Sunday, 20 March 2016

21st of Trisomy 2016

Hello All,

It's the 21st of Trisomy again!

Now, I'll be frank. There is one message I really want to get through to everyone.

Please, can we recognise that it is not the words that are the problem, it is the intention behind them.

You can call someone whatever words you like; it's the intention behind them that gives them their ultimate meaning and effect.

What's the difference between calling someone a retard and calling them cognitively impaired? One is said perhaps with antagonism, perhaps endearment, perhaps love, perhaps frustration. One is said with perhaps respect, perhaps disdain, perhaps love, perhaps frustration.

Several times over the past few years I've had conversations with my eldest and my middlest about the good old 'sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me' maxim. In primary school, I figure it's worth addressing this and building up resilience and perspective, since social media fast approaches and we'd best be prepared as well as we can be.

If someone's talking about you, especially if they don't know that you can hear them, or they don't realise they're talking about you since they're talking about a group that they don't realise you belong to; they might say all sorts of really insulting, poorly thought-out and hateful things. It can be very confronting to see what sorts of things can come out of the mouths of those you thought reasonable, intelligent and well-mannered.

With my children, they sometimes call each other certain things. Not so much names, but character traits. I have always had a hard and fast rule which is that they're only allowed to say 'you are' to someone if they're following it with a compliment because, if they're saying something negative, chances are that the person in front of them is not really e.g. lazy, mean, stupid etc, they're just having a moment.

Every now and then though, someone will slip up and one or the other will come running in and say, "she said I was a ....." and be very upset about it.  My response is always, "do you agree with that?" and they'll always say that, no, they don't. My next question is, "what if I called you a banana, would you be upset about that?" and they always laugh at that idea. I start thinking up ridiculous things, like an armchair or a quiche or a balloon etc and this shows them the idea that these things really are just words and the power they have comes from whether or not you agree with them yourself.

They usually try saying, "what if I said YOU were stupid?", and my reply is always, "It wouldn't bother me, because I'm not stupid and I know I'm not stupid", and this is the absolute truth.

So if someone was to call Jacinta a retard, I'm afraid we'd be in a 'takes one to know one' scenario.
For the record, no-one ever has. If anyone ever said retarded, well medically, her gross motor was quite retarded and is catching up, her speech is also to some degree retarded. Her growth was retarded but she is now a clear size 3 at 3 years, so she's definitely caught up there. If you call Jacinta a retard, you might as well call her a banana or a weather kite, and I'll be teaching her that, just like I do my other daughters.

Girls are called names. People perceived as weak are called names. You can either give the bullies a taste of their own medicine or rise above them and look down on them, pitying them for their simple-mindedness.

I've said before that I think aiming for acceptance and inclusion is setting the bar too low. I am not aiming for acceptance and inclusion for myself, because that implies that there's something wrong with me. I'm going for understanding and respect. If people don't understand and respect me, I have something to say about that, and if people aren't going to understand and respect Jacinta, her sisters and her friends, then I have even more to say about that, and I expect she will too.

Right now, she is fighting for understanding and respect in her own house. She is suffering from being a fairly non-verbal youngest sister, who is more likely to take the dolls and run off playing her own game with them than to take well-planned orders from her more sedate older sisters. She gets left out because of car seat logistics, having to go in Mum's car on her own when her sisters get to go in Dad's car. (There was a time when I couldn't leave her sight. The tables have turned, it seems!)

When this happens, the humpf begins, the hands go on the hips, the bottom lip comes up, the waterworks come on. She just wants to play, she wants to be part of the team. It's just that they don't get it and they don't respect her abilities yet. That will come. They're not discriminating against her chromosomes, they're discriminating against her 3ness. It's a little late in coming, my middlest had the same issue with my eldest when she was 1 or so, but I'm sure it will pass all the same, so long as she does gain the abilities she needs to gain their respect.

In our house, she's not just accepted, she's loved. She belongs. We understand the she is her own intelligent self and she's trying to work that body and break through the physical barriers to her expressing herself and her abilities. She is not just included, included though she is. (Excepting of course those choice sibling moments of frustration.)  She has the respect of every one of us when we think about what she's managed to endure and thrive beyond.  She has the respect of many people, both local friends and family, and around the world.

There are certain people in life that would never ever cop a 'retard' taunt, except perhaps in jest by their nearest and dearest. They command such respect that the idea is ridiculous.
So, first, let's go for respect.

Almost as a corollary, there are people around who will sling around inflammatory character judgements etc like they're going out of style and dish out  'bitch', 'wanker', 'nob', 'pretentious hipster', 'tryhard' etc. about people they see across the playground, at the footy, at school, at work, at church, at the bus stop etc etc add infinitum.

This behaviour is childish, it is at the root of every 'retard' you hear and when it goes unchecked, we start getting T-shirts with offensive slogans. We get these because we thought it was ok to deny respect and understanding to that guy over there, but think we have the right to insist upon it for our own child that someone else neither respects, nor understands.

So this cuts right down to the heart of Christian principles which, though many of us have moved away from the group, we were many of us raised by them and we know them in our hearts.
Love one another. You don't have to be all about Jesus to love one another. You don't have to be going to a church, or even know where one is, to see the guy on the corner as your brother. You don't have to even know the words to any prayers or any religious anythings at all to see any person alive anywhere and decide that that person is on your team.

If we're all on the same team, we start to see each other's characteristics as potential, not flaws. When you love someone you forgive them their faults and try to understand them and help them change. When you decide to love someone consciously, you do the same.

Just imagine if we all did it at the same time.

Wouldn't that be something?

So this March, perhaps, might we worry a little less about the terminology of hate, and focus instead on the practice of brotherly/sisterly love?

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