With the 2012 Presidential race at almost a dead heat and all the news organizations and social networking sites focusing on anything and everything race related, a comment deemed “offensive” will most certainly set the opinionists on either side of the aisle on fire. After the final debate on Monday, with the exception of the horses and bayonets comment, one of the most reported observations regarding the otherwise boring debate was in reference to Ann Coulter and her tweet,
“I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”
Almost immediately, I was seeing it being re-tweeted all over my feed. Some in agreement, some in disgust. In a lengthy CNN article by Emanuella Grinberg posted on their website today, many people who are related to or work with special needs people reacted unfavorably to the tweet. There are currently over 4600 comments and counting, mostly negative in response to Ann.
(Note: Grinberg states in her column, “Still, the comment was favorited 1,215 times and earned 2,993 re-tweets as of this writing, presumably by a number of people who didn’t find it offensive.” I think instead of being so presumptuous, she should have eliminated this from her post altogether or at least looked at the re-tweets, the majority of which were not from people who didn’t find it offensive, but mostly from people that quoted Coulter, and responded to it harshly.)
The truth of the matter is this: definitions of words evolve with the changing times. I think the episode of ‘South Park’ tackling the word “gay” and how it’s used in a different context in today’s society was brilliant and exactly the point I’m trying to make today. The words “retard” and “retarded” were once the preferred clinical and medical words used to describe people with intellectual disabilities.
It was 49 years ago yesterday that Bob Dylan recorded, “The Times, They are A-Changin” and those words couldn’t be truer today. The times are most certainly changing and with those changes comes different definitions of words. I’m not jumping to Coulter’s defense here, but I am saying that her, like most people (typically the younger crowd) use the word “retard” to describe someone they feel is stupid or acting stupid. But that’s no surprise here. You all already knew that, just like the people that got so hot about it in the first place. People are going to be offended by certain things, that’s just a simple fact, but to assume that it was meant to mean anything other than “stupid” is just, well… stupid.
Let’s jump to today’s other hotly debated use of words. When Sarah Palin took to Facebook to call out Obama regarding the way the administration handled the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 in a note titled, “Obama’s Shuck and Jive Ends With Benghazi Lies” people everywhere were pointing at her furiously calling her a ‘racist’ among other graphic and colorful things, including (ironically) ‘retarded!’ (At the time of this posting, her note has 5,600+ “likes”)
To be fair, had Palin used the term “shuck and jive” in say, the 1850’s in reference to African-Americans, namely slaves , yes, that would most certainly be considered racist, but the context used today simply means to avoid criticism by not using the whole truth and being manipulative. Someone of any race can be guilty of “shucking and jiving.” Once again, the definition of the word or phrase has changed with the times. I thought progressives wanted people to move forward?
How can we forget the Eva Longoria re-tweet heard ’round the world? Repubs were up in arms over a tweet originally posted by @imnotyuri saying,
“I have no idea why any woman/minority can vote for Romney. You have to be stupid to vote for such a racist/misogynistic twat.”
An article posted by the notoriously left-leaning Huffington Post in the ‘Latino Politics’ section written by Roque Planas has the full story including updates. (A very well-written column, imho.) Personally, I think it’s funny the title of the story eludes that the stir was caused by referring to Romney as racist and misogynistic instead of what people were really reacting to and that is the word “twat.” While I am no Eva Longoria fan, I think the ridicule she faced for re-tweeting a silly message from an irrelevant person using words she may not even know the definition of is just as wrong as the backlash Palin and Coulter are facing. While the term “twat” was almost always exclusively used as a slang word for “vagina” in recent times it has come to reference an inept person.
So, this is what it has come to. I suppose it comes down to intent vs perception. People in this politically correct world being offended over words that once meant one thing and now mean something else. So much for sticks and stones…
Also, my vagina is seriously offended.