condescending twatbags, language, overly helpful people, social media

No, I’m not gonna get on the word “ban-wagon”…

In May of 2013, Bill and I were sitting at a train station in Venice, Italy. We were waiting to catch our ride to Florence on Italo, a then brand new private Italian train company. As we were waiting, we heard an announcement in Italian about a train that was significantly delayed. The pre-recorded announcement did not use the word “delay”. Instead, it included an Italian incarnation of the word “retard”, used as an adjective.

Bill turned to me and said, “Now you see… there’s an instance in which the word “retard” is used in a completely non-offensive way.”

I have never forgotten that conversation, especially as more and more “woke” types feel the need to outright ban certain words from the English language. I am all for avoiding deliberately insulting others, especially those who suffer from any kind of intellectual disabilities that are beyond their control.

However, as I realized when we were at the train station in Italy, words have many nuances, usages, and definitions. Some words are inherently offensive, and almost always used in a hurtful way. And sometimes, people deliberately take offense at the use of a “taboo” word when absolutely no harm is intended. That causes problems that could just as easily be avoided if the person would simply be more mature and stop being willfully ignorant.

It’s been many years since I last used the word “retard” in the taboo way, although I will admit that in the 1980s, it was a word that was flung around on playgrounds and school busses with the greatest of ease. It was also used in plenty of 70s and 80s era comedies, both on television and in the movies. I can think of two films off the top of my head– very popular movies that still remain popular today–in which characters use the word “retard” as an insult.

Today, those films would probably not be made with the word “retard” used as an insult, although I would not be surprised if some incarnation of the word “douche” was used in its place. Personally, I find the word “douche” offensive for several reasons, but I’m not campaigning to have it banned. In many cultures, the word “douche” just means “shower”, and is perfectly useful and non-offensive. So rather than trying to get the word “douche” banned, I simply avoid using it myself.

As a lover of language, I can’t quite bring myself to jump on the “ban-wagon” when it comes to any word, even the ones that can start riots. I never think of words as things that should ever be banned, even when they are deemed very “offensive”. Instead, I am more concerned about context and the attitude behind the use of language. And yes, that means that I think words that people routinely campaign to have struck from the language are sometimes acceptable to use in certain contexts. To avoid being offended, it’s up to people to grow up and not be deliberately obtuse. Otherwise, they’re doomed to stay butthurt.

This morning, someone shared the below post on Facebook. If I had already had my coffee, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and ignored it. But instead, I left a response. Basically, I wrote that the word “retard” is only a slur if it’s used as an insult. There are other ways to use it that are totally neutral.

I knew I might regret leaving that comment, but the friend who shared this is usually a very understanding person. I figured she’d get what I mean. Besides, while I understand people being aggravated by insulting, demeaning language, I am aggravated by people who presume to tell me what I can or cannot say or write.

I think people should be responsible for their own use of language; most of them don’t need the language police to remind them to be “politically correct”. Frankly, I’m fed up with people who use social media as a place for that kind of soap box activism, particularly when all they’ve done is shared someone else’s viral post. Facebook was originally supposed to be fun, wasn’t it?

No, thank you, I won’t be teaching anyone that the word “retard” is worse than the word “fuck”. That’s someone’s “absolutely ridiculous” opinion… at least in MY opinion. I still get to have one, right?

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before someone came along and tried to school me about how the word “retard” is never acceptable. This person wrote that it’s no longer used by professionals and it’s outdated, etcetera, etcetera.

My response– simply because I was feeling stubborn and my verbal restraint reflex was somewhat “retarded”– was that yes, in fact, sometimes the word “retard” is perfectly acceptable and unoffensive. That word has other meanings besides the insulting one. The word “retard”, when used as a verb, means “to slow or delay”. That was how it was used at the train station in Italy. No one got offended when it was used in that way. I can think of other ways the word “retard” can be used that shouldn’t cause offense to anyone.

The person who challenged me came back and posted that she’s got autism. Actually, I believe she wrote that she’s “autistic”, and has an “autistic” child. I was a little surprised that she put it that way, since I thought the emphasis was supposed to be on the person rather than the condition. Like– I thought it was more politically correct to say, “I have autism” rather than “I’m autistic.” But I am not in that world, so I don’t know, and I wouldn’t presume to tell someone who is in that world how they should refer to themselves.

