Blog Post for Thursday 3/24/11 – 27 degrees – just a light nuisance dusting of snow.

School work Thursday

So the assignment is to write an editorial making an assertion about the issue of ending the use of the R-word (Retard) as a slur.
ED NOTE: I do not endorse the position taken.

A campaign to make the word ‘retard’ unacceptable when used as a slur has recently drawn media exposure. Web sites to support this cause are on-line, editorials have been written and celebrity spokes-people have been enlisted.

Here are the questions that must be considered when words, books or ideas are called into debate.

Where do we draw the line? How many words will be banned because they are considered offensive?

When is it OK to use a word considered offensive by some and not by others?

Why is it that if you are a member of a group characterized by a term, it seems it’s ok to use that word with other members of the same group?

Questions that all need that need answers.

We all have heard rap songs that are filled with the “N-word.” Often we have heard dialogue in movies with the same references. But call a person of color the n-word as a white person and see what happens.

Gays call each other “faggots” in company of other gays. Don’t try this as a hetero.

The web site Walking Is Overrated asks the question: Is the word ‘retard’ up there with ‘n-word’?

Comments from readers were solicited and drew this interesting one:

“As a guy with CP who was constantly being called a spaz by the other kids at school, while I think…Its okay for a black guy to call another black guy n-word, a spaz like me to use when referring to myself and (even if they want) people with a learning disability to refer to each other as retards.

If my friends with a disability call me a spaz, its often an expression of affection, common identity, dare I say? Brotherhood?

Anybody else says it, I’ll smack ’em in the mouth!”

So it seems to be context that makes the words unacceptable, or is it perhaps intent? If you tell someone “you are acting retarded” with an edge in voice that is wrong. But if we say “I’m in love with a retard” that softens it. The problem is that it is very hard, if not impossible to discern a person’s intent.

When usage is so pervasive we wonder if it can be stopped.

Jennifer Aniston used the r-word on live TV; on “Live with Regis and Kelly” while discussing a photo shoot. “You’re playing dress up!” Regis told her. Her response? “Yes, I play dress up! I do it for a living, like a retard!”

Last August, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “showed up at a weekly strategy session featuring liberal groups and White House aides,” according to the “Wall Street Journal’s” Peter Wallsten. “Some attendees said they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama’s health-care overhaul.’F—ing retarded,’ Mr. Emanuel scolded the group,” according to Wallsten.
Warren Buffet, 80, began his first visit to India by saying he felt a “little bit of a retard to have come to India so late.”

Of course the big moment that no doubt precipitated the movement:

In an appearance on the “Jay Leno Show” President Obama talked about how he’s gotten better at bowling and has been practicing in the White House bowling alley.
He bowled a 129, the president said.
“That’s very good, Mr. President,” Leno said sarcastically.
It’s “like the Special Olympics or something,” the president said.
When asked about the remark, the White House said the president did not intend to offend.

While intent is tough to discern, these utterances by intelligent, well known people were probably not meant to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Eliminating words from language is tough sledding. Recently a publisher released a revised edition of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” with the n-word and “injun” changed. The new edition’s Alabama-based publisher, NewSouth books, has been roundly castigated for the move.

In an on-line search for “retard/dictionary” no entry from any source eliminated a definition for retard like this one (from Merriam-Webster):
2. Often offensive: a retarded person; also: a person held to resemble a retarded person in behavior.
It’s always noted as offensive. But then so are the entries for Wop, wog, wetback and whitey, just to list slurs beginning with “w” from the wikipedia: List of ethnic slurs which has more than 18 pages and nearly 7,000 words devoted to these terms.

It’s fairly certain that all those terms can be considered offensive by some. It would be a lot of work to start campaigns for all them.

It is, admittedly, a tough issue. This is a group (the mentally disabled) that has very little pull or power to help their cause. It is, however, also possible that the group in question doesn’t care.

In a scene from the motion picture “Crazy People” (1990- Dudley Moore, Daryl Hannah) a group of mentally disabled are enlisted by an ad executive (Moore as Emory Leeson) to create campaigns. This dialogue ensues:

Kathy: “Who here wants to be an ad-man?”
[several hands go up]
Emory Leeson: “Who here wants to be a fire engine?”
[everyone raises their hands, with several standing and commenting things like “Ooh, I do!” and “Me! Pick me!”]

We see the campaign to change word usage in this case as yelling “theater” in a crowded fire. In the end it probably won’t make any difference.


The Rant D’Jour is rant pulled from the pages of the paper.
Muhamed Noor Che Musa has gotten married. He’s 33 and it’s his marriage and I am sure he is like every new husband in this world. Full of happiness and a little anxiety


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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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