Ignored, Shunned, and Invisible: How the Label "Retarded" Has Denied Freedom and Dignity to Millions

Ignored, Shunned, and Invisible: How the Label "Retarded" Has Denied Freedom and Dignity to Millions

Ignored, Shunned, and Invisible: How the Label "Retarded" Has Denied Freedom and Dignity to Millions

Ignored, Shunned, and Invisible: How the Label "Retarded" Has Denied Freedom and Dignity to Millions

Synopsis

A gripping exploration of mental retardation told through historical vignettes and through the life of one man, Jonathan Lovelace, whose life was marred by needless institutionalization and sterilization, and his experiences after being sent back into a world for which he was unprepared after 25 years of institutionalization.

Excerpt

No man is an Iland, intire of it self; every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.

—John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

Historically, segregation and social isolation have been recurring responses to people who are considered defective or deficient in some way. People tend to keep social and physical distance from those they consider to be too different from themselves; too different from the social norms and values they embrace. A society that believes that having a home is essential to normal human life will view homeless people as being deviant, and it will distance them socially from its other members. A society that expects its members to be selfsufficient will look down on and isolate those who are too dependent on others. A society that worships youth will revile old people. A society obsessed with physical and psychological perfection will seek ways to quarantine those who are considered imperfect.

This book is a collection of stories about the struggle that people with the label mental retardation face as they try to connect with the society in which they live, and the reluctance of that society to let them do so. It is also a biography of one man who spent a lifetime on isolated social shores. It is a tale of the ways in which he was often ignored, regularly avoided, and treated as less than a person. The ebb and flow of social policies and practices regarding people with disabilities will be examined through the lens of his life experiences.

The book is also a story of our society, of our parents, friends, and teachers; those who in many cases encouraged us to be kind and generous to others. It is a story about the society that continues to promote values that sometimes inspire us, sometimes challenge us, and sometimes tell us to look the other way when facing unsettling human differences or disturbing human need.

The isolated person, the metaphorical island to which each chapter will return, is John Lovelace. He lived 70 years, and for all of his life his identity was that of a person who was mentally retarded. I use . . .

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