Besides, I don’t think of autism as something inherently good or bad. My husband’s older daughter is supposedly on the spectrum, but we know she is a brilliant artist and she’s proven that there’s nothing wrong with her intellect. I don’t know if she’s sorry she has autism. She no longer speaks to Bill. But, based on what I know about her, she’s got plenty of things going for her besides the condition of autism.

I responded to my friend’s friend that I was sorry that people have used the word “retard” in an offensive way, and that she is offended by its use. But I am not going to be told that I can’t use a word that I know is perfectly acceptable in many situations, simply because some group says it’s “offensive”, in and of itself. That’s wrong.

The challenger then asked me to use the word “retard” in an unoffensive way. So I wrote something along the lines of, “I see no reason to retard the development of languages by banning specific words.”

She then wrote that my answer was “stupid”. There was more to her comment, but I quit reading, because she made it clear that respectful communication and education weren’t her goals. Instead, it appeared that she wanted to disparage my intellect by referring to my answer as “stupid”. That’s brilliant, isn’t it? I guess she didn’t see the irony. She’s lecturing me about not ever using the word “retard” because it’s disrespectful and hurtful, but then she uses the word “stupid” to describe my comment and, based on her perceived tone, my intellect.

I truly didn’t want to get into a pissing match with this person, since I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. If she did know me, she might be surprised by how “not stupid” I am, at least compared to the average person. Even if she did still think I’m stupid after meeting me, that would obviously be her uninformed and incorrect opinion.

I realized, however, that my time would probably be wasted trying to continue the conversation. As I didn’t want to get into a legitimate argument, I wrote “So now you are insulting me. That’s very nice. Have a good day.”

Normally, when a person writes “Have a good day.”, that means they’re done with the discussion and are politely trying to bow out. I figure that’s a more respectful way of leaving the conversation than telling them to “fuck off” is. But, as this person says she has autism, I guess she didn’t pick up on the social cue. She came back and wrote, “Feeling insulted, huh?” then continued with more insults…

I guess, if I were going to assign an emotion to how I felt about her response, it would be “annoyed” or maybe “puzzled”. It does seem strange to be preached at by a stranger about not offending people with intellectual disabilities by calling them “retarded” (which I never did), and then, in the next breath, having that same person refer to my comment as “stupid”.

If I had written that I thought her comment was “retarded”, what would her response be? Isn’t “stupid” just as offensive as “retarded”? At least the word “retard”, even when used an insulting way, indicates a medical condition that a person can’t help. Stupid just means a person or thing is dull-witted and unintelligent, whether or not they can help being that way. I can’t think of many ways the word “stupid” could be used that isn’t negative.

I wrote something akin to, “No, I’m not ‘feeling insulted’. You’re being hypocritical, and I have other things to do. So kindly enjoy your day, and I will continue to speak and write as I please.” I truly wasn’t “insulted” by her comment, because I would have to care about her opinion to be insulted by it. But I will admit to being annoyed by her comments and her erroneous presumptions about me. Especially, since I truly didn’t attempt to insult her.

Then she wrote some sarcastic remark about how I can keep “offending” people with special needs, but at that point, I used my block button. Because I do actually have better things to do with my time today than argue with a perfect stranger about my vocabulary. Hell, cleaning the lint out of my belly button would be a better use of my time than continuing that unproductive discussion with someone whose mind is currently closed. She obviously didn’t see my point, and wasn’t going to try to see it. Instead, she was hellbent on “winning” the argument, and doing so in a disrespectful, non-empathic way. Still, she failed to convince me, so I guess she can keep fighting the good fight with someone else.

Some people might point out that I probably “asked” for this unpleasant exchange. I would agree with them that it’s mostly pointless to point out these kinds of language discrepancies among friends. A person who would share an image like the one above probably has strong feelings about the subject matter, but hasn’t thought very long and hard about them, and is just looking for likes and loves, rather than actual commentary.

On the other hand, I do get annoyed when some busybody presumes to correct my language. I’m an adult, and fully responsible for what I say and do. If I say something egregiously obnoxious or offensive, it may be appropriate to call me out for that. But I don’t really need my friends to pre-emptively instruct me on the proper way to use language.

