Sunday, August 5, 2012

In Polite Society Today, We're All Idiots

Now look.  Through the seventies through the early nineties, disabled activists were great.  We gained access to jobs we never had before, buildings that some had never been able to enter, and guaranteed equality under the law.  The only jobs that are almost fully inaccessible today are jobs in the military, but that is partially because weapons technology hasn't advanced to our ability to handle it.  Since any member of the military may theoretically end up on the front lines (think supply lines and Iraq), this is understandable.  With more advanced technology, we may even someday be able to access these jobs and become soldiers.

But everyone, disabled or not, is an idiot.  The battle today is over insulting terms and that battle is so (ahem) retarded.

The fact is that I am lame.  I'm not a cripple because I can use my legs, but I am lame because I limp just as a horse may become lame.  People who cannot use their legs are crippled.  People who are slow witted may be retarded.

Yes, I know these terms are considered insults today.  They are not uttered in polite society.  Occasionally, there are even campaigns against using such insults.  Polite society refers to people as "disabled" or "handicapped" if they have to say anything.  There are even campaigns against the word DISABLED!

It's all so pointless.  A century ago, on the IQ scale, people who we would consider today "retarded" were referred to as idiots.  This term was finally used too often as an insult, and so they began referring to the same people with a term derived from Latin, "retarded."  Now this term is considered an insult and folks are trying to figure out what to replace it with that's less insulting.

Has anyone realized a simple fact: that whatever the PC world decides to replace "retarded" or "disabled" with, it will eventually be used as an insult as well?  It's just a matter of time.  Everyone today has forgotten what "idiot" and "lame" actually mean.  If we replace "retarded" or "disabled" with something else, its meaning  will eventually fade as well and the NEXT word will be used as an insult!

Yes, I realize that these words today can be insulting.  I don't like having "You cripple!" shouted at me any more than anyone else.  I don't like being called "retarded" when I do something stupid.  And I realize that siblings don't like their brothers and sisters called that either.  I've had to restrain people from beating up someone when they insult me in such a manner when they're drunk in a bar.

Insults, however, are just insults.  Nothing more.  So why should we care what specific insult they are?  I almost wish we still used the term "Idiot," "Cripple," or "Lame," in its precise form, because A) We wouldn't have to keep on making new names (that at some point just seem stupid vague commentary), B) We wouldn't have to take up new words of ridicule and C) Folks wouldn't be so uncomfortable talking about it!

Now look.  I'm not an "I'm lame and I'm here!" kinda guy.  I think that mentality is wrong-sighted.  I really couldn't care less if the folks on the street ask me about my condition or not.  9/10 times a guy asks me on the street about it, they want to praise me or pray for me and I tell them it's none of their business.  I don't care to flaunt my disability.  In point of fact, I want to hide it.  Why?  Because if I accept everything that accident has done to me, I would have been in a wheelchair long since.  Besides, I wouldn't be playing the guitar decently or throwing a Frisbee excellently.  It is only because I haven't accepted the limits my disability has placed on me that I'm the kind of guy I am today.

I still limp and I have a stunted right arm, however.  I might fix the limp and I might manage to use my right arm better.  That does not stop the fact that many people try to AVOID talking to me about it and occasionally try to avoid me altogether.  Life would be so much more comfortable if they realized "Oh, this guy's lame" and THEN decided whether they wanted to avoid me or the issue.  Lame is specific.  Disabled is not.  Later on, after they talked to me, they could decide whether I am the most awesome man in the world (I am) or a detestable being.

Any word can be an insult.  I can call someone "intelligent" and mean it in an insulting manner.  People can call someone such a great cripple and mean it as a compliment.  I'm sure a century ago, people did.  I've certainly read some of the more insulting words I know today in Shakespeare used as compliments.  Caliban was such a "great monster" back in Trinculo's day.

Insults are just insults.  Terms are just terms.  So I end the way I started:

Folks are such idiots.

End Rant