I had a bit of an epiphany the other day—when I realized that I was guilty of being a total retard insensitive creep.
Forget the sailors, I curse with the vigor and frequency of a godless pirate. I try to minimize it as much as possible and have incorporated many useful stand-ins to my language thanks to the cleverness of scifi shows I love. Frak, Frick, Frell…all those satisfying F’s and hard k sounds that are just so satisfying to an angry tongue. I’ve been known to use sexual organs as expletive remarks as well—usually modified to make them grotesque rather than anatomical. Fuck Cock Balls was a refrain I used pretty heavily at one point, much to my mother’s dismay. I’m far from angelic when it comes to how I choose to express my frustration.
Even so I always refrained from using racial slurs or references to homosexuality as part of my salty repertoire. For my generation avoiding some of the more notorious and long-standing racial slurs has been taught from birth. We know better than to use Huck Finn language, the terms our grandparents will still use to our horror, but I was always frustrated by the acceptance of terms like “Gay” and “Fag” as a young child. I would lecture my peers, practically handing out S.P.E.W. badges in my more righteous moments, and even refused to associate with kids who didn’t understand why it was wrong.
This is why, when I finally had a moment where it clicked, I was both elevated and horrified by my understanding that the word retard needs to be evicted from my vocabulary.
This issue is hardly new and trendy—I’m late to the party. When I first became aware of the seeming embargo on the word “retard” I will admit I thought it was ridiculous. After all the literal meaning of the term is “Delay or hold back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment.” After all a delay in say an insurance certificate could be said to retard the progression of your study start up. That’s a valid use of the dictionary definition of the term. The problem is that we don’t use this word in that manner 99% of the time. Most of the time we use the word retard to describe people who are developmentally disabled. Again at the inception of the use, it was a simple medical term. You can’t go around not-defining people purely because the medical condition you are defining is debilitating can you? No so I dismissed the concept of being insulted by this word as oversensitive poppycock.
Then one day I went to describe someone as a retard and I stopped myself. I realized that what I was about to do was equate someone born with a genuine mental disability to someone who was getting on my nerves for being willfully ignorant. A much better descriptor by the way and one that I find myself using a lot now. Willfully ignorant. But that got me to thinking…the reason I objected so strongly in my youth to the term “gay” was that it had been commandeered by our culture to be a word that meant inferior, stupid and unworthy. Hadn’t we done the same thing to retard? True or false: we primarily use this term, which describes a medical minority, to also mean lame, stupid, ineffective, uncool and not worth our time? So I was okay making the same kind of analogy that I so strongly objected to with regards to homosexuals for another group who similar to my gay friends, were just born different than me? When I used “retard” as an insult, I was in effect attempting to insult a person/thing by comparing it to mentally disabled people and in the process also insulting all of them as well. I was implying that being mentally disabled was wrong and using that to attack others. I was belittling people via association and insulting all parties in the process. I am disgusted with myself for taking so long to realize it. Call it an opening of the third eye if you will. Call it divine intervention. Call it inception. I don’t know what it was but I suddenly realized that my insistence upon using this word, after knowing it offended some people, was wrong.
I’m not about to stop cursing anytime soon. I find it too cathartic. Maybe I’ll have an epiphany about that sometime in the future. I can’t make any promises. I also am not going to stop thinking that shallow, lazy and willfully ignorant people are annoying. I simply cannot abide useless people. I will stop using the word retard in a manner that implies someone born with an intellectual disability is useless. There are those born disadvantaged and those who simply choose not to use the healthy brains they were given. When so many in the handicapped community work to overcome the obstacles they were given, not only was I being insulting but I was being inaccurate in using “retard” to describe someone who chooses to be lazy. The only thing I hate more than being an insensitive jerk is being a wrong, insensitive jerk. I was wrong to lower those with born mental disadvantages to be on the same level as creeps and lazy assholes. When I saw it from that perspective, I was appalled at myself.
I am genuinely and sincerely sorry it took me so long. I am also sorry for any slip-ups I may have in the future. I think part of the reason people resist this kind of change is because removing a word from our language is hard but not everything worth doing is ever easy, is it? With that in mind, how about an easy recipe to help with the hard journey to sweeten that salty tongue? Maybe a Salted Caramel Swirl Cheesecake would help?
It totally would.
Salty Sailor Caramel Cheesecake
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