Moreover, I think my opinions matter as much as anyone else’s do. I’ve spent my life being told that my thoughts and feelings don’t matter, so I tend to be strong-willed and argumentative about these things, now that I am an adult. I realize it’s hard to be assertive about such things without still inadvertently offending people. Such is life.

I do get irritated when people try to tell me how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking. I think it’s disrespectful to try to read people’s minds, especially when they’re strangers. Maybe I would be happier if I just “let it go”, but I think that people who are able to do that often don’t think about much more other than what’s right in front of them.

Either that, or they’re like that Japanese monk Bill and I ran into a few years ago, who just radiated peace, serenity, and calmness. I have seen very few people like that in my lifetime. I would actually LOVE to be like that monk… although I realize I am ASSUMING he is actually as calm as he appeared. For all I know, he’s got a hot temper.

Perhaps today I will go out of my way to use the word “retard” in non-offensive ways. Of course, around here, most people speak German and don’t speak to me, anyway, so that effort might be lost on them. Also… when it comes to grammar policing, all bets are off.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, rants

It’s just… like… my opinion, man…

I was a bit irritable yesterday. It started as I cracked open my eyes for the first time and read a post in the Duggar Family News group. Someone had posted a screenshot from Jinger Vuolo’s Instagram page. It was from the church she and her husband, Jeremy, are now attending.

Someone’s comment was “How about everyone stay the F home, Jinger?”

Another commenter wrote:

why. This is a virus. We never shut down Before. For viruses. The flu has killed more. The cdc said they gave wrong numbers less then 1%have died. If your not ready stay home. Stop the control

Now… as most of us who have been watching the news know, COVID-19 is not like the flu. A whole lot of people have died of the coronavirus. It really is a scary thing. BUT… there are still people out there like the woman I quoted just above this paragraph who have a different perspective. I don’t agree with her, but I think she should be heard and not automatically and summarily dismissed, even though most everyone else disagrees with her opinion. The original commenter immediately piled on this woman with derision.

“Wow! You are grossly misinformed.”

When I see a comment like that in response to someone who dares to say something that goes against the grain, my hackles go up a little. I know what is to follow will not be productive. What followed was a lot of insults and sarcasm, and even some new “Facebook groups” made solely to insult the woman who said COVID-19 is not as bad as the flu. I think this is how we get people like Donald Trump in charge.

People who are “woke” and “know better” are shitty to people who don’t share their opinions. The people who feel shat upon become disenfranchised and insulted, and they lash out by voting in loudmouthed buffoons like Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, who promise to speak for them. And can you blame them? In the case of Trump, maybe… although time after time, Trump supporters have said they like him because he speaks like and for them (even if the reality is, he disdains regular folks). No one wants to be treated like they don’t matter. People don’t like it when you insinuate that they’re stupid. And besides, if you don’t listen to opinions that don’t match yours, how can you learn what the other side of an issue is?

I see one somewhat “nice” comment in this thread. The rest are mostly shitty, and the insults continued for a long time in posts I didn’t feel like copying.

For the record, I am with the people who say COVID-19 is much worse than the flu. However, I’m not a fan of the whole “gotcha” phenomenon surrounding most controversial topics these days, and the complete lack of civility people have when they disagree with each other, especially online. It’s no wonder we have a bunch of people who get so unhinged that they freak out. I’m not sure what these people were trying to do when they responded, but in my experience, insulting and being sarcastic to people doesn’t change their minds. It mostly makes them more entrenched in their beliefs. Yes, I agree that COVID-19 is deadly, but is it really necessary to be so shitty? Why not respond with a modicum of respect, at least at first? If they respond with snark and shittiness, then perhaps you can fire back in kind. But I advise only a little bit of return fire, because those kinds of arguments are truly a waste of time and convince no one of anything.

Awhile later, someone else shared this picture of Candace Cameron Bure, whose husband of 24 years was photographed caressing her boob.

Some Christians apparently lost their fucking minds over this…

Candace Cameron Bure said, “For all you Christians that are questioning my post with my husband’s hand on my boob, my husband of 24 years, thinking it was inappropriate, it makes me laugh because it’s my husband,” she said in a video on her Instagram stories. “We have so much fun together. He can touch me anytime he wants and I hope he does. This is what a healthy, good marriage and relationship is all about so I’m sorry if it offended you.”

“I’m actually not sorry,” she added, laughing.

