On Wednesday, October 24, I shared Ann Coulter’s original tweet in which she had referred to President Barack Obama as a ‘retard’ during the presidential debate two days earlier. Special Olympian, John Franklin Stephens, responded to that remark out of personal experience for both himself and others like him. To view my blog post and reflections, click here.
Ann Coulter has responded to John Franklin Stephens, defending her action of calling the President a ‘retard’. Additionally, she has said of critics of her Tweet “screw them”.
Coulter spoke on Alan Colmes’ Fox News Radio show, saying that she has no regret over using the word “because she wasn’t referring to someone with a disability”. Click here if you are interested in reading the Huffington’s Post in which they share parts of the Coulter Colmes interview.
Huffington Post reports Coulter as saying “that some people believe the word ‘retard’ is as much a slur as the ‘n-word”, thereby dismissing her critics as the “word police”.
I find Ann Coulter’s defense of her actions a bit arrogant and pompousness as she portrays herself as believing herself above criticism. Do not get me wrong – I believe that individuals should be free to say what they may under the Freedom of Speech clause of the First Amendment. That is a constitutional right that should never be broached. People should feel free to express their opinions, believes and ideas without filters or constraints. They should not live in fear that everything they say will be nitpicked, pulled apart and looked under a microscope. In this regards, Ann Coulter is correct in telling her critics to back off because she does have the right to publicly speak her opinion of the president – regardless of whether or not she agrees with him.
Yet there are certain words or phrases, taglines and expressions that historically hold negative social connotations that simply cannot be thrown around lightly. Using the word ‘retard’ may seem harmless in and of itself. But looking at the broader historical and cultural pilgrimage of that word brings to light a demographic of people who have had that label attached to them in attempts to belittle and osterichize them not only from mainstream culture but to also dehumanize them. Other words, such as the N-word, hold similar connotations and can not simply be thrown around due to the history from whence they commence.
This is a fine line which we must walk. Individuals must be above reproach when selecting and utilizing language. This means that we are free to use words and terminology whenever and however we want yet we must be careful that such language does not (necessarily) hold negative societal connotations that could provoke widespread panic, anger, etc. We should not live in fear that what we say will be rebuked as offensive because our words will always offend individuals or even groups of people. But once we begin using language that tears down, belittles, destroys or dehumanizes other human beings we must begin implementing filters upon ourselves. Individuals should strive to be above reproach so that when they speak they are not being questioned about the meaning of their words or attacked for what that word or phrase may (potentially) mean.