We Can’t Be Retarded Any More, but Are Anyway

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“You’re fascinated by the gory details! You’re mesmerized by your own fear. You revel in floods, car accidents, unstoppable diseases. You’re happiest when others are in pain. That’s where I come in isn’t it? I’m here to lead you by the hand through the dark forest of your own hatred and anger and humiliation!” ~Talk Radio
Abby and I were watching Friends on Nick at Night recently, the episode in which Matt LaBlanc’s character Joey meets an actress with whom he is performing, Kate, played by Dina Meyer. They greet each other, and Kate’s line is to ask Joey, “Are you one of the retarded cousins?” The joke is that her initial impression of Joey is that he is an idiot. Ha ha.

Blorp! This is me butting heads with someone at my office. I expect some of my readers and I will butt heads over this entry.
Blorp! This is me butting heads with someone at my office. I expect some of my readers and I will butt heads over this entry.

That’s not what was on Nick at Night. The word “retarded” was blanked out. “Are you one of the ___ cousins?” The laughter from the studio audience wasn’t blanked out, so unless you have a nearly-eidetic memory like mine, the exchange didn’t even really make sense.

I’m sure the censorship was voluntary, at least technically. But it disturbs me that a simple joke in 1996 becomes a toxic insult in 2013. We certainly have lost our sense of humor, even if some of our sense of humor was a bit cruel.

Okay, now on to Boston. I write this after a series of tragic events unfolded in Robert Stinson’s former neighborhood in Boston that started with the two “terrorist” bombs exploding at the finish line at the Boston Marathon, and culminated with an unprecedented manhunt involving the might of entire metropolitan police departments in addition to as many as 9000 additional police from agencies like the FBI, ATF, state police, and more.

On the phone the other day, Robert talked about how disturbing and oddly empowering it was to describe the criminals involved as “terrorists.” While I agree with that as a valid analysis of the mind state of Americans when it comes to tragic crimes, particularly as portrayed by the media, in my mind there is a bigger issue: big government. Doesn’t it trouble anyone else that the very opponents of “big government” are often the first ones to call upon it for help, either in the form of invasions of nations like Afghanistan or Iraq, or when the people (certain bloggers and vloggers like to call them “sheeple”) are a bunch of frightened rabbits?

Americans are falling in love with the feeling of safety, and that is always at the cost of freedom.  Ironically, they are in love with their fear as well. The entirety of metropolitan Boston was locked down for nearly a day, which to any open mind could only be described as a police state. When the perpetrator was finally apprehended (one 19-year-old man), crowds cheered police with cries of “USA! USA! USA!”, not realizing or caring that the “terrorists” were both United States citizens.

The average citizen is neither courageous nor perceptive. He needs a higher power to care for him, both in the form of a “mother,” government,  and a “father,” god.  People seem more like children to me with each passing day.

I've been holding on to this image for years. Now seems like as good a time as any to use it.
I’ve been holding on to this image for years. Now seems like as good a time as any to use it.
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9 Comments

  1. We have a lot of topics here. First, the word retarded it is out dated to say the least. My mother worked in the field with the mentally handicap for over 30 years. It was just as offensive in the 1996, but no social media to complain to the masses about it. It is much like calling a mentally ill person crazy. Not cool. Try calling an emotional women crazy, see how far it gets you. At the same time I find a lot of the PC action to be a just another reason to complain. Next, we have this police state business. The reason the fella was found is because someone went outside…tricky. I like it better than martial law with tanks on the street but find it a step or two away just the same. It didn’t set well with me but people running around hurting the masses doesn’t either. So mushy middle over here. I agree with the love of safely an illusion at best but some people like to be lied to, whatever. As for this home made bumper sticker speaks a lot of truth but I bet the owner is pro-life as well. Gotta love a double standard.

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  2. I also find and useful irony in the fact that after a day of city wide shutdown and futile official search, the man is found after the “stay inside” is lifted.

    The lesson here? A informed public is stronger/better than a police state.

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  3. Villification of the word “retarded” came about as a result of Americans’ inability to read, use, or understand the English language. Go ahead. Look up the root word, “retard”. I’ll wait. There, see? The growth and/or development of intellect/reasoning has been, in some people, “retarded”. They’re “retarded”. No inherent offense, and one word suffices where more are less articulate. That said, if an individual, or the loved one of an individual, finds that word offensive, of course I won’t use it. Case in point: I’ve been called an “amazon”, or “amazonian”. I hate that, even though it’s a better word to describe me than “tall and strong-appearing”.

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  4. The chemical will retard the spread of fire. Is a great use of the word, but as you stated the root word was not created to be offensive. But it is now because lexicon is a fluid part of our society forever changing.

    Nicole you are a lovely, vertically excelled human, with features that exemplify strength and power. How does that sound?

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  5. I listened on NPR to a reporter recounting his time spent as a hostage in the middle east. He said that his greatest fear lay in the human minds ability to rationalize any action. Jihadists believe that freedom is an attack on Islam. Republicans believe Sharia laws will corrupt our courts. Democrats believe that government prevent…well, just about every ill…poverty, illiteracy, teen-pregnancy, drug-abuse, cancer, the f-bomb (during prime-time when not a part of a person, emotional appeal). Those who don’t know me, may define me by my actions and statements. Those who do know me understand the war zone of opinions in my head. I often internally define myself by my actions not taken and words left unuttered. I understand why r****d is shunned and n*****r can’t be spoken by a white guy like me. I know that Boston-Strong meant huddled in your basement. And that the Terrorists won because they did inspire terror. And Nicci, you are not an Amazon or even Amazonian-like, you’re just a goddess.

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  6. @Michael: “Those who do know me understand the war zone of opinions in my head”

    I like that. A lot.

    “He said that his greatest fear lay in the human mind’s ability to rationalize any action”

    That’s a really good choice of something to be afraid of.

    @Richard: ‘…the very opponents of “big government” are often the first ones to call upon it for help…’

    I think they actually oppose big government except for the military and police. They wish there could be more military/police and are frustrated that we spend so much government money on the rest.

    “…could only be described as a police state…”

    Sitting here, more than a thousand miles away, it sure looked like that to me. In many ways, the “slippery slope” that fearmongers try to warn us about… We’ve already slid down it, just so slowly that we felt good about it.

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  7. As a teacher in cognitive education for 27 days and having conducted nearly six classes since the start of my career, I feel qualified in telling you that I am offended.

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