Fashions In Political Correctness

Apparently mental retardation is the new cause celebre of political correctness. Who knew? I mentioned a few posts back the ridiculousness of inserting a preposterously articulate mental retardate into the cast of the new “Upstairs, Downstairs,” little recking that my online inbox was going to be pummeled by successive exhortations imploring me to join in championing the wondrousness of the world’s retardates.

Here I find a crusade from my state’s delegate, crying out for millions (that’s right: millions) of dollars to be spent “atoning” for the sterilization of the mentally retarded over several decades — a better idea than which I cannot think of, on the fly. (Does anyone really have an argument that it is good for nominally human creatures of subnormal intelligence to reproduce? Does someone really mean to claim the offspring could be decently cared for, for one thing?) Here is an article asking me to condemn the admittedly sleazy right-wing mannequin Ann Coulter for using the word “retard” as an insult. Apparently we are not even supposed to use it any more at all; there is this preciousness about the “R-word.” Oh horror.

I do not get this. I had a friend when I was a small person. Her mother spent all her days teaching mental retardates. She mandated that her daughter should work as a counselor at a camp for mental retardates. A blazingly bright, sensitive, sweet girl, clearly anguished (as I look back) by issues that most people didn’t understand until they were far older, was essentially put on notice that she was not as important as a bunch of grotesque, gooping, babbling, ungainly creatures only genetically entitled to human identity: neither functional humans nor functional animals, since any cat, squirrel, dog, rabbit can get through life without sucking its family and community of resources each and every day it lives; any cat, squirrel, dog, rabbit can delight us with its animal essence rather than sickening us with a degraded parody of what it was meant to be. I was forced to be in the presence of one of them once, a seventeen year old with a mental age of about four. I came away saturated with sick horror that anyone should be expected to spend an hour or even a minute of their lives dealing with something that was such a nauseating caricature of humanity.

I think perhaps all this PC zeal comes from a certain comfort some people derive from the presence of something which is no threat. I learned early on that being precocious and articulate meant abuse, and ostracism, and systematic humiliation. I am sure that some of the same people who were involved in those experiences are now bending over backwards to carry on about how we should cherish the retarded. Nonetheless, it defeats me how people can carry this banner and take themselves seriously.

There are values in life and if we are expected to value objects like this, then everything I have done to make myself competent, capable, intellectually agile, creative, worthwhile, self-sustaining, has been pointless. If things which generally require lifelong support, which cannot reason beyond a childhood level, which have no intellectual dimension, have value, then I have none. There is no compromise.

My friend killed herself in her second year of college, when she was nineteen. I guess her mother had given her the message.

I don’t get it. I simply don’t understand.

I hope the fashions change soon.

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8 thoughts on “Fashions In Political Correctness

  1. It’s after 3 am here and it took me too long to read this – but my immediate thoughts are: it annoys me a bit that you’re smarter than me; but I can get over that.I would love a long cool evening on the back porch discussing these things. Without Himself. We can find him a teenage girl who loves shoes and send them off together. Maybe even Stupid Girl. I love him but…well, that’s a back-porch conversation. He’s still alive and still physically able to procreate, but only because I haven’t killed him or worse.

    Ever think about how we are allowing the human race to “slowly” breed in bad vision? That’s one that even the blind can see, and no one seems to care.

    • I have to deal with the fact that there are oh, so many people more capable and talented than I am at so many things I wish I could do better: musical composition; writing novels. Humbling but inevitable. I don’t know that I’m necessarily smarter than you are; I do know that I can get through life without a family and cheering section cooing and carrying on about the matter. That’s what winds me up: the celebration of the struggling approximation of normal by creatures which kind midwives would have smothered at birth, while anyone showing any signs of wit has to be smacked down. Tell me it hasn’t changed since I was a pup.

      Stupid Girl, incidentally, has been in the way of straddling two worlds, signing on to high school programs that make no sense unless one plans to go on to college, and then screwing up on her classes… I don’t know if she likes shoes at the moment.

      What is worse than killing them?

  2. We are compelled to not only defend but celebrate that which exists. Some of us, anyway. For example, there is “deaf culture.” Yes. They do not necessarily want cures for deafness because then … poof. Same goes for Down’s syndrome, etc. It’s a weird, but understandable mindset if you’re a parent of one of those children. But we don’t have to run a society based on their emotional preferences.

