June 14, 2011

Words

I'm really quick to blame censorship in political correctness, fear and close-mindedness. I say that it's needless and that it's a result of oversensitivity and a fundamental fear of hurting anyone's feelings.

I was listening to a podcast on the way home yesterday and the hosts played a clip from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. In the clip, Sean Penn calls other surfers a bunch of fags. That combined with the fact that no matter how many times I typed it fags was autocorrected to tags got me thinking. Maybe I'm wrong about all the political correctness. Maybe some historically aware folks took a look back and realized that while sticks and sticks and stones did break bones, words left a lasting impression that outlived even the deepest physical scar.

When we were in college, Beth and I got the chance to take a class taught by James Farmer. Farmer was a civil rights pioneer. He marched with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. He rode in the front seats of buses in protest. He was hosed in the streets of the south and beaten and jailed along with his brothers. The class was one night a week for a semester. For two hours we'd listen to farmer, then blinded and wheelchair bound by diabetes, sing the protest songs they'd sung on the bus, tell stories from their marches, recall life on the road with MLK. It was amazing. By the time the final rolled around, we realized that there was virtually nothing to study. It didn't matter. The final exam was nothing but simple multiple choice questions. There was no way to fail. What was important was, as with Farmer himself, the experience.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that most likely behind every claim of political correctness, there's most likely been suffering, been struggle, been a fight. And, personally, I shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the fact that words are important.

Dr. Farmer died a few years ago. His memory lives on at our old school where he is memorialized. Rightly so. He is a true hero, luckily one that I was personally able to learn from.

Have you ever met a hero?

Posted by Chris at June 14, 2011 7:44 AM
Comments

I don't know what really made this hit home for you, Chris, but I'm *really* happy. I think it's very hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes, and for someone like yourself who is the "majority" in every sense, this really is heartening. I find so many kind, well-meaning "majority" folks unwilling to understand how a culture of degradation, which starts with words, can cause lasting and permanent damage. Why is c*nt not ok, n*gger not ok, but we're fine with bitch, wetback, fag, retard, towel-head, and others?

If you remove language from your vocabulary that is harmful, you generally learn new words, mainly because you get to know folks from all walks of life with their own take on things, their own cultures.

For all the rest of folks who disagree with Chris's concept, I have a favor to ask of you. Ask the parent of a kid who is mentally challenged if their six year old daughter being called a "retard" to her face makes her cry. Better yet, think about how much you want to walk up to that same kid and tell her she's just a "retard", what does she know?

What's the big deal? It's just a word.

Posted by: alektra at June 14, 2011 8:36 AM

I agree that words have way more power than some folks want to realize. Even words that are not considered slurs or insults can wound when used casually.

My children have various mood disorders among the three of them. If I had dime for every time I heard people use biploar or OCD as a punchline to describe someone's indecisiveness or flakiness or desire to have things a certain way, I'd be able to cater a really nice dinner for all of your readers. I try not to get up on my soapbox to talk about what it really means to be bipolar (it's not just mood swings, folks!) or obsessive-compulsive but hearing the terms used in a joking way is tough sometimes.

Posted by: MamaKaren at June 14, 2011 9:43 AM

I was going to say something but no need. Alektra said it all. Almost.

My physically challenged (cerebral palsy)great-granddaughter has been called retard more than once and she and her two beautiful younger sisters have heard the word n*gger far too many times. My younger son has been called f*g and worse since high school and three of my grandchildren's mom was born in Manila - they've had their share of name calling directed at them. Even my Army son has been insulted by people who should know better and would never dream of using racial or ethnic slurs.

Elcie (the "retard" according to some), graduated from high school last week and will start Junior College in August. She walked across that stage with her head held high. For that night, she was my hero. When I watched my son and his partner legally marry in 2008, they were my heroes of the day. Today, my hero is you for understanding empathy.

Of course we go overboard sometimes. I'm not "vertically challenged"; I'm short. But the use of ugly words, even as so-called humor, helps create a climate for hatred to flourish. Words hurt us all.

Posted by: ann adams at June 14, 2011 10:10 AM

My daughter has adhd and her mind is like a recorder, she repeats conversation that happened weeks ago verbatim. Until we knew what was wrong with her, we both thought she was just unmotivated and lazy in her actions, but now we know differently. I am very upset that she remembers how I use to tell her to stop being lazy, stop being annoying, stop this, stop that... I have told her that I regret that and I am sorry. I know she remembers. Words are powerful and can hurt and I wish they could be taken back. I hope someday she will remember how it changed.

Posted by: Linda at June 14, 2011 10:47 AM

Yes, some words should not be used. I completely agree that certain terms or names lead to hate and hate is something this world definitely has too much of. But. I'm really, really tired of people playing the "offended" card. If someone repeatedly offends you, cut them out of your life. Stop listening to their radio show. Don't visit the comedy club they're booked at...Essentially, move on and be better for it. Life is hard. It's something we all have to deal with. Do I want to see my kid called names? Absolutely not. But it's going to happen...As trite as it sounds, that's really just a part of life.

Here's my main problem with censorship, WHERE do we draw the line? And WHO draws the line? Telling people what they can or cannot say because somebody is offended is a slippery slope. One that personally terrifies me...It's reminds me too much of 1984.

Posted by: Holly at June 14, 2011 12:24 PM

Holly, I suppose your concern is one of "No one can say that!?"

The rest of us are more concerned about each person's choices. Personal choices are part of free speech. But if someone is saying those things, my question is, why? Why do we feel the need to mock others and their pain? Why put others down? What is the benefit to an individual to assert herself over another?

Yes, people will be mean, but I think you also agree that it doesn't excuse the cruelty. People will also rob, steal, cheat, rape and murder. None of those things is ok, either, though I think there is a spectrum of wrong.

So, if you want to be a good person, be a good person. That is yours alone to determine internally. But I think it is our treatment of others that determines our worth most of all.

'Course, I'm a Christian, so I subscribe to the "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people" theory. So take it for what it's worth. But the Carpenter Himself was a pretty nice dude. From the stories, he was nice to folks with disabilities, little kids, widows, prostitutes, gentiles. You know, the folks everyone else demeaned back in His day.

Posted by: alektra at June 15, 2011 6:51 AM

f your readers. I try not to get up on my soapbox to talk about what it really means to be bipolar (it's not just mood swings, folks!) or obsessive-compulsive but hearing the terms used in a joking way is tough sometimes.

Posted by MamaKaren at June 14, 2011 9:43 AM

Posted by: Balmain shop at November 24, 2011 1:07 AM


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