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There are certain aspects of Quakerism that I work on interpreting and embracing. One is the low- or no-key way holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and the like are handled. No one day is more important, special, or holy than another. God should be honored all the time. You love your spouse even on days you did not marry your spouse. Things like that.

So today, I am not observing the loss of life years ago, any more than I do any other day. The people that died that day were loved every day. They are missed each day too. Saving up for a loss, on just special days, doesn’t acknowledge those holes that happen during the rest of the year. When you miss breakfast on Sundays. Skiing in the winter. The way they said goodnight. The loss was a tragic loss no matter when they died. Loss hurts, missing someone hurts. It is a wound on any day afterwards, and on any day you suffered the loss of a loved one.

People who died on the tenth, or the twelfth, from whatever cause are missed. Sudden ones are jarring, especially the young for so many. But as time goes on, it’s simply a void in your heart and your life. Way of death doesn’t change that. The lack of closure would be especially hard, but I think it is important for those who did not get closure (from any loss) to seek it out. Honor the memory and not the loss. Have their memories fill that void, ease that pain, soothe that heartache.

I also do not mourn the loss of buildings, ‘way of life’ as a whole (although of course my beliefs do feel strongly about how things are and should be), planes. They’re symbols for a tragic event. And it isn’t as if there is no sacred ground; rather, all ground is sacred. All ground is reverent. To me, if I were to think of sacred spaces to remind me of loved ones, places like the beach, the ocean, certain parks and the like would come to mind. Now, I understand the loss, in that I did feel like so many memories (I worked there for some time) just went away. I remember how hard it was to look in that direction for the longest time. I do understand it, but actively work to remember they were buildings. Buildings filled with people, and that’s what matters the most. What is or isn’t built there does not matter. The subways those people rode, the homes they lived in, the places they hung out were all parts of their lives and important. There is more to them than their deaths.

And it’s been reduced to that, hasn’t it? Some do miss people, but mostly it’s been an exercise in how many times you can say “never forget” (co-opted from Holocaust survivors), cover yourself in a flag, and beat your breast? And just once a year? When will it become a day of sales at department stores, and a day off from school? Will people have cookouts and decorate their homes? Will there be parades? Maybe a “very special episode” of your favorite TV show?

It’s losing meaning without effort, but not in the way I am trying. I am trying to put the day aside by making the days around it matter, by making every day important and holy. The other way of doing it is by making the day meaningless and mundane by focusing on the decorations, the buildings, the grounds, the politics, the religion, the spin. If you do observe it, which I respect and understand and may again one day, then it should be for the people lost in such a heartbreakingly tragic way. Including those first responders and rescuers and workers who are dying NOW because of it.

I have my own personal heartaches because of this day, and I found for me that setting it aside and going ahead is the only way to have light come of it. It was a dark and bleak and evil day. Bringing light to it is healing, to me. Making it positive, and doing positive works and thoughts will fight that darkness.

I do hold everyone hurting today in the light. I do that every day I can. It’s my part to eliminate all that is bad, wicked, evil, painful in the world. Bringing about good to get rid of the bad. The healthiest way to heal us all.

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I posted this on Facebook after watching my wall explode with opinions all over the place, very heated. Just wanted my opinion out there. This just happens to be a day that my husband is working on the Memorial downtown. I want to say that when we took my kids down there once when he was working on another site down there, fixing it, rebuilding one of the damaged buildings not too long after 9/11. My son was a bit concerned, because what was happening, what was that big hole in the ground? I told him what happened that people like his dad were rebuilding it, and making things better. I pointed to the workers on the building, fixing it, making it whole again.

So here’s what I had to say on FB:

I am somewhat bemused that as Facebook is exploding with Muslim Mosque hysteria, my husband is at this moment building the memorial to the victims of 9/11. Put your money where your mouth is, and help REBUILD our nation, instead of tearing each other down. I think his actually being in the dirt and heat and sweating does more honor to the victims and our nation than whining about a building expanding blocks away. Ask why the site is STILL not finished. Where is the glory? The honor? Instead, there are squabbles like filthy animals in the muck. Is THAT the America you want to be?

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This link makes it appear as if despite all our complaints, more people move TO Chicago than FROM Chicago, here in Dubuque. Interesting map on the comings and goings of residents, from one county to another, all over the country.

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Of all things to write about, I’m very excited about the ‘pay as you throw’ system of garbage collection.  It’s when I noticed how well I was doing with it, lately, that I realized how it can be an excellent way for communities to manage their garbage.

This is how it works in Dubuque.  You pay a monthly fee (under $10 I believe, it is part of the water bill) for garbage pick up. This fee is for one standard sized can.  You can pay extra for a larger can, or if you have the occasional extra garbage, you can buy stickers ($1.25 each) to stick on the handle of another can, or on a bag or larger (within reason) item.

