2010-02-02

On Political Correctness and Retard[suffix]

I've wanted to talk about this for a while, but this (Brent Dykes, Yahoo! News) provides a good starting point. It's about how Obama Administration Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called liberal lobbies planning to air attack advertisements on conservative Democrats opposing the health care plan "[expletive] retarded".
I do not at all condone this. He should have attacked the plan on its merits rather than mindlessly foulmouthing it. I also think it would be best if he sincerely apologized for this, though knowing him, it probably won't happen.
Sarah Palin, who has a son with Down Syndrome, has responded by calling for his resignation/firing, saying that this will affect her son and other similarly affected people the same way African Americans would be affected by someone using the 'n'-word to insult them. While I don't agree with this extreme reaction, I think it is entirely reasonable to condemn him as she did.
That said, I wanted to use this opportunity to bring up something bigger about the word "retard"/"retarded" and political correctness.
I don't think it is at all right to use "retard"/"retarded" as an insult against mentally handicapped people. In our schools, we are taught to use words like "mentally handicapped", "mentally disabled", or "mentally challenged", among other words; "retard"/"retarded" aren't even part of this vocabulary (i.e. they are completely ignored altogether). Hence, I have never once met someone who used the word "retard"/"retarded" to [insultingly] refer to a mentally disabled person. This probably isn't true in other parts of the country, but from my own experiences, the word "retard"/"retarded" has solely taken on the meaning of a synonym for "idiot"/"imbecile".
That is probably what Emanuel meant; I still don't support him on this, because as it is, it is a pretty vicious insult to use against someone else.

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