At times I feel we may accommodate everything too much. I think the practice of giving every negative human trait a name of a disease or a set of initials, contributes to our belief that we are in control of nothing. Anything that does go wrong is purely a result of some sort of exotic disease. In a way, the use of the words retard or retarded is similar to that.
In the first place, the word retard really does mean to slow something down. In industry we purposely "retard" specific machinery to control the process. It is a word used to describe individuals who are slower at comprehending ideas than others; they are retarded, or slowed down. The word means that, there is no refuting that, that's what it is. To not use it and to come up with some other elaborate terminology, special, unique, individual, to refer to a group of people who may require assistance with learning, doesn't do away with the problem. What that does is replace one unattractive term with another, that's all.
When I was a kid we would casually call each other "retard" if we did something stupid. That was the true slang use of the word. We weren't referring to each other as actually being in that group of individuals who really do have trouble comprehending. We were simply slamming each other because we did something stupid. Now, we could have replaced that term "retard" with something like "stupid" or "idiot" but do they sound any better?
The fact is, when I was a kid, if we did something totally stupid then we were going to get "ragged" on. There, another one of those ugly slang terms that kids use to describe a behavior where someone teases or chastises someone else. We would get ragged on by being called "retarded." Not nice, and certainly not attractive, but surely not criminal.
Using terms such as "retard" in that manner is using them in the slang sense but I don't think it damages anything. Again, when I was a kid, there wasn't a one of us who would ever even consider calling a true "retard", retarded. We just didn't call them anything. There was no reason to call them anything. The schools already did a good enough job of singling them out by placing them in "Special Education" in the same school building we all went to. Why call them anything when the organization who should be trying to protect them has already branded them.
I'm sure we have all heard "He rides the short bus." Where did that come from? Well, it came from the fact that a short bus would typically be used to transport "retarded" children to school. A short bus because there were many less "retarded" children then there were those who were not "retarded". Again, we didn't even have to use the term "retard." Just refer to "the short bus" and everyone knew what you were talking about.
Using the terms retard or retarded in a slang manner is certainly not something to do if directed at someone who truly is retarded. But there are many terms we regularly use amongst ourselves that we wouldn't consider using if directed at the person or persons who actually satisfy the true meaning of that word; ugly, stupid, idiot, fatty, and so on. At least you would want to think that we have advanced to the point where we don't have to direct our insults at the less fortunate for any reason.
I went through life being called "fatty" because I was fat. I was called what I was. I didn't try to shrug it off by saying "but, I'm beautiful." or "I'm special." I was fat and I was called fatty. I had a buddy who had a bum leg from birth. His nick name rapidly became "Chester." Chester because of the television western series "Gun Smoke" Chester was a deputy with a bum leg. The nickname drew attention to this kids leg and it upset him so he would try his darndest to walk without a limp but it never worked. He remained Chester and probably still is. He was called what he was, I was called what I was. Discriminatory? You be the judge.
We may think retarded children are beautiful. We may call them special. They may be considered the same as us. But, believe me, they are not and they know it and so do we. Unfortunate as it may be, a retard is a retard. I don't make a practice of calling retards, retards. Like I said earlier, I really don't have to, the organizations trying to help them have already done it for me.
I think to refer to a retard, in a derogatory sense, in a slang manner, as a retard, is certainly discriminatory and should be able to be punished for what it is. But, does that mean anyone who calls a fat person, in a derogatory sense, in a slang manner, fatty, should also be subject to the same type of rules? If you don't think so then why not? Is it because you think fatties can help themselves and retards can't? That may be true but what about druggies then? Or drunks, smokers, cleptos, arsons, and of the many other behaviors that tend to self destruction.
Bottom line, we have no right to refere to anyone who is in a different station than we are by anything other than their name. Using any of the terms society has branded any one with is nothing more than discrimination in its legal form. Dressing retards in ridiculous plaid pants and polka dotted shirts is us branding them as a retard. We don't have to even use the word if we are going to do something like that, and we do. All we need to do is do unto others as we would have them do unto us. If we could all get that through our thick skulls we would have a much nicer atmosphere in which to conduct our affairs.