Pop Culture, Princess, Rants, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

Sticks and Stones…Why words can hurt us

There are a lot of things I don’t understand, like people’s love of scotch (it tastes like cleaning oil), physics, and the public fascination with US uber-conservative and lawyer, Ann Coulter. This woman is a nasty piece of work. I can only imagine that she must have suffered some terrible pain in her lifetime that has made her dead inside to the feelings of others. Recently , Ms. Coulter tweated that she approved of Governor Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the “retard” during the third presidential debate. Seriously?!

Despite on-line condemnation from everyone everywhere, including Special Olympian John Franklin Stephens, Ms. Coulter defended her choice of words a week later on the Piers Morgan show. She said she wasn’t insulting people with mental challenges; she was insulting the president. She said she chose the word “because it’s a synonym for ‘loser.’” Seriously…again?! That doesn’t make it better!!!

But she’s right. The term ‘retard’ is most often used as an insult and it’s used because it implies that the person being insulted is not smart and a loser. But the part that Ms. Coulter seems to have missed is that’s why it’s not used by polite, caring society anymore. That’s why newscasters and reporters are referring to it as the ‘r-word’; because, it dehumanizes people with mental disabilities, therefore making it OK to abuse them.

And that’s the problem with words – they can be used to dehumanize others so that we can abuse them without any fear of guilt. On a global scale, it’s what the Nazis did when they rounded up the Jews. They dehumanized them making it OK for their soldiers to torture and kill them. On a smaller scale, this is also what happens with bullying. Call a girl a “slut” and it’s a lot easier to make fun of her and victimize her. Call a boy a “gay loser” and it’s a lot easier to beat him up and say hateful things about him. These people become “things” and not human beings anymore.

This thinking goes beyond hatred and moves into contempt. It means that you consider someone worthless or inferior to you. Once you don’t care about something, you are free to be as cruel as you want without fear of guilt, empathy, compassion or sympathy. In her book, Just because it’s not wrong, doesn’t make it right, Barbara Coloroso quotes Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire on how the world was able to ignore the genocide in Rwanda. He said that with silent indifference, the international community endorsed, “the ethical and moral mistake of ranking some humans as more human as others.”

So, Ms. Coulter, when you use the ‘r-word’ and say that you only did so because, in your mind, it’s a synonym for loser, I believe you. But if your end goal was to dehumanize the president so that we would all join you in your campaign of contempt, I think you missed the boat there. The only person dehumanized by this exchange was you.

The only conclusion I can reach is that we are in desperate need of a transfusion of humanity. If we believe that all humans are human, then how are we going to prove it? We can only prove it through our actions. Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda.

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