Joanne Palmer: Are we not better than this? | SteamboatToday.com

Joanne Palmer: Are we not better than this?

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at booklocker.com or amazon.com.

It's been 45 years since schoolyard bullies called my brother "retard," but every time I hear that word my hands still instinctively curl into fists.

Ann Coulter, you went too far.

Last week, after the third presidential debate, the firebrand conservative pundit tweeted, "I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard."

Her remark had just the reaction she hoped for — media attention. Parents of special needs children and others have called for an apology, but Coulter won't back down. Instead, she called people who protested her tweet "liberal bullies."

Perhaps the most heartfelt response came from John Franklin Stephens, a 30-year-old Special Olympics athlete with Down syndrome who wrote, "You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult," he wrote. "Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor."

Amen.

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I applaud you, John Franklin Stephens. People like you are angels on this Earth and have everything to teach the rest of us. You understand what kindness and goodness are all about. You understand the importance of living with integrity and love. People like you have no agenda, play no games and tell the truth. You are not out to hurt anyone. Thank you for taking the time to write your letter.

Are we not better than this?

Are we, the most powerful nation in the world, a nation filled with people who will stop at nothing in a quest for shameless self-promotion? Where does that get us? All of this name calling, finger pointing and truth twisting during the election season and beyond creates an atmosphere of distrust. It's hard to know who to believe or what to believe in anymore.

The American Dream, once so attainable for many, now is out of reach for most. Children listen to their parents and teachers hammer home the importance of respect, yet the airwaves are filled with people like Ann Coulter calling the president of the United States a "retard." What kind of example does this set for our children? That it's OK to call the man who holds the highest office in our country such a disrespectful term? I don't think so.

Freedom of speech is one thing; name calling is something else altogether. Here is a quote to ponder: "Language affects attitude. Attitudes affect outcomes." Words do matter. They have meaning and are powerful.

Are we not better than this? Can we just stop the brutal bickering and name calling for one minute? Can we all take a deep breath and appreciate what we have? Can we show some gratitude and kindness toward one another? Can we extend a helping hand?

Here is what you can do. Go to http://www.r-word.org and take the pledge to end the use of "retard" as a derogatory term. "I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities." Then sign the petition.

Please join me to stop the use of this terrible word.

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