Listen carefully. Listen very, very carefully. I am going to teach you two phrases that may someday save you from getting gored on the horns of a frankly irate buffalo. Are you ready? Here they are.
The first is “I disagree”.
The second is “I don’t like that”. For this one, you may also sub in “That is not my favorite” or “I would prefer something else”.
Got those? Feel free to jot ’em down, tattoo ’em on your forehead, or make little flashcards so you can study ’em until you’ve got ’em down pat. For practice, turn on the news and shout them at the tv–every time you see a politician saying something you think is malarkey, shout “I disagree!”. Every time you see an ad for something you wouldn’t take even if it was free, let alone be willing to spend money on, shout “I don’t like that!”.
And then realize that with these two magical phrases, you can stop calling things “stupid”, “retarded”, “ghetto”, or “gay”, and strike those words–and all their synonyms–from your slang vocabulary for the rest of your rarkin’-farkin’ life.
The recent Presidential election brought out the worst in a lot of people. I get that–we get very fired up about the things we believe in, and that’s arguably a pretty nifty feature of our society. We have the freedom to be passionate about our beliefs, and we have the freedom to speak openly about our beliefs, and that frankly rocks the casbah. And while most of the people in my own universe were pretty cool about things, even if they didn’t agree with the outcome, if you expand the sample set a bit you start finding outliers–folks like the “31 Worst People on the Planet” (warning: shocking language behind that link).
But there was one person in my feed who–on more than one occasion–referred to Obama’s supporters as “stupid”.
Now, I’ll certainly grant that in the grand scheme of things, “stupid” is probably not quite as astonishingly hateful as the words in the link above. But y’know, it still ticked me all the way off. Two days after this person’s first use of that word, I’m still all high-blood-pressure-y about it.
Because y’know what? That word serves no purpose except to insult. And here’s a fun tidbit you probably didn’t know about me, o thou word-slinger who is probably not reading this post: When I was younger, I was bullied with words. Like, every single day of my life. I got the physical bullying a little bit, but mostly it was words–and lemme tell ya, when middle schoolers set out to wound the psyche, they can get awfully creative about it. I had hateful slurs etched into my binder. There was a group of girls who whispered “bitch”, “fatso”, or “cow” (or sometimes just moo-ed) every time they passed me. I was once on a school bus where kids started up a contest to see who could devise the “funniest” joke about me; by the time we got to my stop, the front-runner was “She’s so fat, she can sing ‘We Are the World’ by herself!”. That’s right, kids, one of my classmates was using punchlines that would eventually turn into universally recognizable “Yo Mama” slurs to describe a 12-year-old. Nice, huh?
Meanwhile, the teachers all praised me for being smart–I tested into the Gifted program in kindergarten, was automatically placed in all the Honors classes, etc–so I figured out pretty quickly that if I couldn’t be “pretty” or “cool” (’cause we all know those titles are conferred by one’s peers), then I could at least be clever. That way the teachers, if nobody else, would respect me and occasionally give me some praise and validation.
Worked like a charm, by the way.
Now back to you, O Wordslinger: given that being clever was the only thing I had to cling to, to keep myself from going home and killing myself some evening because my self-esteem was being shredded every day by dozens of my peers, do you still want to use the word “stupid” to describe me? Do you really want to take away the only thing I had left? Really?
I didn’t think so.
So cut it out. Seriously. Right now.
I have given you two shiny alternatives. You don’t like it that President Obama got reelected; I get that. So you may say “I disagree”, or “I don’t like that”.
But you may not use insulting words to describe me or any of the people I love. The fact that the television censors don’t bleep out your word doesn’t make it any less hateful, because what makes a word hateful is the intention behind it, and your intention is crystal-clear: you want to degrade, you want to put down, you want to make me/us feel inferior to your “wisdom”.
And that, pardon my french, is some shit up with which I will not put.
Or to put it differently, “Your word choice offends me. I do not like it, and I disagree with what you are implying”.
Now go practice the alternatives. I’ll just be over here, sharpening my horns.