This is the 19th anniversary of my beloved younger brother Paul’s suicide. He had a learning disability in an unenlightened era that treated him as inferior & pitiable. He suffered deeply from that stigma & really couldn’t escape it.
To be honest, I didn’t understand his learning disability until after he died. He was a brilliant Scrabble player, had an extraordinary mathematical memory, read the NY Times & intelligently discussed the news, was wry & very witty. He was also profoundly sad & lonely & would be shy so others wouldn’t spot his “shame.”
After associating with the Self Advocacy movement of those with learning disabilities, I’ve come to see “mental retardation” as a social construct, a deeply discriminatory, malignant construct that isolates & stigmatizes people & which humane societies will have no part of.
I can’t bring him back to tell him I understand now but have made it a commitment to object when people use the “R-word”, especially as an epithet.
May he RIP. I still miss him.