{October 24, 2012}   “The R Word”

So here’s something I’m not entirely sure how to respond to.

There was a presidential debate last night, which President Barack Obama handily won. That’s not the issue here though. The issue was the conservative response to the debate.

No … no, that’s not the issue either. The issue is one particular conservative and her explanation for Mitt Romney’s debate performance, as longtime loudmouth pundit (or is that redundant?) Ann Coulter tweeted post debate that she approved of “Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”

For those who have lived under a Politically Correct rock for years (and happily so), ‘retarded’ is an arcane word for those with special needs, disabilities, exceptionalities. It has long been out of vogue in terms of official use, and has long been seen as offensive as an insult – much like using gay or racial slurs.

Now here’s where I’m torn as to how those of us who find such things offensive should respond. My gut reaction is to respond loud and proud – demand apologies, repudiate the insulting of an entire group of (vulnerable) people to make a political point, insist we be more careful in our use of language, and not stop until Ms. Coulter understands the level of outrage her word choice has caused.

But this is a woman who thrives on the outrage. Who was so offensive to students here in Canada when she came on a speaking tour that they peacefully protested, and she – citing (unfounded) fears for her safety – cancelled her engagements and expressing her disgust at our manners and abrogation of free speech. BOTTOM LINE: she lives to stir the pot and garner attention. The more people she has pissed off (excuse my French) the better.

So what is the appropriate response – give her the attention she craves? Or repudiate her words to indicate our own disgust and disagreement? I feel on the one hand like the best way to make Ann Coulter’s ilk wither and die on the vine is to ignore them, leave them spitting their vitriol into the wind without the responsive audience they so crave. On the other hand – it goes against everything in my being to stand by silent while such hateful language is employed so casually, and even if it doesn’t change her opinion (or that of her kind), it at least establishes it’s not OK.

Perhaps this is why I end up, at times, a less effective advocate than I’d like to be, as I have over the years employed both of the above tactics, sometimes with success, sometimes not. Does anyone out there have any thoughts?

Ari says:

Having thought about it a few moments, I think “to the ramparts!” and “ignore her and she’ll go away” are actually both legitimate approaches. Building a broad movement, including people with mental handicaps and their allies, to demand an apology and rout that kind of bigotry from the common vernacular, would be a noble enterprise. So would building a similar movement to combat climate change, preserve historic architecture, end human trafficking, or reduce bullying in schools. That is, there are any number of truly worthwhile causes, and you can only tackle *some* of them head-on. Given that limitation, I think the decision of whether *this* issue is one of the ones you want to tackle head-on doesn’t have a right answer. Just so long as you stand up for *some* things, which I know you do. 😉

Derek says:

Ann Coulter is a sick joke. She thinks that part of the “problem” is the way women vote. She says horrifying things just to get attention and usually it works. I heard George Takei on a rant against her on the radio once and it was quite hilarious. I tend not to pay too much attention to what she says, and my reaction no longer tends to be angry. She can’t possibly believe all the stupid things she says, and I think her opinions are calculated to provoke, so I choose to not spend time thinking at all about what she says. What DOES make me angry are the morons who look to her as some kind of leader, and actually put stock in her rantings. I was incredibly pissed last year when the gay republicans invited her to address their convention. She does not deserve to be honored for her histrionics, even among that crowd.

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