How do you spell hypocrisy?
hy·poc·ri·sy (h-pkr-s) n. pl. hy·poc·ri·sies
1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
2. An act or instance of such falseness.
I hate the word “retarded”. I hate it when I hear it in a schoolyard, I hate it in the pub, and I hate it in the office.
I know. I know. Calling this column the Angry Cripple and hating the word retarded appears somewhat hypocritical, so I’d like to explain.
I got an email from a Mum asking me to write about the word. She has a little boy with Down syndrome who goes to his local school, and attends a regular mainstream class. This is, according to his Mum, a good option for him – he’s not an unpopular kid.
After school one day, as his mother pulled into the driveway, and this kiddo exclaimed from the back seat “Mum, I got a new name!”. The Mum asked what that might be, and little Ben, with his head held proud, stated “I am The Retard”.
The Mum promptly bought a huge new flat screen TV and spent the next month hibernating and eating chocolate.
So, how can I attempt to get away with using the word “cripple” in the column title, but decry the use of the word “retard”?
Most people think they are intelligent. A quick glance at RSVP, Oasis or any dating site should prove this point - but not all that many consider themselves gifted in athletic pursuits.
Saying that someone is crippled, while not pleasant, does not destroy the soul like hearing “you are retarded”, though obviously dear Ben was not yet aware of the nasty games the grade 6s were playing.
We “intelligent” folk place more value on our intelligence, our ability to communicate, think and reason than probably any other trait. There are plenty of animals who would eat us alive (forgive me) in a speed, strength or endurance competition.
We are simply not, physically, the superior species. In fact, if we weren’t so intelligent, we would have become extinct centuries ago (please do not let this devolve into a carbon tax debate, please).
And while some people with physical disabilities have taken ownership of the word “crippled” to depower it, much like black people in the USA now own the n word, I don’t see too many people with intellectual disabilities running around high fiving each other yelling, “Hey Tard, wassup!”.
I’ve only found one exception in this series of, hate to admit it, pretty funny videos. I have been assured by email with the actor that he very much owns and is proud of the moniker (as well as the income it brings), but I suspect he is alone.
The difference is that intellectual disability, by its very nature, means that many with more severe forms will never understand the concept of owning the term, but will almost certainly feel wounded by its use.
When we use the terms deaf, blind or crippled in our everyday language, we aren’t really running down, devaluing or dehumanising people who have vision, hearing or mobility impairments, though it’s clearly not politically “correct”.
When we say “You’re effing retarded”, however, we mean that person to feel the lowest of the low. That they are useless. Worthless in our society. And that’s the bottom, shameful, line.
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