Full disclosure – I’m having a hard time being careful with this post. It’s a subject about which I have a deep passion, for one thing. For another thing, I’m about up to my eyeballs lately in irritating people, and it’s starting to wear. I tried last night to broach the topic gently and failed, so logged off before I went from sassy to rude, and I may or may not owe an apology to someone for that sassiness – I feel like a bit of a jerk, in all honesty; I was less compassionate than I was statement-making, and it’s bugging me. So I’m going to see if I can work this out here in writing.

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Dear Rogue who chatted: “People are retarded,” last night;

Yes, Virginia, it’s true. Some people do have mental retardation (MR).* Lots of people. Unlikely, tho’, is the possibility that the hunter in your group who misdirected to you is one of those people. There’s a good chance he made a mistake. Also an outside chance that you just pissed him off.

Because you didn’t understand what I was saying last night, I will clarify. When you use someone’s bodily standing as an insult, it’s mean and rude. Any time you make an insult, the reflection goes both ways. For example, when you say something like, The war in Afghanistan is retarded, what you’re also saying is, That person with MR is just as awful as the war in Afghanistan. You’re implying that neither of these things, the war or the people, should exist. If you’re not making that  correlation, then your insult has no bite to it, and so is ineffective.

Technically, you can’t deny you meant it. Of course you meant it – you meant to be insulting. That hunter was a total chucklefuck skunksucker who sent you mobs!** You just didn’t realize that insulting someone carries so much baggage. And that’s ok – most people don’t really think about it. That’s how causally we able USians treat people with disabilities poorly – we don’t even realize we’re being hurtful, because, well, everyone says it, and our privilege implies that we don’t have to think about it, so we just, well, don’t think about it.

Let me throw that last bit up again, ok? I think I just put something together, actually, that I’ve had trouble verbalizing.

“…our privilege implies that we don’t have to think about it, so we just, well, don’t think about it.”

We learn how stuff works by living in it. We are, very basically, steeped in our culture. This is how mores work – established social practices are our benchmarks for what we say, what we do, and whom we are told it’s acceptable to insult. We grow up under the tutelage of our parents, our peers, our teachers, our politicians, our media, all without really realizing it. We’re just doing our part to fit in and be socially acceptable. “When in Rome,” right?

The speedbumps come in when there are people who just don’t fit in. Those people spend their lives being marginalized – they become the mile markers for what it’s socially acceptable to insult day in and day out. They become the people whose lives mainstream folks deem worthy of reference for insult: women, queers, fat people, people of color, people with disabilities, people who don’t originate in our country, etc.

Break it down, and it’s kind of terrible the way we treat each other. Every day. Without thinking about it. It’s terrifying, to be honest. Who wants to wake up in the morning with the realization that the rest of the world doesn’t believe you have the right to be you, whole and alive? If you’re not marginalized, your privilege puts you in the position of  not having to think about any of this – which is a pretty sweet vantage point, I suppose.

Well, here’s the other thing about mores: they change.

They change through society changing. Through marginalized people becoming more visible, on the one hand. On the other hand, they change through mainstream folks changing how they behave, paying attention to the things they believe, intuit, and say. Which, really, is how things ought to work – it’s not right to put the onus on the victim.

Look – the world doesn’t get any better when people treat each other poorly. Enough of us raise our children to believe they need to be tough, and the world will become populated (and run by) people who posture and puff and act thuggish. Enough of us base our friendships on whom we can make fun of, and our clique will become defined by how cool we are because of what we aren’t – hollow and shallow. We tell each other it’s unacceptable to be mean, and well, it becomes unacceptable to treat people poorly.

I assert that it’s better to live in a world where people are kind to each other. I assert that an inclusive world is a nicer place to wake up every morning: acceptable, rightfully here, unjudged, alive and full of possibility.

Can I go there with you? Can we be kind to each other, please? If we can, I’ll even share my cake.

In sincerity and solidarity,
Apple Moskowitz

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*Let’s use person-first language, please. You wouldn’t say that someone who has cancer is cancerous, would you?
**HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Open that carefully – it’s been in shipping a little while and I’m pretty sure it’s hangry.***
***Hungry and angry – terrible combination.

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