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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

John Franklin Stephens responds to Anne Coulter

I was diagnosed with a learning disability when I was in high school - Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.  This "retardation" left me with the general attention span of a gnat and meant that I was completely ill-equipped for success in the rote-learning education model of my youth.  I couldn't (and still can't) just "absorb" something; I have to understand it to learn it.  At the same time, I could and do put ideas together and multi-task like there's no tomorrow. 
Through a lot of hard work, discipline and supportive strategies, I've learned to manage these challenges and function successfully in an attention-superfluous world.  That which gives me communication challenges in some contexts has proven to be a gift in others; I might be terrible at taking notes down off a blackboard, but I have never had a problem with generating original material.  While I am an award-winning writer, I don't think I could ever hit the notes of emotional sincerity or clarity of message this "retarded" man has done with so few words. 
imageWhat moves me more than the careful phrasing of Stephens' letter, though, is it's overall tone.  Despite the challenges he faces and the bigotry he has undoubtedly experienced, even from those who mean well, there is not a bitter bone in his body.  Stephens' letter isn't meant to chastise Coulter, though he's well within his rights to do so.  Instead, he wants to help her overcome her own bitterness through empathy and understanding.  While probably part of Mitt Romney's 47%, Stephens clearly doesn't see himself as a victim.  Instead of concluding with an angry missive to an ignorant woman, he signs off as "a friend you haven't met yet."  My god, that's a powerful statement.
This "retarded" man has learned to read, write and express himself just as "non-retarded" people like Anne Coulter do - and do so, I'd argue, far more powerfully.  If there's hope that people with challenges can not only function in but contribute to society, there might just be hope that people like Coulter can overcome their social-emotional "retardation" as well.

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