by Anthony Corona
Thousands of years ago, before any history was recorded, humans were basic and not far above the animals they lived alongside. Cavemen, as we now term those early humans, had very different needs to survive and thrive. If one such cave person needed a cave and another had a desirable one, if the first was stronger, he took it! As those early humans lived and learned, the first vestiges of an organized society began to emerge. They learned that together they were stronger in that harsh world.
Fast forward a few thousand years and empires ruled and conquered. Strength in numbers and the need for human society led the way to the advancements that we now call law. Granted, those empires still had so much to learn, but at the time and place they thought they were living the best way. In the greatest empire of the ancient ages, if you identified as Christian, you would be thrown to the lions. Pretty harsh treatment just for living in the word of a singular god! That empire eventually collapsed and human society continued to move forward, adapt and learn.
Jump a few thousand years ahead to the 20th century. In the first two-thirds of that century there was a term that was not only acceptable but used in clinical and governmental missives: “retarded.” It was an umbrella term to label people who had different mental and physical abilities. In some institutions and agencies, blind individuals were even categorized under that term. “Retard” is not a nice word. It groups and demeans. It separates and de-humanizes.
There were so many other terms, such as Mongoloid or simple, just to name a few. Society learned more about conditions, impairments and different ways the brain and body can develop. Society also was forced to not only realize that these individuals were people, but they absolutely deserved the respect and dignity of changing the landscape of language to eradicate the demeaning terms that were used in ignorance and fear of the differently abled.
Terms were needed because the human society is a society of language, and so terms were introduced to the lexicon of our language to ensure dignity and respect for the people formerly known as retarded.
Oh, that pesky moral is hiding somewhere between the Christians being chomped on by the lions and the retards!
Isn’t that an ugly sentence? I won’t point out whom here has been ugly or bigoted, nor will I praise those voices of learned reason. The moral of this little storied history examination is to present this: What we don’t know or understand is not WRONG!
Like those early Christians, there are people in our society who are not understood, and that in itself is sad. However, many of those people are not just misunderstood, they are persecuted and bullied!
Christians once fought to be heard and live among society peacefully. The disabled community, to which we belong, had a long and hard battle to be recognized and labeled. At this moment, it still strives to promote understanding and acceptance.
How many terms are there for vision differences? Shall we all accept being “those blind people?” No, of course we won’t!
So why is it OK to ask these members of our society, these humans, to accept anything less than the respect they deserve? Ask or rather tell them that they don’t deserve the same respect and recognition we demand for ourselves.
I was both horrified and uplifted by various portions of the conversation here. I choose to believe that most humans will choose to do better if they know better. Now it’s time to teach each other how to be better!