Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Politically Correct" and other Naughty Words

I have trouble with my words. I make off-color jokes and use bad words, not just Jr High bad words, no the MPAA would have to give a day my life an R-rating. It's really not okay, but it's true.

There's a verse in the bible that I just hate. It admonishes me to stop using "filthy" or "corrupt" language and instead choose to build people up by using words filled with grace, thankfulness, kindness and love. Now that's between God and me, but this is one principle that extends to everyone, even political pundits like Ann Coulter who sent this tweet yesterday:

Do I even need to point out why this is categorically not okay?

Forget the blatant hypocrisy of using the word "retarded" to insult someone for making a joke that vaguely references cancer, how can you possibly think you can send this word out on twitter not once but twice?

Full disclosure: I've used the word "retarded" as an insult before. In fact, it slipped out pretty recently while I was fuming about some stupid thing and I am incredibly ashamed of that. Foul-mouth that I am, I try very hard to make sure I'm not using language that degrades a particular group of people. But it happens.

The truth is that we all say stupid things that hurt people. But this isn't simply ignorance or an "oops" moment. Ann knows this word is hurtful and degrading to some of the most vulnerable people in our society, she simply chooses not to care.

There's a stodgy, bible-word for this kind of thing: hubris.

Today, we define hubris as "exaggerated pride" but, in new testament Greek, it has a different translation. Commonly "harm" or "affliction," this word references an injury inflicted by recklessness or impudence. It's a brazen defiance of any kind of accountability to other humans that results in their harm.

I haven't heard Ann's response to the storm of outrage over these tweets. I don't see an apology and she certainly hasn't taken them down yet, but maybe she will. Still, I am going to make a wild guess here and say that someone is going to drop a "politically correct" bomb in the middle of this tempest.

I'm referring to those who defend offensive language by saying certain words aren't truly offensive, they are simply "politically incorrect," as if requiring someone to be "politically correct" is merely a trivial misdirection. The assumption is, 1) that those who object to a particular word are clouding the "real" issue and, 2) that the offender's message is so important that it overshadows the specific nature of the words they use.

I'm not saying that we should be so crippled by the fear of offending someone that we over-censor ourselves or, worse, say nothing. Political discourse is still important and I understand that every public figure will probably say something ignorant or hurtful at some point. Being politically correct is not the issue here because, while it may be true that mocking those with developmental disabilities (as well as those suffering from cancer or of a particular race) is, in fact, politically incorrect, it is also cruel and disgusting. And Ann knows it.

She uses it for the same reason that Mark Driscoll swears in his sermons, the same reason I really haven't tried that hard to stop swearing: when we knowingly use offensive language, it makes us feel bold and edgy. We can say whatever the hell we want because, dammit, we are right. And if you are too delicate to handle the raw truth, stop listening!

Not only that, we like it when someone shows this kind of boldness. These statements were retweeted thousands of times. Somehow, refusing to consider the objections of others has become a mark of character in political pundits:

"That Ann Coulter, she's not afraid of anyone!"

Not even the retards, apparently. Way to go, Ann.

But this is just stupid. First of all, neither of the tweets said anything all that important. Second, the idea that Romney was "kind and gentle to the retard," makes clear insinuation about those with developmental disabilities. These statements are cruel and perpetuate the idea that being cruel is just fine.

I know she's beloved and, granted, says things that are important to a lot of people. But this isn't one of them. Take the tweets down, apologize, and stop using the word.


Ann continues to defend what she said, even taking it a step further by saying that the only people people who are offended by this word are, themselves, "retarded." Apparently that includes Special Olympics global messenger John Franklin Stephens who wrote this open letter.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I am impressed by John Franklin Stephens' letter. He handled the situation with much more diginity and grace than I would have, that's for sure.