I’m A Flerble Girble
This passed week was a very good one. Dave was up from Ohio and we saw an excellent Phillies game, and then on Sunday we saw Testament, Megadeth, and SLAYER. Definitely a good week. Also wedged in there was the wonderful and beautiful commitment of a relationship with a girl. A very special girl. I have this awkward feeling that I think most of you like to call happiness. This is a terribly new thing to me, but don’t worry; my blogs will still be delightfully angry. And I’ll say poop a lot. And this is the two hundred and fiftieth article I’ve written for you guys, so let’s celebrate by talking about something different. Also, grilled cheese sandwiches are delicious.
We’re going to do something different today. Mainly because I forgot to take my Prozac and I’m a little crazy and disjointed. Also, chicken butt. Let’s start by my telling you that as a writer, I am odd. Looking. But also odd in terms of how I look at the power of words. I don’t believe words have any meaning until the reader or listener applies meaning to them. They are just awkwardly organized marks on a page or computer screen, or even specifically designed affectations of air to make noises to which we have applied denotation. With that said, I don’t often get offended. When a little boy sitting on his mother’s lap at the bookstore points at me and says, “What’s that thing in his nose,” I laugh. When he says, “He’s scary,” I laugh. When he says, “He’s weird,” I laugh. All of that just happened, by the way. We hear the word ‘freak’ quite a bit, don’t we. We hear words that are meant to sinisterly apply a preconceived opinion onto our aesthetic sensibilities. Do these things bother us? They don’t bother me, mainly because I have bigger things to worry about than what some stranger thinks about my mods.
What am I getting at here? This is where this becomes un mod related; just a heads up. If that upsets you, read this sentence: The word penis comes from the Latin root for tail. That’s entertaining, isn’t it? Recently in my home state of New Jersey (or Dirty Jerz), legislation removed the word ‘retarded’ from the text of laws and regulations. Before this passed, the phrases “mentally retarded,” “feeble-minded,” and the shortened “MR” were written in the language of applicable laws. Since the legislation, the terms have been changed to “intellectual disability,” and “developmental disability” in an attempt to center language around a ‘person first’ connotation.
The R-word is an entry into our recent lexicon thanks to celebrity movements and fundraisers. If I were a real asshole (which I think I am), I’d remind everyone that using a first letter to represent a word that may be off color or profane is only passing the responsibility to the listener or reader to insert the word. When I say, “He told me to go F myself!” you immediately replace F with fuck. So how is that better than actually saying it?
Back to the point. My first question is this. Have any of you actually read the New Jersey laws in reference to retarded people? Likely not. So this change in verbiage affects you, how? From my point of view, which has a tendency to be prickardly, the only thing the language change does is make those who are not subject to the language feel better that the language isn’t used. Are mentally retarded people really that concerned with what people not like them are calling them? Are you that concerned with what people not like you are calling you? How does that affect your day to day routine?
Maybe I’m trivializing. I understand that words can hurt people. I’m not that stupid. I also understand that those words can only have the gravity you give them. Are those words Mercury or Saturn? That is up to you. I also believe that intent is critical. The words in the laws as they were drafted before this legislation were there solely to denote the people to whom the laws apply. They weren’t written to hurt or belittle. Example. I am crippled. I know that, you know that; anyone who sees me know that. But there’s a vast difference between a stranger saying, “The crippled guy was wearing a SLAYER shirt,” compared to, “What are you looking at, cripple?” Connotation that manipulates the denotation.
This makes me appear as if I don’t have compassion. I do have compassion. Just not a lot of it. I am sensitive to the needs of others, but I am also sensitive to the needlessness of being concerned with what other people are calling you. This new idea of ‘person first’ denotation is absurd to me. It’s semantic. It says that the phrase ‘disabled person’ is wrong but ‘person with a disability’ is correct. To me, the order of the words is meaningless, but the words themselves are what ought to be the focus. The word disabled doesn’t bother me because it clearly explains what makes me unique as compared to the majority. Disabled. Not able. That is a very succinct and appropriate word. Why complicate it with extra words just so that people can feel better about themselves. Own what you are. The same with the retarded word. At some point in our study of the brain and how it works, we decided that it is much easier to understand within the concepts of fast or slow. Those of mental capacity within the center of the bell curve are the standard. Those who are within the lower end of that scale are therefore compared to the center. Why? Because that’s how we understand things. That’s how we can firmly grasp what the data is trying to tell us. People on the lower end of that curve are retarded. Why? Because retard means ‘to slow,’ and retarded means ‘something that has been slowed.’ Doesn’t this accurately describe the data? Why complicate it? Because the mother of a retarded person gets offended. What word will the mother of a retarded person in the year 4500 think is inappropriate?
Now before any of you post a comment that outlines how you’re related to a retarded person or work with retarded people, think about how much gravity you are giving to a word. How much weight and mass are you applying to something whose changing does nothing for the care of the people to whom the word applies. Isn’t that the goal? Whichever word we’re talking about. Crippled, retarded, nigger, dyke, queer, dego, mick, polack; whatever word it is. These words are offensive to some people, but changing them in the text of the law does nothing to serve the needs of these people. If I wake up and tomorrow the word handicapped has been changed to flerble girble, how does that serve me as a ferble girble? How does that affect the care I receive at hospitals and services that are targeted at ferble girbles? Am I still a ferble girble? Absolutely. I’ll always be one regardless of what people who aren’t flerble girbles call me. Maybe we ought to spend more attention on getting people the proper services and care that they need rather than wasting our time tripping over words when we are trying to describe something. I would much rather continue to use the word retarded and have retarded people garner more government money, services, and care than to watch my lexicographically sensitive state spend millions of dollars that they don’t have in order to change every instance of a word in documents that no one reads anyway. Stay beautiful, kids. Or maybe I should say stay beautiful, freaks.
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