There. I said it. The dreaded "r" word, which is the equivalent of the "n" word or the "c" word when it comes to people who are "mentally challenged" (or developmentally disabled). Originally, there was nothing offensive about the word "retarded." It comes from the French, in which "retard" means "slow." The word sounds even better in French, because they don't pronounce the "d" at the end, so it sounds like: "ruh-TAHR." I suppose years of derogatory name calling incidents by bullies have stigmatized the word to the point where it brings up painful memories in people who are mentally challenged. My brother is one who has been called that term by other people. But he has also been known to make jokes about people who are even more mentally challenged than he is. I was always shocked to hear him make such jokes, but my brother just likes making people laugh.
I will confess that I have also been known to use the word "retarded" in comments like, "That's so retarded!" I've also used the word "gay" in the same way ("That's so gay!"). In my usage, both "retarded" and "gay" are synonyms for "stupid." It does not mean that I think mentally challenged people or homosexuals are stupid. Just that those words sound way funnier than saying "That's so stupid!" Since adulthood, I do not make fun of people for conditions that they are born with or cannot change. However, I think it is perfectly fine to make fun of people for their behaviour, so that's why Sarah Palin is my favourite object of scorn and derision. She is so fun to make fun of because her willful ignorance, her shallow vapidness, and her self-importance all invite such ridicule. The latest back and forth on the issue of the word "retarded" is the latest episode worthy of our scorn.
It started a few weeks ago when Sarah Palin made a Facebook comment about an old item that was reported in the news. President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had called some Democratic strategy "fucking retarded" in a closed meeting. Someone leaked those comments to the media and Emanuel issued an apology and invited Timothy Shriver to a meeting at the White House. Timothy Shriver's mother, of course, is Eunice, one of the Senator Ted Kennedy's sisters. She had founded the Special Olympics, which Timothy is the current president of. This "sensitivity training" is ridiculous, because Emanuel used "retarded" the same way I and most guys use the term. He did not call a mentally challenged person "retarded."
But leave it to Palin to make this all about her Down Syndrome baby. Just like last summer, when she accused President Obama of wanting to set up "death panels" to kill her grandmother and Down Syndrome baby, Palin made Emanuel's comments all about her son. She ranted about the insensitivity and cruelty behind those words. Yet, she remained silent when darling of the right Rush Limbaugh used the word "retard" more than forty times during one of his shows. Not only that, he called the special meeting between Rahm Emanuel and Timothy Shriver "the Retard Summit." Did Palin protest or criticize Rush? Hell, no! What kind of conservative lap bitch would she be if she dared single out Rush for criticism? She knows her audience and her audience won't tolerate any smack talk about their god, Rush. Instead, Palin said that Rush's use of the word "retard" was clearly "satire." Satire?
What is satire? Satire is a device used, particularly by writers and comedians about people in power. Its meant to point out inconsistencies and dishonesty for scorn and ridicule. Most of all, satire is a highly intelligent form of humour, because people have to know the truth behind the joke. An example of excellent satire is Tina Fey's characterizations of Sarah Palin in 2008, particularly the single phrase that summed up Palin in a nutshell: "I can see Russia from my house!" Rush Limbaugh calling the meeting between the president of the Special Olympics organization and the White House Chief of Staff "the Retard Summit" is not a form of satire. It is another example of Rush's bullying. Make no mistake...Rush is the biggest defender of the corporate elite and he generally makes fun of the people who don't have power. His favourite scapegoats include women, minorities, the handicapped, foreigners. When has he ever made a joke about a conservative white man? He sticks to his own tribe. He's a bully.
This issue has evolved most recently with an episode of the animated series The Family Guy, which featured a lady with Down Syndrome who had mentioned that her mother was the former governor of Alaska. The Family Guy is an equal-opportunity comedy show, along the lines of The Simpsons. When has any other politician singled out a television show for a debate? The last one I can remember is Dan Quayle picking on Murphy Brown for deciding to have a child out of wedlock. But that was back in 1992, when conservatives were against single motherhood. One Bristol Palin later, they are now all for single motherhood (because she decided to keep her baby).
Sarah Palin recently wrote on her Facebook status that she was hurt by the episode of The Family Guy. Her statement read: "People are asking me to comment on yesterday’s Fox show that felt like another kick in the gut. Bristol was one who asked what I thought of the show that mocked her baby brother, Trig (and/or others with special needs), in an episode yesterday."
How was Trig mocked? The character on the show was a grown lady on a date, who merely happened to mention that her mother was "a former governor of Alaska." Her father was an accountant, which we all know that Todd Palin most certainly is not. Its obvious that Palin does not get satire, which doesn't surprise me, because satire is actually a more sophisticated form of humour. It requires some intelligent thinking ability, which Palin does not possess in any form.Palin's Facebook rant inspired a comment by the actual actress, Andrea Fay Friedman, who has Down Syndrome and once acted in the television show Life Goes On as Corky's love interest. In a statement that showed an intelligent perception of what satire is, as well a remarkable sense of humour, Andrea made my day! Just one simple statement (it was a letter to the editor that was published in the New York Times) showed that she has more intelligence and sense of humour than Sarah Palin could ever dream of having. I've italicized and put in bold the most biting rebuke of Palin I've come across yet:
"My name is Andrea Fay Friedman. I was born with Down syndrome. I played the role of Ellen on the "Extra Large Medium" episode of Family Guy that was broadcast on Valentine's day. Although they gave me red hair on the show, I am really a blonde. I also wore a red wig for my role in " Smudge" but I was a blonde in Life Goes On. I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I thought the line "I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska" was very funny. I think the word is "sarcasm". In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes."
Below is a clip of the controversial segment in that episode of The Family Guy. One thing I'd like to say to Sarah Palin is...when your real motives are easily discovered by someone with "mental challenges", your gig is up. Maybe your low information voters who live in trailer parks and shop at Walmart still love you, but you don't fool those with Down Syndrome! They see you carrying Trig around like a purse to gain sympathy and admirers. He's nothing more than a prop for your ambitions. Another thing, Sarah...if you hate our government so much, why does the U.S. Capitol hire people with Down Syndrome to run the elevators, gift shops, and other places throughout our government complex? Corporations naturally discriminate, but our government finds a way to employ people with special needs so that they can live fairly independently and have some dignity. Would your favoured corporations hire these people? Would Rush?
Recently, I had a lengthy debate with a Palin defender on someone's Facebook page. This guy claimed that the more liberals ridicule Sarah Palin, the bigger she becomes and the more support she gains. I find this claim ludicrous. Her numbers aren't moving. Her enthusiastic backers essentially are made up of the same number of people who were blind Bush supporters to the very end. There's no hope for these people, who represent about 30% of the American people. They are ignorant and proud of that fact. Each time Palin opens her mouth to pick a fight with ridiculous arguments and out of proportion outrage, she only alienates everyone else who isn't drinking her toxic poison they call Kool-Aid.
I guess the larger point I want to make is..."who is really acting retarded?" There are people who are born with mental challenges who strive to live in a superficial world that does not value people who are different or who cannot compete. Our government has laws in which they cannot discriminate against people, but corporations have no such law barring them from discriminating potential employees with mental challenges. Then there are those people who were born with a normal functioning brain, which allows them to reason and gain intelligence, yet they prefer to remain ignorant for whatever reason. And in their willful ignorance, they are easily manipulated into believing lies because it fits their prejudices and biases, even if they often don't match the reality of our world. So, I ask again..."who is really acting retarded here?" People with Down Syndrome and other mental handicaps are not "retarded" (as in "stupid"). Its Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and their legion of brainless followers.