Anyone who thinks Rahm Emanuel's comment was "appalling...insensitive" and akin to a racial slur IS a retard.
Before you get voodoo dolls out; let me explain.
First, I was raised in a house where I learned tolerance. There is no one single person on this planet who is one iota better or worse a person that you are regardless of who they are, what they look like, how they live their lives or any mental or physical difference or limitation. One of my best friends has a son with Autism and Spina Bifida. I camped out for the opening of Star Wars Episode I and raised money for Spina Bifida charities. Another good friend is confined to a wheel chair and I think of him as a friend; the chair is a non-factor of our relationship. When I was a teenager my mother and I worked with a group of patients from a state run mental institution; meeting with them weekly in an arts and crafts therapy group.
No one could say I am insensitive to the life of someone who is either one of "God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities — and the people who love them".
Here's how I see what is being referred to as "The R Word". Being of the same generation as Mr. Emanuel I can draw on the cultural history to believe this is probably how he views the word as well.
I used the word "retard" when I was a kid. It was a word I used when I had a limited and short focused view of the world. I used words like "pussy" and "faggot" and many others that a pre-adolescent uses to lash out in ignorance at the world around him. To call someone a "retard" would mean that they were the stupidest person alive. By using the word we also attached ourselves with a certain amount of "coolness" because we were using a word we knew wasn't parentally approved; we were saying something "bad".
In those 30 some-odd years since then I have become a more worldly person; respectful of others and empathetic towards those who have had a harder life than mine. When and if I use the word "retard" I am not associating the target of my insult with any actual person or person(s) but that outdated image of a stereotype and the juvenile way I thought of it at that time. If I call you a retard I am not associating you with what I know to be a person who has honest to goodness challenges to their life; to that would be an insult to someone with a disability. If I call you a retard I am saying not only are you stupid but are as stupid, if not more, than that redicilious and outdated caricature from the past.
OK, I may be over-thinking this and I may only be explaining things as I perceive them; it's a lot like trying to explain a joke to someone who doesn't get it. Another thing to remember is that Mr. Emanuel made this comment in private; it's not as if he printed it on White House stationery. Also, the people to which he was referring were "stupid". To think this is a reason for him to be fired from his job is.....well....you fill in the blank.