CNN actually ran a story about this. I guess it was a slow news day.

A long thread then ensued, with many people writing about what a creep they think Candace Cameron Bure is. I read all kinds of comments from “triggered” people who wrote everything from claiming that Candace is an “attention whore” (hello– she’s an actress! It’s kind of her job!) to one person writing that s/he felt that Candace was putting down the choices of unmarried people. Like– she’s been married for 24 years, so it’s okay for her husband to grab her breast in a photo. But it’s not okay for people who aren’t married to grope each other in public. I sincerely doubt Candace woke up one morning and thought to herself, “What can I post online that will bait and trigger the non-Christians out there and make them feel badly about themselves?” However, some people thought that was what she meant to do and were venting about it.

Personally, as someone who is not all that invested in Candace Cameron Bure’s beliefs or even her acting career, I think it’s awesome that she addressed the Christians who were reaching for the smelling salts over her boob groping post. So I wrote this:

She is so much cooler than her brother is. (17 likes so far)

For that comment, I got a bunch of responses from women who felt the need to “correct” my opinion.

You can see my final response, which some people evidently thought was funny. I wrote:

All I said is that I think she is so much cooler than her brother is. It doesn’t mean I admire or emulate her. I mean, being way cooler than Kirk Cameron is a pretty low standard, isn’t it? Anyway, I don’t really care to argue about this. If you think she’s an abusive bigot or out of touch, that’s fine with me. We don’t have to agree.  

See you later. I’ve got to go frost my bush.  😉

Frosting one’s bush… that is a Carlinism. George Carlin had a routine about keeping people on their toes. He suggested going into a hair salon and asking the stylist to frost your bush. I think of it as sort of a more interesting way of saying, “I’ve gotta go wash my hair.” In other words, this is an unproductive conversation and I’m out of it.

At 8:20, he talks about having one’s pubic hair streaked… God, I miss George.

Interesting side note. When I was growing up, a lot of my contemporaries had crushes on Kirk Cameron, who was at that time starring on the ABC sitcom, Growing Pains. Yes, I also watched that show, but I much preferred Family Ties, and not just because I looked so much like Tina Yothers. And I never had a crush on Kirk. However, I never thought he would go from teen heartthrob to super evangelical Christian. I don’t agree with his beliefs, but as long as they don’t affect me personally, I don’t really care too much about them, either. It’s not like he’s friends or family. Same thing with his sister.

It irritates me when people feel the need to correct other people’s opinions. It’s one thing if a person is passing off harmful opinions as facts. I guess I don’t blame people for feeling compelled to address the woman in the first example I posted, although I think people who haven’t gotten the COVID-19 message by now are just going to have to find out for themselves.

I just wish those who feel the need to be corrective would do it in a more constructive way that leads to dialogue, rather than resorting to petty insults and blocking communication. I would rather see people trying to convince people in a positive way, rather than just being rude. While they probably won’t change minds either way, I do think that those who want to “correct” others would be more successful if they allowed for a meaningful conversation rather than angrily calling people out for not being with the program.

Ah, The Big Lebowski. I tried to watch this film twice and didn’t like it either time. But I do like this line.

In the second example, I simply wrote that I think Candace Cameron Bure is much cooler than her brother is. As far as I’m concerned, she really is. But I will admit, I don’t obsess over her career or her personal life, nor do I pay attention to her child rearing methods. I did read one of her books and I remember her as a child actress. I don’t watch her on TV anymore, but she does seem to be a lot more moderate than her brother is. As I explained, that doesn’t mean much, and it certainly doesn’t mean I need to be taken to school. It’s just my opinion, man.

I don’t enjoy getting into petty spats with people, especially online, and especially with strangers. I think they’re mostly a waste of time. Some readers who follow my personal Facebook page may recall the post from last year that I shared yesterday. It was about two American people who wanted to tell me about how life is in Germany, even though they’ve not been here. In revisiting that post, I realize that I did engage with one of those people for a lot longer than I should have. I left that exchange with her still insisting that her anecdotal evidence was superior to my actual, real life experience. But you can’t argue with people who just don’t get it and refuse to see it. And if it’s just their opinion, you’re probably facing a losing battle. It’s not the most productive way to spend a precious Saturday. You’re better off frosting your bush at the barber shop.

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