xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: I am both offended by the word "retard" and a zealous supporter of free speech

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I am both offended by the word "retard" and a zealous supporter of free speech

I don't usually give much power to words; at least not as much as other people can. There aren't very many words, in fact, that I will take offense to. It used to be that "retard" (I prefer to just say it, as opposed to "The R Word") didn't bother me at all; my theory was that what was important wasn't the word itself, it was the intent behind it. Was it just a joke? I can understand jokes, even ones in bad taste. Is it just a word, it doesn't mean that much? I understand that, I think we give too much power to simple words. After all, like they say on the internets, you don't call retarded people retards, you call your friends retards when they're acting retarded. So it shouldn't even be offensive. Honestly? I used to be able to understand and agree with that. I've even blogged about it.

Like I say in my title, I am a zealous supporter of free speech. I believe in speaking the truth at all times. I believe in censoring absolutely nothing. I believe that we give too much power to words, and that oftentimes they will become the ignition source of an argument that actually has nothing to do with the word itself; semantics, I would say.

But then Child 1 had his first brush with being bullied, and immediately the word took on a new meaning for me. Overnight it went from an innocent word with no real power, to the symbol of all the bullying that he might, and probably will, face at the hands of other people. When I hear, or read, that word now, I don't try to analyze the intent behind it, I think about my sweet child and how he will be the recipient of that word. It may be as a joke, it may be as an outright insult, I don't know. Whatever it is, though, it will be used against him. Do you watch Breaking Bad? I always think of this scene. No, they don't use the word retard in this scene, but this is how I picture the people who would use that word against my kid.

Hypocritical, you say? Perhaps. These two schools of thought don't necessarily go together, which is why I often have a difficult time talking about it. In fact, I used to see the word go by a lot in my twitter timeline, and instead of saying something every time I saw it, I decided to add a tweet deck filter so that I wouldn't ever see it. That filter, ironically, will make it so that I will not see any of my own tweets about this posts or any of your retweets. But I felt it was the only acceptable option for me, because I always want to say something, but then I feel like a hypocrite for it. So I just filter it out.

People will want to tell me now that when you try to get a word banned you go down a slippery slope which can ultimately erode the first amendment, and I don't disagree with that. I am not saying "please stop saying it," I am saying "I am offended by it, and here's why." I'm not telling anybody what to do or what to say, I'm telling you that it offends me and I'm telling you why. I am not asking anybody to change; I am asking you to think. If, after reading this, you will still go about your life calling your friends retards, well, that's your choice, of course. But you're an asshole for it.

And that's the thing about what they call "politically correct speech." In my opinion, it's not about one group of people trying to rule over another one, it's just about not being an asshole. It's about being respectful to other people and their feelings, even if you disagree with them. If you know somebody is offended and upset by your use of a word, and you still do it? You're an asshole; and I want nothing to do with you.

Am I being oversensitive? Probably. After all, this is all about emotion for me. The word has power over me because my son is autistic, so, sure: I'm oversensitive. I'll accept that. What's that you say? I shouldn't be so sensitive? Yeah, you're probably right about that; I probably shouldn't be so sensitive. And yet.... here we are.

And you're still going to say it? And then defend yourself because it's your first amendment right? Cool. Go for it. I support your first amendment rights. But you're still an asshole. And I still want nothing to do with you.

Watch that video up there and pretend you were one of those parents. Pretend you are that boy. How would you feel?