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.

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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.

Joanne Palmer: Are we not better than this?

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Joanne Palmer

Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at jpalmer@springsips.com

Find more columns by Palmer here.

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.

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 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.

Comments

Mark Ruckman 1 year, 9 months ago

Great article Joanne, I also grew up with a sibling that has Downs and as the big brother I had to use my curled fist a few times. No Regrets.

The R word is a hot button and when I hear it in public or business, I will stop anyone and correct them. The R word is just as degrading as the N word.

As for Ann Coulter and any other political mouth pieces they should be leading by positive examples and leave the shock jock stuff to the likes of Howard Stern.

I will leave the readers with this thought. Downs people are special and connected a much higher level than most people could ever comprehend. As an example, Two years ago 4 people on this planet knew a 2nd middle name given to a newborn, this child had this name for 2 days before being adopted and having their name changed. In a conversation with my sister a few weeks later when she was told the name of the child and she stopped me to provide correction using the 2nd middle name. When challenged she wouldn't back down, she knew the 2nd name. She was not one of the 4 people, lives 100's of miles away and never knew the birth parents.

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Chris Dowden 1 year, 9 months ago

Get a webmaster who knows what to do...I'm looking for work :)

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 9 months ago

I've always been enamored of smart-a$$ed satire, and am occasionally entertained by Coulter. I'm more frequently irritated by her. Provocation for its own sake gets tiresome. I'd be interested in the Palin's take on her latest spew. They have a Downs child, if I recall correctly.

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maynardshort 1 year, 9 months ago

Joanne, your articles are usually Petty and Pretty. When you become self righteous you come up wanting. I can see why Brent Boyer put you on the front page. He has had a complete negative view of Ann Coulter for yrs. At one time he hid it, but now he won't publish her at all. I read Ann Coulters response and it was well stated and accurate. She does not need to recall it or apologize for it. The common usage of retard explanation that she offers is acceptable usage today. Your push to eliminate the word from the language is ludicrous. Orwell would like it. Big brother would stop the thought crimes and doublethink of people that don't agree with you. Perhaps you and Boyer could reinstate the Ministry of Truth for the Today paper. Maynard

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Don Thayer 1 year, 9 months ago

Joanne, I don't mean to be rude but did you complain when Rahm Emanuel - Obama's chief of staff - used the term several years ago, or is it only when Republican's use the term? Ann Coulter can be pretty blunt, but she typically makes a good point. We SHOULD be above this, but how many times have Obama operatives called Romney a liar, a felon, etc? Democrats have truly sunk to new lows over the last decade.

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mark hartless 1 year, 9 months ago

Whatever happened to the old addage: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." ??

Why do people give soooo much weight to words while ignoring actions?

I thought actions spoke louder than words, but lately people seem to give more consideration to words than to deeds.

An example of this is how the president (whomever it happens to be) can give a speech and all the pollitical pundits talk and rave for days about "what the president said", how he "failed to talk about this" or "we were dissappointed that he didn't mention that", bla, bla, bla.

I think people sooo want to have their ears tickled that they are willing to ignore what their mind tries to tell them. As long as someone tells them what they want to hear they can do whatever they want.

This is a very dangerous state-of-mind in which to dwell.

If you are so weak that the word "retard" or the "N" word or any other word can spin you out of focus, then you are a slave to those who can use other words to hypnotize you. Words like "Hope" and "Change" come to mind.

If the American people ever woke up and focused on deeds rather than words, results rather than stated goals, outcomes rather that intent, they might once again find the power they have lost over the last few generations.

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Scott Glynn 1 year, 9 months ago

From Merriam-Webster dictionary:

re·tard verb ri-ˈtärd Definition of RETARD transitive verb 1 : to slow up especially by preventing or hindering advance or accomplishment : impede 2 : to delay academic progress by failure to promote

There are actually some people in this world who understand the English language and the proper use of words. Once they have crossed the line into slang then the context with which they are used must be measured. Have I used the word retard in describing a person? Yes. Is it meant to disparage an entire segment of the population? Absolutely not. We use words to convey a message that can be easily understood. If I were to tell my wife to stop acting niggardly I can't imagine the uproar. More than likely most people would start flashing their "Racist Police" badges and not understand that it simply means cheap. Words are the images that we create in our minds and our own insecurities can lead to these images being misrepresented. I am not here to defend Ms. Coulter, but to assert the notion that everyone needs to take a breath of fresh mountain air and realize that not every single comment is directed at them or their personal situation.

I have often been refereed to myself as a "Hoss". Does this mean that I should take measures to let people know that it's not nice to call me fat? Or should I just realize in my own mind, that my particular body structure lends itself to being larger than your average Steamboat athlete? When I call my brother a "cheap ba$tard" does that make me insensitive to all people who tip under 15%?

We have reached a point in our society that everyone is a victim at all times. We need to pull ourselves out of this mentality and not show what we are incapable of, but, what we ARE capable of. Now excuse me I need to go look up diets.

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Mark Ruckman 1 year, 9 months ago

Scott, when used a verb you are 100% correct. However most people use the R word as a noun. When used as a noun people should stand up and say that is not right. The same as when the N word is used as a noun.

Mark H, my fight with the misuse of the R word has been going on since the 60's. I don't see this as being a victim nor a weak person. It takes strength to stand up and address ignorance or hateful language. I have walked in the shoes dealing with the R word and a portion of my family hate associated with the N word. I suspect your POV comes from someone that has never had to walk in either the R or N shoes.

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