Recycling is free.  There are a lot of items recycled here, we take more plastic than they did in NYC. No matter how much garbage you have to recycle, they will pick it up for free.

They also have yearly yard stickers (that you pay extra for during the spring/summer/fall), or stickers for yard waste.  Some communities have food scrap pickup, but there is a waiting list to get on that.

I come from Brooklyn, where you would have two cans picked up twice a week. Here it is the one can plus recyclables once a week.  I have now managed to consistently stay within my allotment.

In Brooklyn, you got tickets for not putting your recycling where it belonged. Put a soda bottle or box in a trash bag, get a fine.  Here, put that in a trash bag, and waste valuable space.

I never cared much about fines, although I did recycle. I do care about having to run and get stickers if I go over.  I’ve become competent at squishing boxes nicely, and spend more time than I used to contemplating packaging when shopping.  I enjoy my bagged milk, for example.  It takes hardly any space at all, and recyclable!

I know there is a concern about someone using your garbage to throw their extra stuff out.  It has happened, and I’ve seen it happen occasionally. But I am sure there are measures in place to minimize that.  In places that patrol garbage for a can mixed in with paper, they could use those people to fine those who misuse garbage that way. Or roll it out in communities where this is less likely to be a problem.

So, pay as you throw not only has increased my recycling, but it has decreased the amount of packaging I use.  It’s changed the way I think about what I bring into the house.  This is a positive change that is good for me, and my environment.  More communities should look to pay as you throw as a way to increase recycling, and decrease what goes into landfills. The carrot (saving money) works better than the stick (paying fines), I think.

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Since last year’s annual meeting with the Department of Human Services Case Management, the terminology has changed for one of the services my son gets.

In the past, he was on the “MR Waiver”.  MR = Mental Retardation Waiver. In other words, it was medicaid eligibility based not on income, but on his diagnosis, and all the support services that comes with it.  (They also have a Brain Injury Waiver, an Ill and Handicapped Child Waiver, and others.)

He now has the “ID Waiver” which stands for intellectual disability. This, to me, has less of a stigma. It also is more hopeful, I think.  It also should open up services for those who have significant difficulties but score higher on IQ tests.  Before, your child had to score low on standardized tests.  This hopefully will open the door to more people who need services getting what they need.

So even the government understands the issues around using the word ‘retarded’.  Now if only more people could be sensitive about it, too.

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Using the word “retarded” casually as an insult is highly offensive. People with developmental delays and other disabilities face many forms of discrimination and abuse, and language like that makes it easier for them to be victimized. Those who use the word not only look stupid, but can really hurt their audience.

“Don’t get retarded with me, answer your phone!”

“Why are you giving me detention, that’s retarded!”

“Those shoes make you look like a retard.”

Day in, and day out, people use the word retarded as an insult. The reality is, every day, people have to live with the medical diagnosis of mental retardation (“Intellectual Disability / Mental,” 2005). They deserve more respect than to be reduced to a disparaging term in the streets, on playgrounds, in offices. They are human beings who are the target of much discrimination, and deserve more respect than what they have been given. To use this word in a derogatory manner can be just as harmful as using the word “gay” as an insult – just ask the mothers of two eleven year old boys how harmful that can be, those two boys in two different states, on two different days, that hung themselves when they were called “gay” over and over again (Blow, 2009).

Every day, people with developmental disabilities are denied many rights and privileges we take for granted. We can choose our chores at home, when we can have visitors or get phone calls. Some in group housing don’t get that luxury, according to Caren Durnst, a supervisor in a group-housing setting. We can chose our own job, and work for a decent wage. Those deemed disabled enough to qualify for certain benefits needed to live independently can only work for limited amounts of money, or they loose their support network; in fact, they aren’t even allowed to have more than meager savings(“SS Resources,” 2009). Those who work in ‘sheltered workshops’ can legally be paid less than minimum wage (Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 2009). They can be put into classrooms isolated from their peers, denied access to classes they might enjoy,and discouraged from real academic pursuits (“Program Criteria: Special,” n.d.). In Bertha, MN, a thirteen year old autistic boy was forbidden by the courts to go to Mass at his local Roman Catholic Church. When his mother got in the car to take him, the county Sheriff met her to tell her that she would be arrested if she took her son to Mass (Pabst, 2008). Perhaps the worst of all, some are denied medical care (U.S. Public Health Service, 2001, p. 28). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists even has guidelines as to under what circumstances you can sterilize a disabled person (“Sterilization of Women”, 2007 p. 2).

Despite all this, many people with developmental disabilities and cognitive difficulties live full and independent lives. They work, they play, they love, they marry (Kaufman, 1988/1999 ). They do what they can despite their intellectual limitations. So what do you mean when you call something retarded? It works hard? It struggles and tries its best to overcome obstacles? If you call someone a retard does that mean they are someone who works hard in school even without the support they need? Probably not.

