Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I bet you thought I fell and broke my hip or something. Cuz I'm an old.

Well, this is something that I clearly shouldn’t mention, now or in the future; in print, online, or in a small voice in a crowded bar to my parole officer; in a box, with a fox, in a house, or even with a mouse. It is the purview of the media to address issues such as this, issues that were, back in my day, not-discussed and discussed-around in college classrooms that I may or may not have been sleeping in.

The issue, of course, is that kind of lazy, centralized hatred termed racism or homophobia or anti-Semitism, depending on which group has chosen you as your own particular hatred-totem. I’m thinking of this now, as yesterday I had the opportunity (opportunity? Nay, gift! … I have no television of my own, you see) to watch Paula Zahn beat her gums pointlessly over whether We As a Society should stop using the En Word and the Eff Word (and by this I mean—to steal a term from a blogger I read and love—Gentlemen Who Can’t Catch, not that other Eff Word, which apparently is fine with Ms. Zahn) and possibly other words that I didn’t see discussed, having by that point in the show been driven out of the bar by a fellow who had applied his cologne that morning with a hose and a bucket.

Just in case there was any confusion, I am conservative in some matters.

The main issues being discussed in Ms. Zahn’s report were (1) a small town in the ______-ern United States (Texas? Oklahoma? Illinois? Maine? I have no idea) whose mayor had tried to proscribe use of the En Word, and (2) the Grey’s Anatomy scandal involving Isaiah Washington, T.R. Knight, and the Eff Word. In both cases, we have, in the one corner, a word that has historically been used to insult people we don’t like; and in the other, that group of people who have been hurt (probably) by use of said word at some point during their lives, who may or may not want to reclaim that word for their own personal use, in order to kind of rid it of the power it once held over them. And then, in the stands, that group of howling, wide-eyed idiots that one usually finds in the stands, clamoring for their god-given right to use the word in any way they see fit. After all, we’re Americans, goddammit, and what are our boys doing over there fighting in Iraq if not to preserve our freedoms over here, including the right to say the En Word and the Eff Word, and even, perhaps, the Cee Word and the Other Cee Word and an Ess Word or two if we feel like it.

This is, apparently, what’s happening in Nowheresville, U.S.A., where the ban was roundly defeated in an embarrassing rally to protect free speech of the worst kind. Honestly, I just don’t get it. I like words—don’t get me wrong. If someone told me that I was no longer allowed to use the word spoon or moon or June or, oh, I don’t know, douchebag, I would be angry. Douchebag is such an appropriate word these days. I find it rolling off the tongue several times daily. But the En Word, in particular, is something that I really have never wanted to use, and certainly have never felt that I have the right to. It’s as though it’s someone else’s unattractive husband: he’s not available for me to sleep with, and anyway, I don’t want to. I feel that there’s something else to be said here—some greater, more persuasive argument to be made to the good citizens of Nowheresville that would make them understand how unreasonable they’re being. But no. Isn’t this enough?

It’s hurtful.
You don’t get to say it.
You shouldn’t want to say it.
There are many other words that you can say, most of which you probably haven’t heard of.

Which kind of leads into my next point, which is that, except for what I certainly hope is a small, exclusive crowd of out-and-out hatemongers, skinheads, and (let’s face it) my grandma, most people who insult others by using racial slurs and the like don’t really hate the person they’re insulting because of his race, religion, or sexual identity. Isaiah Washington—who has graciously offered up himself as the example of What Not To Do—called T.R. Knight the Eff Word, but—I believe, anyway, being the astute observer of human nature that I am—really found him offensive because he’s (having seen the show a few times, I assume) an annoying, gape-mouthed whiner. Or something. Point is, unless you’re one of those people who simply writes off large sections of humanity because one of their defining external characteristics is unacceptable to you, it’s just really lazy to insult someone with this kind of language. Frankly, it’s the kind of thinking that one would expect from a Finn, and I think we can all agree that that’s just not cool.

In the name of full disclosure, I should admit that I do have my own prejudices, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

Libertarians, people who hold degrees in psychology or political science, Ayn Rand fans, Mormons, Republicans, people who own “art” by Thomas Kinkade or Anne Geddes, Scientologist, the Dutch, olds, SCA members, the lactose-intolerant, bloggers, Texans, FIBs, Wisconsinites, mortgage brokers, skins, shicks, pullies, kelpos, pipmos, roncos, shags, wags, jobbers, ferret-owners, people who wear too much cologne (duh), people with extraordinarily large teeth, those who sport suspiciously small teeth, orange-colored folk, text-messagers, magicians, Scorpios, gin-drinkers, politicians, and—let’s see. I’m forgetting a few. Oh yeah: Women, men, etc.

The strange thing is, once you get to know them on an individual basis, they’re not all bad people, really. Surely most of them are—I mean, stereotypes gotta come from somewhere, right?—but surprisingly, some of them are actually almost like normal people. And the best part is, now that you’ve taken the time to get to know that corn-toothed Mitch Albom fan from Amsterdam, you’ve got a lot more ammunition when it’s time to hurl cutting (and creative!) insults at her.


Mr. Middlebrow said...

A guy I know has the same first name as the Shaun Cassidy character in LNP. Which, for weeks, months maybe, after the show aired, resulted in him being known throughout the halls of his junior high as "Waaah-juh!"

When it's a Monty Python reference:
cool cachet.

When it's from a TV movie about 'tards:
sucks ass.

rich bachelor said...

And I'll apologize to The Finns for you, woman.