bio_dave_hingsburgerIt’s disconcerting.

The casual cruelty that people are capable of, the easy way that some have with hate, the dismissal of the idea that the feelings of others matter, sometimes takes me aback. I know that the anonymity of the keyboard and screen allow people to say things that they may never say aloud. I know that people hide behind made up names and dressed up personalities. I get all that.

But still.

In recent days I’ve seen a real upsurge in the use of the portmanteau “libt*rd” in comment sections, usually in a discussion gone acrimonious. It’s no surprise that I despise the use of the ‘r word’ in any form in any place. It is such an offensive and cowardly word. Years ago the BBC did a survey of disabled people to discover the most derogatory word about disability and the ‘r word’ was top of the list. This means that people with disabilities as a community, as a whole community, stated clearly, ‘this is a word that we all find hurtful.’

But it doesn’t matter, does it, what disabled people say about our own lives, about our own experiences and about the oppression that we experience on a daily basis. Our voice isn’t part of the discussion even of the subject of disability. Even so, we had the opportunity to speak and we did, this is the word, which when tossed, hits the vulnerable parts of our hearts and souls. No one may have been listening but that doesn’t mean that what was said didn’t matter.

The use of ‘t*rd’ in combination with any other word, used to make up a new word in which the ‘t*rd’ part is the ultimate insult isn’t new. I know that. But the uptick in that particular word is noticeable and, by and large, of course, by some conservatives or conservative minded people. The people who stand with the church and with God. The people who talk about morals and scruples. The people who see everything as black and white. Those people are the people who seem so comfortable with spewing hatred. Those are the people who seem so comfortable mocking people who they hurt. Those are the people who love to victimize others and then say that their victims are victims of their own thin skin, their own sensibilities or their own self righteousness.

I don’t think the idea that calling names is wrong is new to anyone.

Ruby and Sadie new that name calling was hurtful at a very early age.

No one had a talk with them about it, they just knew.

Like we all know.

So, let’s be clear people using this portmanteau know what they are doing and are doing it purposefully. They intend offense, they intend insult and they intend hurt.

Who are these people?

We don’t know of course because they don’t use their names.

They dub themselves with a made up moniker intended to sound cool, or tough, or hard. And yet, they are in hiding, which is exactly the antithesis of cool, or tough, or hard.

And because they are in hiding I don’t know who they are.

I actually want to know who they are. Not to identify them, not to chase after them – which would probably frighten them silly, but to get a sense of ‘why?’ I don’t get ‘why.’

It strikes me that I don’t know a single person that uses that kind of language. But, I fear that maybe I do, that maybe the person clicking on their keyboard as I click on mine, might be in the line up in front of me, on the sidewalk beside me, in the movie theatre munching popcorn two rows over. Maybe I’m in the presence of people who find cruelty an easy option. Maybe I’m in the presence of hate without knowing it. Maybe the world is a little less safe than I thought it was.

I don’t find it hard work to avoid name calling.

I don’t find it difficult to use respectful language.

I don’t find myself working up a sweat to control my tongue even when I’ve lost control of my temper.

I just don’t.

Because, when I was very young, I learned, in many ways,that name calling hurts. And I don’t want to be hurtful.

Isn’t it that easy?

I had thought so.

But, I guess not.

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