSIVE“The word retard is considered hate speech because it offends people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as the people that care for and support them. It alienates and excludes them. It also emphasizes the negative stereotypes surrounding people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; the common belief that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities should be segregated, hidden away from society, which, in my opinion, is really old fashioned.” – Karleigh Jones, Special Olympics New Zealand athlete  
The R-word is INCORRECT“When you say the "R" word it makes people feel bad and it hurts my feelings and I don't want to hear you guys say it. Instead, you can call me a leader, a hero, or a human being, but please don't call me the "R" word.” – Dony Knight, Special Olympics Oregon athlete
The R-word is DEROGATORY“Because the word has become a casual description of anything negative or flawed, ‘retarded’ is no longer considered an appropriate way to describe people with intellectual disabilities. And any use of the word, even when used as slang and not intended to be offensive, is hurtful - because it will always be associated with people who have disabilities.” – Sara Mitton, Board Member, Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association
The R-word fosters LONELINESS“It hurts and scares me when I am the only person with intellectual disabilities on the bus and young people start making “retard” jokes or references. Please put yourself on that bus and fill the bus with people who are different from you. Imagine that they start making jokes using a term that describes you. It hurts and it is scary.” – Joseph Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics Virginia athlete and Global Messenger  
The R-word is HATE SPEECH“I don’t think you understand how much you hurt others when you hate.  And maybe you don’t realize that you hate.  But that’s what it is; your pre-emptive dismissal of them [people with intellectual disabilities], your dehumanization of them, your mockery of them, it’s nothing but another form of hate.  It’s more hateful than racism, more hateful than sexism, more hateful than anything.” – Soeren Palumbo, student, advocate, brother to a sister with an intellectual disability.  
The word hurts, and is surely not to be used as a way of inflicting harm. Because even if it isn't directed at someone with an intellectual disability, calling someone or something retarded is assuming that they group you're comparing them to is intellectually inferior. 
They're smart like you and me. They have feelings like you and me. They have dreams like you and me. But most importantly they too are human like you and me.
And nobody has the right to make anyone feel like they aren't human. 
I really hope I managed to get a point across with this post. It's a topic that means a great deal to me and a lot of my friends. 
If you would like to learn about spreading the word to end the word, or take the pledge to eliminate the r-word from your vocabulary (which would be the coolest thing you could do and takes so little time) you can find everything you need at the link I put at the bottom of this post.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope all of you have a wonderful day/evening/night/ whatever time of day this piece found you!
Love always,
And, as promised, the link!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lessons High School Taught Me That I Didn't Realize Until I Got To College...

So for all of you that aren't in high school do you remember complaining about how badly you wanted to graduate?

See, the difference between high school and middle school is that some people will admit high school happened. Middle school is a figment of the imagination. That's why we have high school reunions and not middle school reunions.

High school was a time of learning. Not like math and English. Like learning about life, and a lot of the lessons I learned in high school I didn't even know I learned until I got to college.

Damn you, public school.

Lesson 1: Be careful who your friends are. How many of my best friends from high school do I talk to on a regular basis? None of them. Am I still friends with some of them? Yes. Do I regret letting some of them get to know me as well as I did? Most definitely.

Lesson 2: Corollary to the lesson above, everyone I've met in my life is a blessing or a lesson. Or both, if you're lucky.

Lesson 3: What you did in high school DOES NOT MATTER in college after you've been accepted and scholarship money has been dealt. You were popular in high school? Who cares. You were student body president? Nobody cares. The only thing that matters is what you're doing in college now and who you are once you start the new part of your life. It's called a new part of your life for a reason.

Lesson 4: You don't have to have your life figured out by the time you are given a diploma. My first semester of college is over and I still have no idea exactly what I want to do with my life. Despite what most analogies say, life is not a book. You can't flip to the last page and have the ending handed to you. That's not how life works.

Lesson 5: The friends you make outside of high school and in college have the potential to last a lifetime. The people you meet when you go to college or are beginning to start a new part of your life are often in the same boat as you, and life changing situations that you experience with others often create strong bonds. If for some reason I find a woman that can tolerate me enough to spend the rest of their life with me, I think the people in that wedding (and I'm NOT looking to get married any time soon, mind you), for the most part, are people that I met after I walked across the stage and took my diploma.

Lesson 6: Go out of your way to brighten the days of other people. The cattiness of high school easily blinds you to what's truly important. Your image in high school won't matter when high school is over. I know it's hard to accept, but it won't. The habits you form in high school, however, will last well after you graduate. Why not form a habit of making other people happy?

Lesson 7: Your passion will stick with you. Music. Leadership. The two things that I was most involved in during high school. Conveniently they're the two things I'm most involved in post high school. Your passion helps define you, and chances are your definition isn't finished once your secondary education. Stick with what you love.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed high school. Except for the mono part. That was hell. I met people, worked on discovering who I am, and grew as a person.

Do I like college more? Duh.

Would I go back and change anything? Probably not. There were parts of high school that I hated. But I'm not a risk taker. I wouldn't want to change anything because I'm happy where I'm at and I wouldn't want to change the way I'm living life now.

If you're in college, I hope you can relate to my experiences.

If you're in high school I hope that what I learned will be helpful to you.

If you're done with college I hope I'm explaining this correctly.

Stay you.

Love always (unless you're a Republican),

Just kidding about that Republican part.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Musician's Fatal Flaws...

I love being a musician. It's on the small list of things about myself that I take pride in.

Music teaches you effort, passion, and a huge number of other valuable qualities that I can't recall at this particular moment (but they exist, I swear).

But of course with the good comes the bad, because that's the way the world is governed, and I'll be damned if there's a few qualities I inherited from musicianship that I'd happily go without.

For example:

We're overly sensitive. One sad song too many and you just become a permanent hot mess. Friends of musicians (especially the classically trained ones) beware. We got the feels. Like a lot. Especially if music playing at that particular moment matches whatever we're feeling. If that's the case it might just be better to run towards the nearest bomb shelter.

We're prideful. Oh dear lord above. We take pride in our work, just like all artists and craftsmen. We make something that makes other people FEEL something, and emotion is a powerful force. When we're on stage it's like we're gods and we're dictating what a person is feeling. It's a total rush once we get over the whole nerves thing and the pride in our art can turn into arrogance fast (guilty). And if you insult our craft? You'd be safer just opening the gates of hell. Really you would.

We're self reliant. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but pair it with pride and we're reluctant to accept help even when we really need it. Do you see the potential problem? Good. Glad we're on the same page.

We don't typically have a good grasp of our limits. And even when we know them we don't like to adhere to them. When's the last time you practiced a sport from 9 PM until 3 in the morning? I didn't think so.

I hate when people say "You're a music major? That must be so easy!" No. It's not easy. It's exhausting. How many other majors take required classes that are worth zero credit hours? Musicians have to read what is arguably an entirely different language (and the directions really are in another language most of the time), be completely aware of what a lot of muscles are doing all the time, and feel emotions all at the same time.

That's a lot to do.

Ya know?