The “R” Word, Again | Facebook Silent | Dog Days


The “R” Word, Again

Hi Micah,

I just recently read your response to Blair’s question in the print of June’s issue of B-Metro.

I was raised in a household where using the word retarded was just as bad as any dirty, four-letter word you could possibly say. It also ranked right up there with the “N” word, as well as both “F” words. My mother’s youngest sibling was born with Down’s syndrome, and it was ingrained in all of us that any use of the word retarded was one of the worst things we could possibly have done. I know this was a little on the overkill side, but it worked. I cringe when I hear people say it. If I’ve collectively had more than a 30 minute conversation since I first met an individual, I do not hesitate to point out their misuse (and my disdain) of the word. I also do this with the words “nigger” and “faggot.” That person may choose to use to keep those words in their vocabulary, but not in a conversation with me, and I hope not within earshot.

I felt that your response to Amy, as well as your subsequent response to Blair, was dismissive. Dismissive is probably not the best word, but I do know that by the time I finished reading your article, I was beyond angry. In answering, I don’t think you gave the women asking for your advice the respect and consideration they were asking you to relay. Your response came across as more “hey readers, be careful what words you use around certain people” opposed to “hey readers, this word is offensive.” Your rationale to the women that asked for your advice was to stop complaining because they have probably said something offensive in their life. Would you use that same reasoning for the aforementioned words? I highly doubt it.

I honestly did not mean to come across as preachy since that is normally not my nature, and I’m sure like everyone, I have offended someone in a way I was not aware. This is not sufficient reason to continue saying offensive things, nor is it reason to sit back and tolerate it.

Thank you for letting me vent.

Take care,

Luci

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Dear Luci,

You are welcome to vent here anytime.  That’s one of the things an advice column is for, advice and venting.  Let me take a second to catch readers up who may not know what we’re talking about…A woman named Amy wrote in a year ago angry over people using the word “retarded” as an insult to others.  Then a couple of months ago another woman, Blair, wrote in about virtually the same thing.  I reprinted what I had said to Amy in response to Blair.  I won’t retell a third time what I said but you can probably look it up at B-Metro’s online magazine because I think the original question appears there way back in the archives.  My answer to Luci now will probably supply you with the gist of what I said then anyway.

Luci, it was not my intentions to sound dismissive to either lady.  That is just the way I speak.  I am pretty direct most of the time, and I tend to think in broader terms than just the question at hand.  In life, whenever I am angry with someone, I try to think about their perspective before I launch into them on a tirade.  Don’t get me wrong, I will launch when necessary, but I find as I get older that most of the time people don’t deserve a tirade.  Usually if I stop and think hard enough, I can understand why they acted the way they did and I can better talk with them and work it out.  That’s why I may have seemed less ready to launch into them for being offensive and took more of the stance of explaining the ignorance and sometimes innocence behind the use of the word.

I still believe in what I said.  Most people who have bandied the word “retarded” around as an insult weren’t aware of how harmful and offensive it can be to others, and when they have said it they were speaking in jest.  Don’t misunderstand me, it is still offensive–Just because I didn’t cuss them out for using it doesn’t mean that I don’t find it offensive.  I don’t think anyone would argue that it isn’t offensive.  I think that goes without saying.

However, I disagree with you that it is the same thing as saying “nigger” or faggot.”  All words said to demean are offensive, but those two words carry a much harsher connotation.  In the past, those two words have often been accompanied by brutality, especially the first one.   Typically if you hear someone shouting “nigger” or “faggot” at you they mean you harm and you need to start running.  That’s a much different situation than someone telling you you’re “retarded.”  The word “retarded” was originally a medical term and because of that, some people still think of it as an accurate description of some types of disabled people.  Again, I am not agreeing with them—to the contrary—that word was too often used to negatively generalize all types of handicap instead of focusing on each individual’s specific needs and limitations. But it was still originally a medical term.  So when people use it to describe handicapped people, they are not necessarily being cruel, they are just ignorant of the current proper terminology.  You typically will only hear it used that way in older generations.  It’s when people use the word as an insult or a negative descriptive to illustrate the idiocy in something that it becomes mean-spirited and the most offensive.

However, I just did a similar thing when I used the word “idiocy.”  “Idiot” is another negative insult word that we use every day that is based on a term used a long time ago to describe people who had impairment issues.  Calling someone “an idiot” is just as offensive as calling someone “retarded.”  It’s been in our vernacular so long, though, that most people don’t even make that connection anymore, but it is just as thoughtless and insulting to mentally handicapped people.  I realize I am probably sounding dismissive again.  I really don’t mean to.

You probably just want me to say that people who use the word “retarded” are horrible awful people, but my mind just doesn’t work that way.  Instead, I automatically start thinking of all the bone-headed terms and words I have used and heard other people use that have similar connotations, and since I know that I am not an awful person, then they probably aren’t either.  We are just in need of reminders that we ought not to grab those words when looking for a descriptive.  “Retarded,” “Idiot,” “Lame,” and “Brain-dead” are just a few of the words we hear every day in jest, but there are some people out there who have to deal with these real and unfortunate conditions who do not find our humor funny.  We all have to think about that.

And I think it’s good, Luci, if you help educate people whenever you hear them throwing “retarded” around loosely.  I would just caution you, as I was trying to do to Blair and Amy, don’t be too combative over it because you have probably said something before that you innocently hadn’t meant to offend with and someone else afforded you some slack.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t correct them, just don’t launch into them over it.  Now it goes without saying that if the words were not said in jest and were said maliciously to cause insecurity or pain—then launch sister, launch.  They deserve a good jolt.

