Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Is It Retarded Not To Use That Word?

I was recently reading a horrible story in The Journal News, my local paper in Westchester, about how a former teacher’s aide was denied tenure after blowing the whistle about a principal of a special education program who reportedly physically and verbally abused students.  The main takeaways from the piece should be: (a) bad principal (b) teacher’s aide was wronged (c) kids need better protection.  But what I also got from the article was that the English language is being hijacked by the PC police.

In describing how the principal allegedly berated and cursed at students, the article reported “and called one of them the R-word.”  The R-word?  I had to read it three times to realize the paper wouldn’t publish the word retard.  Now, that’s retarded!

We already have the N-word and the F-word, and C-word and A-word.  Now we have the R-word?  Soon we’ll run out of letters to identify every single word someone has a problem with.  Look, words like fag, Chink, niggar, asshole, fuck, cunt and others are not nice at all.  They attack us in a jarring way.  But to deny their existence is to alter the reality of the world.  Terms that offend us need to be said when describing what was said.  To sidestep the words and mask them is to offend those who deeply revere our language.

There are many debates on this but I think it’s clear that we must defend the words we use, even when it hurts to listen.

The true crime is that a trusted principal called one of her intellectually challenged students a retard.  We are not to be shamed or to feel at fault for reporting it.  The principal is the villain here, not the word itself.  Let’s not bastardize our language.

I do understand that in certain settings, certain words don’t get used.  For instance, when kids are in the room, no one should say fuck.  Same goes for being in church or a government office.  But, to substitute it and make reference to “F-word” is just as inappropriate.  Maybe worse, because as you seek to camouflage it, you heighten it and shine a spotlight on it.

As an ardent defender of free speech, I especially don’t want to see words changed or dressed up.  Our language serves a very important function in society, even in an ugly situation, we must speak the same words.  No one wants to hear sexist, racist, hate-filled diatribes, and such exchanges should be avoided, but when they happen and the media reports on them, just say the words, unfiltered, without apology.  It’s not our fault.  We are not the ones who called another a nasty name.

Can you imagine if it goes beyond a handful of typically censored words such as dick, tit, Kike, and the like, and spreads to other words?  Or maybe it expands to cover not words, but ideologies and viewpoints?  Eventually, we’ll scrub away every thought, event, and person that doesn’t meet some kind of conventional standard.

No one wants to champion the use of bad words or to degrade society to only speak in vulgar terms, but as journalists and authors, and as witnesses to the world we live in, please don’t hesitate to use the very word that is fundamental to the telling of a story.  No dashes, no bleeps, no substituting of words.  Let the harsh reality of the words that offend us be exposed for what they are. I certainly am not saying we should all use hurtful language. No, we should avoid such things from the beginning, but when such words are used, we should feel obligated to acknowledge them.

Am I wrong?  Am I insensitive?  Am I being rude?  No, I am protecting our language and exposing the truth of the matter.  If you don’t like it, I won’t tell you to go f—k yourself because not only would it be rude to use the actual word, it would be a gross violation of our language to not spell it out.  So I will leave you with this; See words as facts.  Report them as they are and the truth will come out.  But the minute you try to reshape the truth, we all live a bit of a lie.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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