Just Call Me Krishanna “Switzerland” Spencer: Ban The R-Word, Violate Free Speech & Expression, Invite Censorship

Okay. I’ve gotten a few e-mails asking me why I’ve not asserted my opinion on this tempest in a teapot, especially when I’ve been blogging about it over on the Active Gray Matter blog.

A few weeks ago, I posted about pagan unhappiness with Kathy Lee Gifford’s dumbass comment about Pagans being bad. I felt then as I do now, it is essentially a First Amendment rights issue.

Now this month the discussion and focus is on the word , "Retard" because Ben Stiller’s new movie Tropical Thunder uses the word in the movie. I’ve not seen the movie, nor do I plan to and it isn’t because I am claiming soldiarity with the ARC boycott or demonstrations regarding the film.  It also isn’t because I am joining forces with the other voices clamoring for the protesters to shutup because "they don’t get it:.

Just call me Krishanna Switzerland Spencer.   I see valid points on both sides but I am not seeing Tropical Thunder because it looks infinitely BAD. EL STINKO. PHEW. You know one of those movies you see on cable during a rainy afternoon when there’s absolutely nothing else to watch and when it’s over you look at each other and say, "Boy am I glad I didn’t pay money to see THAT in the movie theatre!". And yeah, admittedly that type of comedy film doesn’t interest me me much.

Then again, maybe *I* just don’t get it.

People with Disabilities are saying the language in the movie is hurtful, discriminatory and humiliating. They say it is hurting and humiliating them personally and telling young kids it’s ok to refer to people with intellectual disability as "retards".

Ben Stiller and Jack Black, both say if you see the movie you will understand they are making fun of actors who portray people with disabilities (ala Sean Penn in "I Am Sam", Tom Cruise in "Born On The Fourth" of July, and Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman" to name a few) to make a buck and win an award. Robery Downey, Jr. also stars in the film as a black man and has smartly declined expressing anything beyond gratitude for the ability to live in a country that affords ALL of its citizens free speech and expression.

Amendment I (of the US Bill of Rights)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

As many of you know I have a disability, work in the disability field and have worked with people with many kinds of disabilities. I also use the word retarded in my daily vocabulary. I worked with someone once who told me it bothered her a lot that I used the word retarded to describe things I thought were slow or confusing. For instance, I would say "well that’s retarded" in response to hearing about slow moving legislature that was obviously needed now.

Long before "retard" was a noun or even a pronoun, it was a verb- a transitive verb to be exact. Retard belonged to the English language from as early as the 15th century, coming from the from Latin retardare, which was derived from re- + tardus meaning slow. Go ahead, look it up if you don’t believe me.

Did I or do I refer to anyone with any kind of a disability as a retard? Of course not. My mother taught me not to do that when I was in the 5th grade. She said it was rude and mean and hurtful and it is. But really, do people with intellectual disabilities really own that word? Isn’t asking to ban the word’s use in all forms of expression censorship?

Afterall, no one is seeking to censor the protesters speech or expression or retarding their right to assemble peaceably, although they are seeking to censor free speech. They could even petition the govenment for redress of their grievances. Will they?  I don’t know. Some even say they are creating even more press for the film than would not have been present without their protests.

My point is I see both sides but I don’t see how demanding to censor anyone’s words would increase awareness or change minds.

From FotoFama Videos:

From the ARC of Virginia:

What are your thoughts, comments, P.O.Vs?

And as an unrelated sidenote:  Why do cup stacking tournaments show up in a search of  intellectually disabled videos on YouTube?


One thought on “Just Call Me Krishanna “Switzerland” Spencer: Ban The R-Word, Violate Free Speech & Expression, Invite Censorship

  1. Oh I don’t know. Try substituting the “R” word that you use in every day language with the “N” word, or maybe “shiftless and lazy” to describe things you find “slow”.
    Would you? If not, why not? Since you’re using free speech as a reference, do you use terms like “hooked-nosed jew”, “wetback” “faggot”, etc as a well?
    I don’t think so, but maybe I’m wrong.
    In a polite and civilized society, we don’t use words like this because they marginalize groups of people and are hurtful to some/many of them.
    Sometimes the definition of words change over time to reflect current culture and no longer retain much of their original meaning. A good example is the word “gay”.
    I think that the word “retard” is another.
    You’ve frequently written about different instances in your life where you’ve been made to feel marginalized, misunderstood and degraded in terms of your disability. You’re mad. You’re upset. You use your voice to vent and to tell others how much different experiences hurt and infuriatiated you.
    Yet one person told you that your use of the “retard” word bothered her and you blew her off. You’ve read reams of stuff on how the use of the word hurts people, and spent a paragraph or two justifying your use of it.
    I guess you really don’t “get” it.
    You may have a disability, and work with people who have disabilities, but bottom line—you don’t have a cognitive disability.
    It doesn’t make you one of the “club” or give you a pass to blow it off. Any more than I can tell people without legs to “suck it up” because I once stubbed my toe.
    You know, I love you to death, but you’re way off the mark. We’ve spent years dealing with this kind of ignorance and bigotry, and it hurts some very vulnerable people who don’t have the intellectual capacity to raise their voices the way that you and I can.
    So why use it if it hurts even just one person? What’s the point?
    Here’s someone who’s made a commentary on it: http://www.inrich.com/cva/ric/opinion/commentary.apx.-content-articles-RTD-2008-08-17-0064.html
    And I think I’m going to adopt the ABFH’s new slogan.
    Instead of Tropic Thunder’s tagline and t-shirt that reads “Never Go Full Retard”
    I’m going to go with “Never Go Full Bigot”!


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