Wednesday, August 5, 2015
As you may already know, I have a habit of browsing through the darker corners of Instagram. I follow the path led by hashtags such as #selfharm, #depression, or #suicide. While perusing through these images and reading their captions I do my best to spread a message of hope and love. Recovery is possible and you are not alone. I have conversations with teenagers who are struggling with mental illness and cannot see past the lies that depression fills their mind with. I hope to be a voice they can look to who has not only been where they are but who has worked my way into recovery where I have found happiness and peace (Though let me say her recovery is an ongoing process for most. It's not easy, it's work. But it is so worth it).
However last night, when I clicked on #suicide, at the top of the page was a poor excuse for a meme which was meant to insult Tumblr and its users. I don't know anything about Tumblr, I've never used it but I was displeased to find that he used the word "retards" as an insult in his caption. So I commented that I thought it did not say anything good about him that he would do that. He told me that if I didn't like it I didn't have to look. I replied that to me it was akin to seeing a man being beaten. I would not turn my back and walk away, I would risk my own safety to stop the beating. I told him that I knew he would not change his actions just because I commented and that he would probably say many bad things about me but that I felt better knowing I did not just turn a blind eye to something I thought was wrong. I used a peace sign emoji (emojis being new to me I find them kind of fun, although I don't know why we don't just call them emoticons like we used to). He bit back with some nasty comment about me and my "gay ass retarded emojis".
He took a screen shot of my comment and posted it on his account with some rude comment. Someone called floppydoorknob tagged me in it so I could see. In the image above which I posted on my account you can see where he says "I'm not scared". Well, evidently he was because he deleted me moments after writing that. Before I even has a chance to respond. So I made the above image because I thought it was hilarious that he blocked me after saying he wasn't afraid of me and acting all tough. I tagged him in it so he knew it was there and had a chance to speak up for himself. Once he caught wind of it he unblocked me and made a comment on the photo saying I was just being stupid and that he hadn't blocked me. He then tagged a bunch of his "troll" friends to come and harass me. A few of them responded. It was pretty tame, more annoying than hurtful and definitely not creative or intelligent enough to get under my skin. I was really laughing the whole time. He took some of my posts and posted them on his page trying to insult my writing or calling me an "SJW". I had no idea what that even meant.
Before I had a chance to ask him about what this "SJW" he kept slinging at me meant, he blocked me again. I was left to find out on my own. The above definition is the first one I found. This was perhaps the only thing he'd said that verged on insulting me, but to be honest, his opinion means so little to me that he couldn't quite get through my armor and that's saying something considering my low self-esteem. Shallow? Not caring about or believing in? Arguing for the sake of popularity? No, I'm sorry, you must have me mixed up with someone else. I don't play the popularity game and I don't think I ever have. Maybe when I was nine or ten? Which is perhaps how old this Instagrammer is.
To say that I do not care or know nothing about the issue behind the word "retard" and its variations is in itself ignorant. Most people who know me know that I spent my teenaged years dedicated to working with mentally and physically handicapped kids and adults. These wonderful human beings were my friends, my family, my entire life. Those that were able would sometimes tell me heartbreaking stories of the bullying and harassment they received because of their disability. I admit that even I used the word "retarded" growing up as a negative adjective. I think that was the norm back then, maybe it still is. It took conscious effort to remove it from my vocabulary, but I did. I settled it on a shelf in my mind where I keep those words we as a society use incorrectly and in a derogatory manner (eg. gay and fat).
When I hear people use the word "retarded" as an insult, I see the faces of those wonderful individuals who are bombarded with a word that is now just a ugly shell of the medical term it once was. I do not point out your mistake in using the word in a cruel way because I want to be popular or for "points". I do it because this issue could hardly be closer to my heart.
I am not naive. I know that changing minds or people on the internet is much, much rarer than diamonds or pearls. That doesn't mean I have to turn a blind eye to injustice, bullying, harassment, and ignorance. I know this will even lead me to be bullied and harassed. But you can throw your stones, your tomatoes, your insults. Unless you legitimately convince me through careful and logical debate that I am wrong (I can admit when I am wrong), I will not bend. When I stand up for something, I stand tall. These kids may harass me for days or forget about it but either way, my knees will not buckle. I do not tire of my vigil. Call me shallow, call me an idiot. I know who I am and what I stand for and why. If you want to call me a "Social Justice Warrior", fine. I am a warrior.
And if you're feeling like using the "R" word. Go buy a dictionary. Be a little more creative.