You are born into a town that has a strange custom. There is a family in town with a daughter who sits on the front sidewalk, and everyone in the town hits her with a whip as they walk by.
As you enter young adulthood you are handed a whip of your own. You are given the reasons she is whipped, “everyone does it”, “she doesn’t feel it”, “she deserves it”, etc.
But you are a compassionate person and you can see the pain on her face when she is hit so you choose not to. But you keep the whip. You use it sometimes to make the whipping sound when you are talking with your friends, even if you are near her or those who love her. You are taught the whip has other practical uses and you employ them all in your daily life, convincing yourself it has nothing to do with her.
Eventually public opinion slowly changes and eventually most people stop directly whipping her, besides a few of the younger townspeople. They continue to do it when the adults aren’t looking.
Now that she is no longer being continually whipped all day, she begins to stand and make a life for herself. But everyone keeps their whips. They use it to make the sounds even when she is near. They insist on its practical uses even when other tools would suffice for its job. They insist on their right to use it.
After sometime, you befriend the girl. You see that she is kind and sweet, beautiful, strong and hard working, but the damage the whips have done stays with her. The sound of the whips reminds her of her abuse and you can see the pain cross her face when the sound of the whips ring out. You can see the fear on her face when someone holds the whip in their tight grip. She says to you, “Friend, could you not find another tool for that job because the whip itself reminds me of my pain?”
Would you insist she has no right to claim it hurts her when it is not directly being used to whip her? Or would you, out of respect for her, choose another tool?
The whip is the “r-word: retarded”.
You may maintain that because you never hit her and because your current use does not intend to hurt her, she cannot claim it does. But you would be wrong. She is the victim and only she can determine what hurts. You cannot claim that because the intent of pain is not there, she has no pain.
So what do you do? Do you put down your whip, throw it out and pick up another tool for your daily tasks out of respect and love for her? Do you encourage others to do the same? Or do you continue to maintain that your God given right to use the whip outweighs any possible pain it may cause her?
The choice is entirely yours and only serves to reflect upon what kind of person you may choose to be: one who avoids inflicting unnecessary pain on the victimized; or one who values his or her own right to a word above all else.