I’ve been debating how to respond to Ann Coulter’s recent and repeated use of the “R” word on Twitter. The casual use of such a hurtful word by a prominent public figure–simply for shock value and “entertainment”–disgusts me.
On the one hand, I agree with bloggers Laughing Through the Tears (response: please do not feed the troll). But also, as the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, and the cousin of a woman with Down Syndrome, I also feel the very real pain that words can cause. The author of Mostly True Stuff wrote: “These are real people you’re hurting.” In the post, she shared a photo of her daughter, who has Down Syndrome, and her son, who has autism.
“The disability community is fighting the same fight against hate speech that the black community and the gay community fought (and continue to fight),” wrote Jim Walter on the website Sproket Ink.
All of these writers have already said what I would say. But the writer who, I think, has lent the most to this discussion, is John Franklin Stephens, who wrote the most poignant and eloquent open letter to Ms. Coulter on the Special Olympics blog. Mr. Stephens, a 30-year-old man with Down Syndrome, clearly has a better handle on the English language than Ms. Coulter ever will.
Mr. Stephens writes: “I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.”
Mr. Stephens shows some shrewd insight when he comments, “I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.”
He takes issue with Ms. Coulter using the R-word as an insult. “Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor,” he writes. “No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much. Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.”
I have heard many people suggest a boycott of Fox News’ sponsors over this. This is probably impractical, as it would require boycotting nearly every major American corporation.
Instead of following Ann Coulter on Twitter and retweeting her hate speech, follow the Special Olympics on Facebook and Twitter and share their awesomeness instead. Consider purchasing A Very Special Christmas, 25th Anniversary, a new album of Christmas music which will benefit the Special Olympics. Help raise money or donate your time to the Special Olympics and support their athletes.
(Photo Credit: Special Olympics)
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