In recent blog posts (here, here, and here) I havepretty vocally noted my appreciation for all the Sarah Palin is doing to draw attention to the special needs community. She’s being praised and ridiculed, uplifted and degraded by the masses for her strong stance against the use of the word “retarded” in a derogatory fashion. It leads me to question my own opinions about her advocacy for these special people, being the polarizing figure she is.
In fact in a recent Ocala Star Banner letter to the editor entitled “A shining star?,” the writer took six paragraphs of newspaper space to refute her intelligence, demean her speaking style (using Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live imitations of Sarah as her own words), and of course denounce her use of hand-notes via ballpoint pen. But the last paragraph by the writer, Seth McClellan of Ocala, is what caught me the most. He writes, and I quote:
“Darn that Obama and his machinery! He should “keep it real” like Dubya did and show the world just how retarded America can be. (It’s O.K. Sarah, I’m being satirical like Rush!)”
There it is again. Whether in use for satirical purposes or not, she’s being linked to the cause of advocacy for people who can’t defend themselves. In this instance it is a negative reference-obviously-but ordinary people are starting to listen and get it. Whether Mr. McClellan uses the word “retarded” on a daily basis or not was of no consequence until Sarah started making a fuss over it all. Now even he has taken note as I can only assume countless other thousands of folks are doing the same.
This fight to stand up for the “least of these” is going to be a hard struggle for many years to come. Advocates and parents started over 50 years ago when they began schooling their children with special needs instead of institutionalizing them. However, today, the fight continues for these special people, and now that there is a vocal advocate who is essentially a household name, many more people are listening. Only time will tell whether people’s behavior and actions will change because of this new revelation that maybe calling someone “retarded” is a bad thing. I can guarantee that anytime the word slips out of their mouths, they will at least think, even if it’s after the fact.
So is Sarah Palin too polarizing of a figure to be the spokesperson for the special needs community? Suffice to say people are listening, talking and even writing their local newspapers because of her. As the old adage goes, even bad press can be a good marketing tool to draw attention to your product. I say, whether the topic itself is polarizing or not, we’ll continue to advocate, stand firm and hold fast to our beliefs for these special people… Sarah and me!