The current campaign, “Change the Conversation” (The R-word, n.d.), makes us all too aware how much those who are mentally retarded understand what is meant when it is used as an insult. They have a voice, and they are speaking clearly. If anyone uses the excuse that “they” don’t care if it is used as an insult, “they” do. For people without cognitive difficulties why is it so hard to understand how people with MR (mental retardation) feel about it? When you use a word like this, you objectify people. “Retards” aren’t people anymore. They’re objects. They are no longer human (Special Olympics and the Center for Social Development and Education, Gallup Organization, Research and Evaluation Services of Northern Ireland, & Center for Survey Research, n.d.). It builds up, and gets easier and easier to toss those words around. The less important you think it is, the more affected you’ve been by that word. The less important we all think it is, the easier it is to discriminate and abuse those who are developmentally disabled. It’s easier to deny them a seat in a science class, or not give them a chance in the workplace. Why? Because we’ve reduced the to sub-human level, and do not have to treat them like we’d treat a ‘normal’ person. The more the “r-word” is used, the more degraded they are, and the more acceptable it is to treat them like so much garbage.

Using this kind of language is poor English, period. Those who use that word risk the look of looking uneducated, lower class, cruel, and unsophisticated (Bendersky, 2009 ). Studies show that even children look down upon peers who use the word, even if they are not willing to speak out(Harris Interactive, Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston, & Special Olympics, n.d.). Using those words makes a bad impression. Those words used in the wrong context hurt a lot of people. First of all, the person being called retarded, whether or not they are, knows what the name-caller means by it. Those who are experiencing those disabilities can feel hurt too (The R-word, n.d.) . There is also pain to those who love them, who feel protective of their family and friends. Doesn’t everyone feel protective of those they love? Those that use the word become bullies, picking on those who they perceive as inferior to them. They can only see their privileged world view where the only way to live is as a ‘normal’ person with no disabilities, no problems (Byrne, 2000, pp. 45-72). To them, the only life worth living is one without “being retarded”.

There are plenty of reasons not to use “the R-Word”. Think for a minute of one very simple one. Every time that word is used in front of me, personally, I die a little inside. I am wounded by the words of people who think my son, the light of my life, is a person of less value than anyone else. So please, don’t use words that describe very real people as insults.

References

Bendersky, A. (2009, April 1). That’s retarded. You’re so gay. Is either ok? Message posted to http://hottopics.gay.com/2009/03/thats-retarded-youre-so-gay-is-either-ok.html Blow, C. M. (2009, April 24).

Two little boys. Message posted to http://blow.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/two-little-boys/

Byrne, P. (2000). Philosophical and ethical problems in mental handicap. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 8 (2009), http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/14c/.

Harris Interactive, Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston,, & Special Olympics. (n.d.). R-Word campaign [Survey Results]. Retrieved April 23, 2009, from University of Massachusetts, Center for Social Development & Education (CSDE) Web site: http://www.csde.umb.edu/rs_r_word.html

Intellectual disability / mental retardation. (2005, October 29). Developmental disabilities [Article]. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dd/ddmr.htm

Kaufman, S. Z. (1999). Retarded isn’t stupid, Mom! (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes. (Original work published 1988) Pabst, L. (2008, May 19).

After warning, family of autistic teen attends different church. Star Tribune. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/faith/19059069.html

Program criteria: Special class programs, secondary, and vocational rehabilitation. (n.d.). Self-contained special education classes [Criteria for placement]. Retrieved April 25, 2009, from Newark Public Schools Web site: http://www.nps.k12.nj.us/Special%20Education/Training%20Modules/Spe.%20Ed%20Programs/Self%20Contained%20Classes.htm

The r-word [Campaign to end use of “The R-Word”]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2009, from The Special Olympics/ Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation Web site: http://www.r-word.org/

Special Olympics and the Center for Social Development and Education, Gallup Organization, Research and Evaluation Services of Northern Ireland, & Center for Survey Research. (n.d.). Multinational study of attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities [Research results]. Retrieved April 22, 2009, from Special Olympics Web site: http://info.specialolympics.org/Special+Olympics+Public+Website/English/Initiatives/Research/Attitude_Research/Multinational+Study.htm

SS resources. (2009, April 28). Understanding supplemental security income [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from Social Security Administration Web site: http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-resources-ussi.htm

Sterilization of women, including those with mental disabilities [Monograph]. (2007). ACOG Committee Opinion, (Serial No. 371). U.S. Public Health Service. (2001, February).

Closing the gap : a national blueprint to improve the health of persons with mental retardation (D. Alexander, Ed.). Rockville, MD.

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Blaming autism on vaccines is irresponsible at best, dangerous for personal and public heath at worst.

Bad Science does what they do — clear up ‘bad science’.  And now they’re getting sued.

http://www.badscience.net/2009/02/legal-chill-from-lbc-973-over-jeni-barnetts-mmr-scaremongering/

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