That it didn't even really register on people's freak-out-a-meter is likely a testament to just how marginal Ann Coulter's attitudes have become but during the most recent US presidential debate, the right wing pundit hit another new low when she referred to the President of the United States of America as a "retard."
It's another in a long line of intentionally-inflammatory comments from Coulter and given that she seems to get off on the attention it is tempting to just ignore the slur. Crazy ol' Ann Coulter, at it again.
Except one person didn't ignore it. John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete and global ambassador, took a day to collect his thoughts then delivered what was simultaneously the most damning and yet inspiring condemnation —of Coulter's comments specifically and casual discrimination more generally—that I've ever read.
"After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.
I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.
Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.
No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much."
Then, in the high road equivalent of slamming down the mic and walking off stage, Stephens signs off with "a friend you haven't met yet, John Franklin Stephens."
While it taps into the basest sense of schadenfreude to watch such an eloquent takedown of someone who relies on hate and anger to make her points, the painful reality is that Mr. Stephens is totally right. Most of us DID consider it an insult. It's easy to dismiss the extreme views of Coulter and her ilk; it's much harder to gaze in the mirror and recognize that it's our own biases and beliefs that give their words power.
When my wife was pregnant, I remember a rush of relief when test after test pointed to a healthy, "normal" child. And while I don't doubt for a minute that Mr. Stephens has faced more than his share of hardships and discrimination, I stand in awe of the perspective he has been able to maintain and I realize that I could do a lot worse than have my daughter turn out like Mr. Stephens.
Thanks, John Franklin Stephens. Not just for schooling a simple-minded attention hog, but for sharing your beautiful perspective on life and forcing us to confront our own small mindedness in the process.