I came across an article today on Huff Post about Ann Coulter calling Obama a retard on Twitter. Was I shocked? No. The only reason Ann Coulter exists is to shock people. She’s the Howard Stern of conservatives. But just because I wasn’t surprised, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t angered. Before I speak my piece, I have to say that I loved this letter to Ann, written by a representative of the Special Olympics who has Down syndrome.
So, all I really have to say about this is – what the hell? There are SO MANY insults you can throw at someone. Cutting, witty, sharp insults that leave people going “ooh, burn”. And Ann decides to pick a word that demeans an entire group of people, and is most often heard from the mouths of twelve year olds.
I’m disappointed when I hear people call someone a retard, the same way I’m disappointed when I hear someone use the word “faggot” to imply homosexuality. Because that word is meant to insult. If it’s passing through your lips and you’re directing it at another person, your goal is to hurt and demean them, and therefore indirectly hurt and demean an entire group of people. And what did that group of people ever do to you? Hint: Probably nothing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the whole “sticks and stones” thing is bullshit. Words hurt more, and for far longer, than being hit with a stick (most of the time). I’ve heard the whole “those words aren’t really bad, society just decided that they’re bad so I’m going to use them anyway just to rile people up” argument. That, also, is bullshit. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re so ‘enlightened’ and have decided to rise above the connotations society has given those words – using them still hurts people. Using them is still offensive, and it still promotes the use of them as being okay. Because guess what? Most of society probably doesn’t get your misguided efforts to be ironic.
So here’s the real question – would you go up to someone who is a member of the group you’re using as an insult, and use that word against one of them personally? Would you go up to someone with a mental disability and call them a retard the way you’d call a friend who just did something stupid a retard? Would you go up to a gay man and call him a faggot the way you would call your friend who just chickened out of doing something a faggot? What about all the other words that are tossed around as insults, but really demean millions?
It all comes down to a simple rule we learned in kindergarten – think before you speak. And hopefully when you open your mouth, you’ll speak more wisely.