I don’t remember where, but I read recently that a town (here in Texas IIRC) is considering outlawing use of the “n word.” That would be ‘nigger’ for those not familiar with the delicate vernacular of the overly sensitive and politically correct.
I also saw one of the stars of a popular television program is in counseling for his use of the word ‘faggot’ in reference to a gay costar.
And I could go on.
The point is this: They’re just words. Those who wield them like clubs in an attempt to bludgeon others really demonstrate no power in doing so. In fact, such actions clarify the speaker’s ineloquent, uneducated, hateful mentality, not to mention their inability to communicate feelings without reverting to primitive vulgarity and words best left to simpletons.
So why is there such a hubbub when it comes to saying or hearing these words?
It’s because people love to play the victim. You know… Like “Oh my gosh golly darn! You’ve offended me by speaking a word. Sure, it’s a legitimate word and it’s in the dictionary, but using it should be a crime, and now my feelings are hurt and I’m gonna tell on you!”
Words are words. In the right hands, they are magical expressions capable of painting landscapes both spectacular and compelling. In the wrongs hands, they’re clumsy implements for feeble minds. In neither case are they hurtful, damaging, or even powerful unless we allow them to be.
You see, that’s where their strength comes from. It’s not from the speaker or writer; it’s from the listener or reader. The true offense is on the receiving end.
That’s why it’s just silly to make such melodramatic hoopla out of simple words bandied about by simple minds.
I’m a gay man. If you want to call me a ‘faggot,’ knock yourself out. It’s not going to hurt me one bit. It’ll make you look foolish and heartless and cruel. For me, on the other hand, it’s just a word that has no potency lest I give it some. And I choose not to.
There is a litany of epithets like ‘fag’ and ‘faggot,’ ‘wetback,’ ‘Chink,’ ‘spic,’ ‘Jap,’ ‘honky,’ ‘bastard,’ ‘bitch,’ ‘nigger,’ ‘coon,’ ‘Ahab,’ ‘camel jockey,’ ‘Chigger,’ ‘wop,’ ‘wigger,’ ‘white trash,’ and so many more I’d be typing until tomorrow just to list them all. Is that stupid little town also going to outlaw those terms? Shouldn’t we read the entire dictionary to find every word that can carry a derogatory meaning so it too can be stricken from speech by ill-conceived laws written by public servants with way too much time on their hands?
And what of gestures? How ’bout the middle finger, or a brush under the chin, or a thumb pulled under the top front teeth? And what of the great many other physical movements that carry some negative connotation? Will we outlaw those as well, and will we take overly dramatic offense when we see them used by others?
Then there are the hurtful phrases. What do we do about “I hate you,” “Fuck off,” “You’re stupid,” and a laundry list of other linguistic compilations?
All of this is rather silly. The brouhaha stems entirely from those who wish to declare themselves victimized by every little ill-chosen term or gesticulation. It’s so silly. No, ‘silly’ is the wrong word. It’s so stupid.
Get over yourselves. Get over the pathetic, thin-skinned mentality that permeates modern discourse and interaction.
It is the observer that grants these things potency to harm. If we castigate them by not responding as though someone had shot us with a gun, they would mean less and less until everyone had forgotten that they once insulted prior generations.
Offense is in the eye of the beholder or ear of the listener. It is not in the hands of those who choose to utilize such primitive approaches to communication. Let a word be a word, not a weapon, and you’ll quickly see how meaningless they are—just like those who have employed them. Rob them of their petty thug-like vocabulary and they are left wanting for an audience to shock and hurt. It’s better to see them wagging their senseless tongues in futility than it is to keep giving them what they want.
Remember, these words harm only because we take offense by playing the victim. So stop it. As soon as we stop empowering the words to do harm, they’ll stop being used to do harm. But the more we take offense, the more they’ll be used for that purpose.