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Facebook Silent

Dear Micah,

I married a woman of another faith, and I have noticed that whenever we post anything on Facebook about our events or what have you regarding her faith, no one from my family likes it or replies, yet they like and respond to everything else we post or to everyone else’s religious stuff.  It has begun to hurt my wife’s feelings a little because the silence is deafening.  My sister will post a picture from her church’s vacation Bible school week and 20 comments will in short time go up.  My wife posts something about Rosh Hashanah, and not a single family member from my side likes or comments.  It’s hurtful.  I don’t guess I have a question.  I know my mother and sister read B-Metro, so maybe they’ll read this and things will quietly change.

Anonymous

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Dear Anonymous,

I think Facebook is a wonderful thing.  It connects people to family and friends they otherwise may not have a chance, or even reason, to communicate with in the outside world.  Unfortunately, Facebook also comes with its own set of problems, like yours for instance.  Sometimes Facebook shows us who is truly in our corner and who is not.  I’m not one to post a lot of controversial stuff.  Hell, this column is controversial enough.   I tend to steer clear of posting political things, although once or twice I have posted on an issue I felt deeply about.  Most of the time I try to keep my posts light and fun.  I post updates on my son and I make commentary here and there about movies or TV shows or the crazy line at the DMV.

However, on occasion I have posted something personal to me and my life.  I am a gay man.  I do not fill my Facebook up with gay stuff.  I am not well-connected in the gay community, and I am ashamed to say that I am out of the loop on many issues.  However, I do not hide who I am.  I have a partner of 16 years and we have a son.  Whenever I post pics of our family I get comments and “likes” from family and friends across the board.  It makes me feel good and it gives me the feeling that we are accepted, loved and valued by the people we know.  It makes me think the world is open and ready and accepting of all kinds of people from all walks of life.

However, when the Supreme Court struck down that one part of DOMA some weeks ago, I posted something about it and my feelings.  I was a little surprised to find that there were conspicuously few ”likes”  and even fewer comments following my post–virtually no support at all for me or mine.  Of those few who did post on my page, I was pleasantly surprised to see that support came from unlikely people.  People who (as Dr. Phil might say) “Didn’t have a dog in the hunt.”  They weren’t affected one way or the other by the ruling, but they still showed their solidarity with my little family—a few friends who are teachers and businessmen that are not gay and had no reason to put their “like” on my page for the world to see, but they did because they wanted to show me support.

Yet on my family side, you could have heard crickets chirping.  Not totally—I had a couple “likes” from relatives, but only a couple considering that if I had posted a picture of a dog wearing a Santa hat instead I would have received 40 or 50.  Now I could have taken that to mean that I know a lot of hypocrites who just like to give me the impression that they stand behind me and my family—that’s honestly what it looked like—but that’s not really the case.

I thought about it a lot and I came to the conclusion that most people actually do support you in their heart, but they just may not want their name linked with you and an issue that doesn’t directly involve them.  The world has come a long way towards inclusion and tolerance for all people, but it hasn’t come all the way yet.  People are still so scared to be associated with certain groups of people even if they love those people and believe in the cause.  It is totally possible for someone to love you but not outwardly support you.  That’s hard to reconcile and wrap your head around.  I still have trouble with it, but it is possible.  Your wife is clearly Jewish.  I am assuming that your family is Christian. Maybe that’s a source of friction with your in-laws.  Maybe it never has been, which is why it stings all the more.

It’s possible that your family doesn’t want their church friends seeing them commenting on a post about the Jewish New Year.  Your family probably loves your wife, but they’d probably rather not have their friends know your family is of another faith than they are.  The irony is that those church people would probably not think a thing at all about it.  They probably see no important difference between your wife’s faith and their own.  It’s just that your family worries that they might.  It still flummoxes me that in this day and age people are still so caught up in trying to make sure that everyone in their lives is the same as they are.

For my tastes, I don’t want everyone in my life to be like me—I already know me—I want to experience different kinds of people.  I am sure your wife is hurt deeply when the important moments of her life are not acknowledged by your family.  Even though you didn’t ask a question, and our examples are different, I feel like I can commiserate a little with you guys.  Just try to keep in mind that sometimes the silence isn’t a rejection or a commentary against you, it’s just the manifestation of the fear of other people seeing them support you.  That’s the main reason injustice always goes on a little longer than necessary—because it takes a while for people to stand up in support of the one needing support.  Everyone’s too busy waiting to see if someone else is going to stand up first before they do.

You could talk to your family, but I wouldn’t.  Forced support or support supplied out of guilt is just as bad as no support at all.  Just remind your wife that these people love her and are good to her in all other areas (if they are).  She’ll just have to let this one slide until people stop being so worried with everyone else’s perception of them.

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Dog Days

Dear Micah,

Should I let my seven year old have a dog if he promises to feed it and walk it every day?  I want to teach him responsibility and give him a pet if he’s ready.

GG

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Dear GG,

If your son was 18 years old, he would still not be ready to take on the responsibility of the dog.  If you get one, get it because you want him to have a dog, and just know that YOU will be the dog walker and dog feeder.  If you don’t want to be the one taking care of it, then don’t get a dog.

If you have a question you’d like to ask Micah, please email it to MicahCargo@hotmail.com. Your question may be used in a future online or printed article in B-Metro.

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