    • I can understand deaf people — who are nonetheless intellectually complete — arguing for a niche for their soundless culture. But this drumbeating, typically by people who are *not* retarded, for celebration of retardation completely stumps me. I can’t understand it except as a relishing of the presence of creatures who will be grateful for whatever they receive and offer no threat, in short, as a power trip. And why would anyone who found himself or herself a parent of such a thing want the situation to go on…? unless they derived some joy from always “owning” a child who would never challenge them or rebel? The whole business gives me the creeps and shivers.

  3. Very insightful and entertaining piece.

    While I think that Ms. Coulter’s comments were inappropriate and unnecessary, and would urge folks to not engage in such speech, I have a different position.

    I know that lots of people feel that words and symbols are powerful; however, it just seems to me that during a period of economic stress and when we need to focus on more immediate, significant issues to get people working again, we should relegate discussions about words and symbols to tertiary, if not lower, status in terms of prioritization. We need to focus on inventions, scientists, engineers and innovation. We can get back to the emotional stuff once the economy improves.

    As a partner of mine once noted on my blog: “Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself; and like the naked, fools have little or no influence on society.”

    Finally, we should never underestimate the power of laughter.

    • A good point. Given everything we are up against right now, crusades like these are distracting time wasters on top of everything else. To me, it is just a deeply personal matter as well. It says something about a culture’s entire scale of values when people sentimentalize and start to virtually worship feeble-mindedness, and it looks to me like that is what has happened here. I think you can draw a direct line from that to the inability of this nation to grapple with the need for a good education for people who actually are intelligent and have something to offer other than being an enormous sinkhole for human resources. (EDIT) Likewise the lack of value we place on people who perform a job competently and refine and mature conscious skills for years; business treats them like widgets, not repositories of skill and knowledge. Americans have come to distrust intelligence and competence, and then we wonder why nothing works.

      (EDIT) As for laughter… this is one of those issues that I just feel too much pain and fury to laugh about. Someone brilliant and valuable, who had been my “best friend” for over half my life at the time, died, from where I sit, from a personal despair whose roots had much to do with the way her teacher mother telegraphed that her daughter was not nearly so wonderful as the barely functional mental defectives that she “taught.” I learned that when she was breaking down into severe depression and an eating disorder about which I knew nothing at the time, her mother simply told her to “do something about herself.” So she did. We might have been lifelong friends, or we might have parted ways, drifted out of each other’s lives as my other friends from that time did, located each other on Facebook for a cursory revisit… but I’ll never know now, will I? While other people cry the blues about what we call creatures with about two brain cells to rub together.

  4. A thought-provoking post about a subject that makes me uncomfortable. I agree that advances in medicine have suddenly — in a few centuries — freed humankind from the natural laws of evolution and survival of the fittest.

    We have no qualms about selectively breeding farm animals and pets, so why not humans? Instead, we seem to be on a course destined to weaken the human race. We ought to be able to act rationally.

    Unfortunately, humans seem incapable of exercising wisdom or restraint when we embark on genetic improvement. Look at the poor Cocker Spaniel, bred for big, beautiful eyes that too often go blind, or the turkey, bred for meat to the extent that its legs cannot support its body.

    We are so easily seduced by superficial standards of human beauty! I can’t trust humans not to breed exclusively for extreme IQ, tallness, blondness, and large breasts.

    Eugenics seems like a logical proposition, but so difficult to embark on responsibly. Hitler, of course, is the poster boy for eugenics gone berserk.

    I’m not capable of considering the subject objectively. It scares me to death. And yet, there must be a way to approach it ethically and logically.

    • If it were my dictatorship (and it’s not ever likely to be because I don’t have that overarching a power motive), I would mandate abortion for cases in which a known genetic marker for retardation was detected and quiet euthanasia at birth for the cases in which it was missed until then. I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with it even later on, if it took that much time to become evident. (I mean, for pity’s sake, think of the perfectly good, sweet, beautiful animals that are killed in shelters eery DAY and tell me that a human retardate is somehow more worth keeping.) When I think of people expecting to start out on a life and ending up at the age of sixty or seventy having to look after the interests of a semi-human lump with a mind not even as lively as an actual toddler child, the waste is more than I can stand to imagine. A member dragged one to my gym a time or two — I guess she was saddled with looking after it. People shouldn’t have to deal with that.

      As for breeding for boobs and so on, humans are probably random enough it won’t happen. But I may underestimate the zeal for these things.

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