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[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

When I tell people about running marathons, almost universally the response I get is, “I could never do that”.  My answer always is that just about anyone can run a marathon.  All you have to do is try, let go of preconceived notions about yourself and try on my running shoes.  Spend a week, a month, a year in my running shoes, widen your perspective and you will be hooked.  Just because you don’t understand it or don’t get it doesn’t mean it’s bad or not for you.

***

Reading through a friend’s facebook feed the other day I came across a post regarding the movie The Change Up.  There is a movement among some to boycott the movie because one character refers to another’s twin boy by asking if they are retarded.  When the father responds no, the friend asks, “are you sure, this one looks a bit downsy.”

I’m not going to go into the fact that the humor is on the offensive side of the fence and, in my humble opinion, unimaginative.  Anybody who reads this blog or my wife’s blog regularly knows where we stand on the word “retarded” and its use as either humor or insult.  The same goes for using those with Down’s Syndrome in a similar manner.

What got to me was the response of a particular fellow who snapped back at my friend with the following comments:

Isn’t this taking political correctness to an extreme? What would be acceptable, “what, are they hindered? Are you sure[?] this one looks a little suppressed”. Then after a month we couldnt [sic] use the H word right? cut the shit.

Somebody responded:

wow… cut the shit? tell you what, let’s make YOUR kid ‘retarded’ for a week. after, you can let me know how you feel about the world using him/her as a laughing point, k? better yet- why don’t YOU cut the shit. *disgusted*

To which he said:

First of all, I’ve done more direct volunteer work with “Retarded” children and adults in my lifetime than you could do in three lifetimes. I’ve done so since I was a child with my Mother. so that alone gives me my right to an opinion. I personally worked every Pat’s home game for two seasons at a concession stand at Gillette with every penny going to down syndrome. My point is it’s one thing to say directly a person with down syndrome “what are you retarded?’ that’s ignorant. But to reference the condition as Retarded or “downsey”. Is harmless in my eyes. there is a difference between “Special needs” and Down syndrome or retarded. Retarded is a gentle dictionary term for someone who is hindered from functioning in the same capacity as someone who is not “Retarded. Retarded WAS the kinder and gentler term as opposed to Mongoloid or even as they were scientifically referred to in the 1920 as idiots. I’m just tired of all this cock and bull false sensitivity you tree huggers throw out there to make you feel better about your own pitiful lives and I wonder when enough is enough.

As for those of you who have been blessed with a special child, you know as well as i do, your lucky ones and god’s chosen ones. You should also know that any of those children only want to be treated like anyone else. that’s includes joking teasing and loving. they don’t need to be shielded and understand more than most would give them credit. [To another commenter], I’d take a walk in your shoes any day and love it. My contribution was not years ago, it’s been off and on my whole life. I thoroughly enjoyed watching people look at me in horror being my usual “off color” self with my buddies and then laughing their collective asses off when they would all conspire to pelt me Mozzerella cheese balls from the pizzas we were making at Gillette. And guess who got all the hugs at the end of the day. that’s right this guy. I’m just saying lighten the fuck up. being ignorant does not make you a bad person, it just makes you ignorant. One without knowledge. You don’t have to change the fucking words, change some minds. Do you think your going to reach someone by scolding them for using the only words for it they know?

Educate. Don’t further isolate your kids by Trying to make others feel bad when I’m sure their intention weren’t. This society is over sensitized and overly pussified.
Next thing you know we will be electing a Special Needs president to compensate for our years of ignorance.
(yes i know that one was bad. I just had to get an Obama dig in here)

This was my response:

I think you are melding two issues. I agree with you that this Nation has become weak due in large part to this “everybody wins” attitude. If everybody wins all the time, nobody wins…however, we’re talking in part about a group of people who to a large degree cannot defend themselves, and when you are talking about certain subsets of that community, parents who are also unable to deftly defend their children. I am ALL for good natured teasing…particularly about things we can change, but let’s not make fun of a person because they were born with an extra chromosome or have a brain disorder…it just ain’t funny…

flatulence…now that’s funny!

So here’s the thing.  This guy firmly believes what he is saying (writing) – he really believes that he has done “more direct volunteer work with ‘Retarded’ children and adult in [his] lifetime than [the respondent – a parent of a Special Needs Child] could do in three lifetimes.”  He really believes that we [special needs parents] are all tree huggers who throw out “cock and bull” to make ourselves feel better about our own pitiful lives, and yet turns around to say that those of you who have been blessed with a special child, you know as well as i do, your lucky ones and god’s chosen ones.”  For him to then say “You should also know that any of those children only want to be treated like anyone else. that’s includes joking teasing and loving. they don’t need to be shielded and understand more than most would give them credit.” just goes to show that he doesn’t understand that sure we all want to be teased a little, but only if we are able to dish it back.  Teasing is good when it is a back and forth, not a one way street.

This guy here, this guy is why I continue to work for awareness, why I continue to run with my Autism Speaks pin, why I sometimes tell people that until you have walked in the shoes of a Special Needs parent, you cannot know what it is that they go through, what it is that pains them, what it is that scares the living daylights out of them and keeps them up all night.

The commenter said that he would walk in my friend’s “shoes any day and would love it.”  How about walking in the shoes of a parent whose kids have been wiping their shit on the wall for the past 18 years?  Tell me you’ll love it then.  Obviously he doesn’t get it.  I hope someday he may take a walk in our shoes, not just for the workday, not just for 24 hours, not just for a week.  I hope that he is given the opportunity to truly understand what it is we go through on a LIFETIME basis.  There is no end of the week, month or year for us.

