Monday, May 16, 2011

"Those Angry, Vulgar Cripples"

img: renjith krishnan
A person isn't long on the Internet -- and participating in virtual discussion groups -- before he hears a complaint about "vulgar language." We all know what comes next: "Use the delete key."

The subject came up recently among a group of disability advocates. As for me, I gave up worrying about vulgarity in every-day speech when network television decided it was fine to use "goddam" in prime time. Only purveyors of soap, cholesterol, and mood altering liquids could combine sacrilege and cursing in pursuit of profit.

But I was very interested in a secondary philosophical point made by the protestor against obscene language: swearing and other impolite language could be taken by people not yet disabled as "anger," which in turn sparks secondary reactions that exacerbate the exclusion of people with disabilities.

If observed from the perspective of the paternalistic mind-set that most official agencies and many people have about disability, that's probably true. 

I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I will admit to a certain lingering anger about my fate. But I am also angry about the way people with disabilities face discrimination in society. I am angry about how people with disabilities are perceived in society.

Obviously, it's ignorant and irrational to be angry after fifty-plus years, and so I think of Angry Gary riding around on my shoulder like a little cartoon devil. Sometimes he's useful. Most time he's to be ignored because there are too many good things in life to celebrate. Trying to map my way through this world, I once read something along the lines of "Anger is the worst form of self-pity."

I tend to agree, at least when it comes to crying and pounding the walls of fate, and understanding there is this thing of righteous anger, and I certainly think it is fair that society in general see that anger when it comes to perception and equal access.

Can it be displayed without "vulgarity?" Sure. Can "vulgarity" attract attention to the cause. Sure.

As one person in the discussion suggested, it may simply be a generational thing, that vulgarity and obscenities are "just words," which is true enough.

Somewhere -- no doubt close to the time that network prime time television let fly its first goddam -- people began to move away from thinking that vulgarities and obscenities weakened an argument because the speaker lacked education and sophistication, focus and discipline.

Despite being in the minority, I tend to think that the use of curse words, vulgarity, and obscenities by a person with a disability engenders the perception (among the not yet disabled) that PWDs are bitter and angry, which in turn implies that bitter and angry people are not taken seriously or are met with a "poor baby" reaction.

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