Sunday, November 27, 2016

Casual Cruelty

It's disconcerting.

The casual cruelty that people are capable of, the easy way that some have with hate, the dismissal of the idea that the feelings of others matter, sometimes takes me aback. I know that the anonymity of the keyboard and screen allow people to say things that they may never say aloud. I know that people hide behind made up names and dressed up personalities. I get all that.

But still.

In recent days I've seen a real upsurge in the use of the portmanteau "libt*rd" in comment sections, usually in a discussion gone acrimonious. It's no surprise that I despise the use of the 'r word' in any form in any place. It is such an offensive and cowardly word. Years ago the BBC did a survey of disabled people to discover the most derogatory word about disability and the 'r word' was top of the list. This means that people with disabilities as a community, as a whole community, stated clearly, 'this is a word that we all find hurtful.'

But it doesn't matter, does it, what disabled people say about our own lives, about our own experiences and about the oppression that we experience on a daily basis. Our voice isn't part of the discussion even of the subject of disability. Even so, we had the opportunity to speak and we did, this is the word, which when tossed, hits the vulnerable parts of our hearts and souls. No one may have been listening but that doesn't mean that what was said didn't matter.

The use of 't*rd' in combination with any other word, used to make up a new word in which the 't*rd' part is the ultimate insult isn't new. I know that. But the uptick in that particular word is noticeable and, by and large, of course, by some conservatives or conservative minded people. The people who stand with the church and with God. The people who talk about morals and scruples. The people who see everything as black and white. Those people are the people who seem so comfortable with spewing hatred. Those are the people who seem so comfortable mocking people who they hurt. Those are the people who love to victimize others and then say that their victims are victims of their own thin skin, their own sensibilities or their own self righteousness.

I don't think the idea that calling names is wrong is new to anyone.

Ruby and Sadie new that name calling was hurtful at a very early age.

No one had a talk with them about it, they just knew.

Like we all know.

So, let's be clear people using this portmanteau know what they are doing and are doing it purposefully. They intend offense, they intend insult and they intend hurt.

Who are these people?

We don't know of course because they don't use their names.

They dub themselves with a made up moniker intended to sound cool, or tough, or hard. And yet, they are in hiding, which is exactly the antithesis of cool, or tough, or hard.

And because they are in hiding I don't know who they are.

I actually want to know who they are. Not to identify them, not to chase after them - which would probably frighten them silly, but to get a sense of 'why?' I don't get 'why.'

It strikes me that I don't know a single person that uses that kind of language. But, I fear that maybe I do, that maybe the person clicking on their keyboard as I click on mine, might be in the line up in front of me, on the sidewalk beside me, in the movie theatre munching popcorn two rows over. Maybe I'm in the presence of people who find cruelty an easy option. Maybe I'm in the presence of hate without knowing it. Maybe the world is a little less safe than I thought it was.

I don't find it hard work to avoid name calling.

I don't find it difficult to use respectful language.

I don't find myself working up a sweat to control my tongue even when I've lost control of my temper.

I just don't.

Because, when I was very young, I learned, in many ways,that name calling hurts. And I don't want to be hurtful.

Isn't it that easy?

I had thought so.

But, I guess not.

9 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

The casualness of people who say hurtful things automatically, as if they had the right to dump on anyone they don't like, is the scary part.

2016 was a very bad year for civil discourse - and the media lapped it all up and promoted each new lie everywhere - making truth and civilization a loser, just when things seemed to be getting slightly better in the world for the 'different' in any way.

The magnitude of the damage - I can walk away or click away but it doesn't make the people doing this change - seems like the aftermath of a war.

It is not all right. Escalating - and saying things I can't forgive - is the opposite of what we need to do, and makes it all that much harder.

It is enough to make you despair.

Please keep pointing out the good and the bad. We need to keep working for improvement, even though I don't see how.

kstableford said...

Dave, I have noticed (and, ALWAYS, commented on) an increase in the use of -"t*rd (republi-, lib-) by others in social media. I don't know if what I'm observing is an increase or a function of me participating in more and larger groups post-11/9. Probably both! Curiously, most of the people using -t*rd are folks I agree with politically, saying things like "call me a libt*rd if you will..." As I said, I unfailingly call people out when they use offensive language. In one instance, a woman apologized profusely--said she knows better and won't use slurs like that again. Most of the time I don't get a response. Trying to spread awareness, one Facebook post at a time, in this weird new world.

BelleSouth said...

As a person who has an invisible illness, and also a person who "stands with the church and with God", I am saddened to see that in your otherwise keen observations about the lack of thought which permeates such a ugly word as "libt*rd", you have proceeded to practice the same self righteousness. While I abhor the usage of such a word, I am not happy that you have painted with a broad brush anyone who may be conservative as "spewing hatred" and "mocking people who hurt." Just because one is liberal does not indicate that person deserves this ugly epithet, but by the same coin, just because one is conservative does not earn the ugliness of being tarred by a brush which should be deserved for a specific person or persons. I do not hate, I do not mock people, I do not victimize, but your words in the following paragraph certainly tells me it's all right to hate me, victimize me or mock me. I think this part of your otherwise excellent essay should be reworded, unless what you are saying is that tolerance does not apply in the liberal's view of a conservative minded person.

"But the uptick in that particular word is noticeable and, by and large, of course, by conservatives or conservative minded people. The people who stand with the church and with God. The people who talk about morals and scruples. The people who see everything as black and white. Those people are the people who seem so comfortable with spewing hatred. Those are the people who seem so comfortable mocking people who they hurt. Those are the people who love to victimize others and then say that their victims are victims of their own thin skin, their own sensibilities or their own self righteousness." (emphasis mine)

Dave Hingsburger said...

BelleSouth ... the words 'of course' were there because the word 'libt*rd' is typically used by conservatives about liberals, I was speaking of the fact that the use of the word pretty much sums up the political bent of the speaker. I also never stated that all conservatives use this word, I know that isn't true. I have conservative family members who would never speak this way. But, I think my assertion is that those who use it about liberals are probably conservatives makes sense, and these conservatives state the values I mentioned in the post ... I know this because I read the comments that frame the use of the word 'libt*rd.' I am glad that you do not mock or victimize others, and it was not my intention to speak of anyone but those conservatives who use that kind of language. I am glad you raised your point so I could clarify, I hope you are equally motivated to speak up to those who use this kind of language regarding liberals or people with disabilities.

BelleSouth said...

Thank you for your reply, I appreciate it. I still think, however, that given the voluminous climate of hateful language used by both "sides", this paragraph could have easily been less accusatory towards conservatives as a group by stating simply "But the uptick in that particular word is noticeable and, by and large, of course, by, SOME conservatives or conservative minded people." and omitting "of course".

In working to create a better climate of discourse in the tatters of the past two years, I think it requires we pay special attention to words which may influence readers in ways that they don't realize. You indeed did not state all conservative use this word, but you also did NOT state the opposite either.

I really hope that you are equally motivated to be fair in language involving conservatives, just as I would encourage conservatives to consider the language used when discussing liberals.

Dave Hingsburger said...

I have no problem with that request. Done.

Ron Arnold said...

I tend to travel in politically active circles on social media. The suffix you refer to is often used by both 'sides' of the political fence. I find it disheartening because once ad hominem attacks occur . . . discourse is over.

Namaste said...

I have an idea. Let's just eradicate the use of the "r" word and any of it's "...tard"
derivatives. It's hateful language, no matter the target.

BelleSouth said...

Thank you, Dave, I appreciate your making that adjustment.

Rebecca