Do I think we need to lighten up sometimes? Sure.  Sometimes we get trapped in our own storms and cannot find our way out.  Do we need to be able to laugh at ourselves? Absolutely.  Do our kids (and adult like them) need to learn to do the same?  Totally.

But there has to be a better way to do that instead of making these kids punchlines that will carry far beyond the movie theater.  What the commenter fails to understand is that once people see that it is acceptable to make a joke about “retarded and downsey” people in the theater, they will take it with them to their workplace, their playground, their community, at which point what was originally meant as harmless humor (and I don’t doubt that the writers of the screenplay meant it as harmless) ends up getting used in spiteful, mean-spirited, cruel ways that can cause much greater long term harm.

Honestly, I may still go see the movie.  Tropic Thunder had a similar issue, and quite honestly, that moment aside, I thought it was hilarious.  I just hope that people will think twice about laughing at the expense of someone for just being.  Laugh at the funny faces runners make at the end of a race, laugh at the fact that I almost pooped my pants in my last marathon, laugh at someone’s politics, be comfortable enough to laugh at yourself (said the skinny kid with the huge melon – yeah, that’s me).  Heck, laugh at public figures for saying ridiculous things, but don’t make fun of our kids just because they have autism or down’s syndrome or any other debilitating disease.

Quite frankly, that’s lazy and weak.  Maybe the commenter will be “blessed with a special child [and find that he is one of the] lucky ones and god’s chosen ones.”  I wonder if he will still feel that way when 10 years later he still hasn’t heard his child speak a single word, or a simple “I love you” or received a single hug.

Truth be told, I hope for his sake, and for the sake of that child, he doesn’t – I don’t think he has the feet to fill our shoes.

***

By the way, there is a tree hugger in our family.  It is little Brooke, who literally goes up to trees and hugs them.

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What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Are you thinner, heavier, taller, shorter, better looking or not as good looking as you really are? If you really look closely, and honestly think about it, I bet you can answer that question.

Now, if you are a parent, what do you see when your child looks in the mirror? Are you able to look objectively? Do you see what you want to see? Do you see what they want you to see?

My older daughter Katie is entering that age, that dreaded age called ‘Tween.

I hold her in pretty high regard.

Even though she has a wisdom and grace of someone much older than she is, she is in no hurry to grow up.

She wants to be 10.

And that’s where the problem arises. You and I may know what 10 means; Katie may instinctively know what it means to be 10; but i find that an alarmingly large number of parents and their 10 year old she-devil children (crap! – did I just write that out loud?) have absolutely no idea what it means to be 10 – they seem to think that 10 must equal 18 and that 18 means you dress like someone who uses a pole as a prop at work.

I watch as they push their children to wear outfits and behave in ways that are far beyond their years.  I roll my eyes as I walk through my town thinking I am watching a watered down version of Toddlers & Tiaras.  Mind you, it is not the majority of kids, but it has been an ever growing percentage of the population as Katie has moved from kindergarten through 4th grade (yes, kindergarten is when some of these kids parents start).

I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist.  I took one term of Psych in college (just enough to be a dangerous and diagnose myself with every psychological ailment out there) so by no means am I qualified to talk about this stuff.  BUT I am the parent of two girls, one entering her ‘tweens.  Maybe I’m just getting old.  Maybe, horror of all horrors, I am just a little more old fashioned than I care to admit.

Or maybe, I just have a little common sense!!!

What the hell is up with parents pushing their kids to grow up? (and tangentially related – what’s up with Mariah Carey’s Lolita image for her new ad for her perfume?

CREEEEEEEEPY!!!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for acting like you’re in your 20’s, but like you’re in your early teens? when you’re 42? Please!).

Where was I going with this?

I’m not sure.

The other day I listened as some parents talked about some of the hazards of discussing weight issues in front of their girls.  The ire was directed toward the school nurse and the school  I can’t pretend to understand what it is like to be a young girl with body image issues or being a mother who went through similar trials as a little girl.  I can tell you that as a kid I was fully aware that I was shaped like a lollipop (huge, I mean HUGE, melon, stick body).

The discussion in and of itself didn’t bother me so much as the history behind it.  This group of girls had been essentially given free reign as kindergarteners and first graders, watching shows that were essentially way beyond their years with themes that were beyond their developmental capacity to process in a healthy way.

I can’t control what they want to watch.  They don’t listen. I hear that a lot.  That’s like the woman who sued McDonald’s for selling Happy Meals.  She said that the Happy Meals had to go because she couldn’t say no to her kids when they asked for them.

Um. Right.

Who’s the parent again?

***

I am a huge fan of being fit and eating well, but I think that the images of both men and women we see in the media today are unattainable.  Very few of us (if any) can look the way Brad Pitt or Britney Spears look in a magazine – truth is, neither can they.

Britney Spears

Sofia Veraga

Kim Kardashian

Miley Cyrus

Brad Pitt

Okay, so I’m kidding with the Brad Pitt picture, but you get it, right? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even recognize some of these celebrities if they went out au natural. The sad part is we’ve reached a place as a society where even those stars that are very attractive without the make-up (Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, Jessica Alba to name a few) get hammered by the public if they walk outside without.

So what’s my point? Stop blaming the schools and the State for the image issues that a generation of young women are suffering through regarding their self-image, it’s not their responsibility.  It starts at home, first by taking charge as a parent of what comes in and out of the house and second through example.  Encourage a healthy lifestyle, but not just in the food we eat, but in the way we move and the way we behave – a 7-year old (or a 10 or 12 or 16 year old) should not be dancing at a dance recital as if she’s been taking lessons at The “Stripper Pole” Dance Academy.

As the great Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

or maybe I’m just getting old.

I’ll get off of my soapbox now.


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