By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Several years ago, when my last surviving aunt died, I became responsible, with my sister, for our mentally disabled cousin. I say this not for sympathy, but for context. I don't have a baby with Down's syndrome at home, like Sarah Palin does, but like most Americans I have someone dear to me who suffers from mental illness or addiction or developmental shortfalls.
Palin claims to be outraged by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's reported statement, made in a private meeting last summer, that Democrats who attack other Democrats are "f…ing retarded." This is an insult to the disabled, says Palin, and he should be forced to resign.
I'm disappointed to see Palin embracing this kind of political correctness. I thought that was the province of very silly liberals.
When he used the adjective "retarded," Emanuel was not insulting or commenting about people with special needs. If he had been, then some sort of wrist slap or apology might be in order, as the noun "retard" has, at the request of advocates for the mentally disabled, been deemed too crude for general use, and retired to the closet of public discourse.
Emanuel, however, was not talking about people like my cousin. He was talking about Democrats, and castigating the kind of self-indulgent cannibalism that, too often, characterizes allegedly sound-minded liberals. Reaching for a word to convey the idiocy of such self-destructive political behavior, Emanuel summoned "retarded." He might well have chosen "moronic" or "foolish" or "imbecilic."
It was merely an apt metaphor. To say that someone is "intellectually crippled," for example, is not to insult folks with canes and wheelchairs. To judge that the healthcare reform bill has a "fat chance" to pass Congress due to the missteps of Team Audacity is not to sneer at people, like me, to whom evil nature has given a slow metabolism and a taste for the new dark chocolate Reese's peanut butter cups.
Emanuel's use of colorful profanity is well-known in Chicago and Washington--to the point of being a cliché. I am sure that somewhere out there in the great rolling fields of the Republic there is a blue-haired old lady at a Methodist quilting bee who has never muttered the evocative English slang word for sexual intercourse, but I will leave it to you to find her.
I have not been to Alaska, but I carry the impression that the residents of the state are a feisty, hardy lot. I could be wrong. Perhaps Alaskans, when their snowmobiles carry them into a sturdy fir, or a moose applies its antlers to their buttocks, or their fishhooks snag a finger, shout, "Gee! That was painful!" Maybe the whole state is filled with sappy, politically correct morons like Ned Flanders. I surely hope not.