Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Would You Taste Soap?

Dear Conservatives,

I know that elections are coming up both in Ontario and in the United States. I know, also, that the rhetoric will also intensify. Our already divided societies will become entrenched in on-line battles with each other. There were will horrifying memes that go around that promote hatred and division with intent of scaring us all away from civil conversations and the sharing of opinion. I know both sides will call each other names and this is what I'd like to talk to you about.

Not being naive, I don't expect that a letter from me, a fat, disabled, gay, liberal blogger, will make any difference to the keyboard warriors always trying to get off the best shot, always trying to inflict the most hurt, always trying to shut down conversation and simply start a fight. It's a strategy used by both sides, and again, it makes impossible important conversation and respectful disagreement. But my goal isn't to "stop trolling and start talking." As much as I'd like that to be.

Conservative, anti-liberal, comments often use a word that is aimed at shaming someone's liberal leaning posts. Or they will use it to dismiss  the comment of someone perceived to be too liberal. It's been around for a long time now but I remember when  first encountered it. I was shocked, horrified even at the existence of the word. I was even more shocked by the fact that the user of the word was firing from the conservative front line.

While I am not, nor ever will I be, conservatives as is clear by my list of adjectives, I have too much to lose I do love and respect people who are. We do debate. We do discuss. And we do disagree. I sometimes fail to even grasp their points, they sometimes shake their heads at a reality they say I am not seeing. But, we like each other. Most of the conservatives I know, and while it's not a large sample it's seems to be similar to those on line, are Christian and the also believe:

That prayer should be back in the schools.

That the Bible is the true word of God.

That our society should be founded on Christian principles.

That the "golden rule" is the most important bit of moral advice given in the Bible.

Those conservatives that I know who are not Christian have similar kinds of beliefs:

It was better back in the old days where people knew their place.

It was better when parents raised their children to be obedient and polite.

It was better when families stayed together and where children were raised with good morals by both a man and a woman.

So my understanding of Conservatism from those who I knew and those who I encountered in my life, were people of principle, even if I didn't agree with their set of principles, I could at least respect them for having strongly held beliefs and I respected them even more if we could talk about it.

This was NOT a group of people who would have invented a word that would cause so much hurt and pain to people whose lives and being and sensitivities are considered when the world is used. The word: Libtard.

I hate this word.

I hate what it means.

To me it means that you can take the 'being' of someone you consider worthless and turn it into a way of shaming and insulting others. Imagine someone's mere existence being a tool for hurting others! Imagine what that feels like. I mentioned this to one conservative commentor, one who I typically respected even as I disagreed with him, and he said that he was aware that the 'tard' was a reduction of the "R word," which he said he would never use, but that to him the word 'libtard' and the resultant hurt from it were just 'collateral damage' in an important war against liberals.

Seriously.

Sitting at a keyboard sending of a flurry of insults and put downs IS NOT A WAR. I have family who have served and who presently serve in the military and let me tell you they don't have classes in typing to better engage the enemy. On line discussion complete with trolls and purposeful, intentional, hateful and mean commentary - on both sides, is just fighting, safely, behind a screen.

Why bring into it a community of people who have lived with and are targeted for social violence on a daily basis? Why use words that hurt people who have intellectual disabilities, hurt their families, hurt their friends, hurt the wider disability community? Why is that necessary to your argument? Is the use of the word an actual demonstration of what you think about disability? Do you actually think that those with intellectual disabilities are worthless, valueless, people who simply don't matter?

Two questions for two the two types of conservatives I've met:

1) What would Jesus say?

2) What would you mother have done if you said that words in your perfect nuclear family?

3 comments:

Ron Arnold said...

In my experience - the individuals whom I've interacted with that use that word are 1) not Christian or Christian in Name Only. Jesus' opinion doesn't matter or only matters in so much that they're "saved." And 2) Mom's opinion is worth only slightly more - but not enough to stop that behavior.

As someone who identifies as a "classical liberal" - I am equally loathed by both "sides" depending on what subject is being discussed. I've been the recipient of the label you loathe, and have been called republithug, republitard, rethuglican, etc. Except I'm not a republican nor a democrat . . .

Ad hominem attacks are used when an argument has broken down. When words get shrill . . . there's no argument anymore, just a clash of emotions, and those are neither 'right' nor 'wrong.' (They're an individual context thing.) Identity politics and putting people into collectives thus assuming their individual attributes as a result of that categorization breaks down too. (Noam Chomsky has some interesting thoughts on the matter of identity politics.) I hope someday we'll learn that we're all in this together - that there's more that unites us than divides us. There's much we can do to change the way we see "us."

clairesmum said...

Words hurt. As you say. The intention is to hurt other people, no matter how the behavior is 'justified'. Two wrongs do not make a right. The end does not justify the means.
Again and again I am reminded of the book by the late C.S. Lewis "The Screwtape letters." A story about the Devil at work in the 'modern' world. And how each of us makes choices - 'free will' - based on our own fears/desires.
I'm not a 'religious fanatic' but someone who sees the powers of growth/chaos at work in the 'modern' ordinary world.
Words hurt. And we know that. That's why we choose them.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

The answer should always be, "Is calling people that - or anything else - consistent with YOUR principles?"

If Christians cannot be known by their LOVE, they can no longer call themselves christian. Not even lower-case christian.