Issues, issues, issues… okay, let’s talk.

Is politically correct language universal? No, but that doesn’t excuse being hurtful. I can’t figure out if I’m just being stubborn or if I have a point when I say: Human rights and humor are both more important than your knee-jerk sensitivities.

I find Americans PC in the most bizarre of ways. They are huge on lip service (by which I don’t mean then men also give oral, although it was one of the first things I was offered by an American – over the phone, in a motel).

They seem obsessed with using the most PC of terms. Terms which they consider universally PC, even though they actually aren’t. Like African American. Which isn’t PC in South Africa obviously. Even African isn’t, because that excludes white Africans. And Africans who call themselves “coloured” or “indian.”

Words may not be just words, but statues are often just statues. This mini ms. liberty found down an alleyway when looking for a shady place for lunch with a New Yorker friend of mine.

Words are just words… or are they? I got into an arguement (and they’re all nasty, so let’s ditch the pretense) with a couple of people who are part of a campaign against the use of the word “retarded”. Ever. In any context. I feel it’s fine to call someone who has no diminished mental capacity / differences “retarded” when they are deliberately or lazily being stupid. I feel it’s okay to refer to the use of the word “natural” to refer to cage raised chicken as “retarded”. I feel it’s okay to say “that’s so gay” when referring to hazing rituals – or merchant ivory movies.

But while I was quite rudely dismissive of the people who jumped on my blog post about sewer videos and halloween columns with their two-minute noodles, microwave-ready slogan, “Spread the word to end the word, your use of the R word is offensive and disappointing”, the whole thing reminded me that I have my own sensitivities.

For instance, I wouldn’t be okay with anyone referring to cage-raised chicken as “so nigger”. Even if they said it had nothing to do with black people. And I can’t even bear to write down the word “kaffir” most of the time, even though I occasionally see certain limes labeled that way here.

So am I being retarded to over-react to the finger wagging of a few poster? After all, I live in America, where words are more important, apparently, than health care, geography, or the right to marry who you please in any state. Or… does that fact that I am genuinely trying to be funny – not writing an essay for school and referring to racist South Africans when I used the word “retarded” – give me any latitude here?

Willing to talk, and listen on this issue.

PS. Here’s my latest masterpiece. Har har…

American Dream from Jean Barker on Vimeo.

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2 Responses to “Issues, issues, issues… okay, let’s talk.”

  1. Angela Says:

    I appreciate that you are taking the time to consider both sides of this!

    As the mother of someone with Down syndrome, I shudder every time I hear that word – even when used jokingly or referring to something random. My son was called “retard” by bullies at school, and when he hears that word now as an adult – in reference to anything – he feels hurt and degraded. I feel the same way. I feel you on the whole “being too PC” thing, but I figure that if this word sincerely hurts someone, how hard is it for us to find any other word to use? There are times when people’s feelings should come first.

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