My recent TEDx talk addressed a point that some have chosen to take issue with: my statement that I’m done being “polite” (which I’ll get to in a minute).
But I have never — ever — taken issue or chosen to make disparaging remarks about either my nation’s President or those who have special needs. It seems Ann Coulter did both during Monday night’s political debates. And that’s why it’s time for a long-overdue Bitch Slap.
To get up to speed, you can begin here with Coulter’s tweet in question.
To top it off, you can read the classiest response to a hateful remark ever on the Special Olympics blog. Oh, and he has Downs Syndrome.
And while I might be a day or so behind on the news, I thought this would be the ideal time to address the issue of respect — which is lacking (evidently) from the repertoire of certain folks and remains a behavior much confused with a distant relative (polite), which always shows up empty-handed to the potluck supper.
When I think about being polite, I envision someone saying something designed to placate the person in front of you that is contrary to how you truly feel. Call them white lies. Call the behavior what you will. But that behavior — masking how you truly feel to someone standing right in front of you because we don’t respect them enough to be direct and honest — that is what I’ve called for an end to. I’m through with the façades and the people who will say one thing to your face and mutter how they really feel under their breath once you’ve cleared the bus stop on the corner or gossip about you over drinks with the guys or gals. Take what you will from the dictionary. I see the act of being polite, however, as one that requires entirely too much effort to deliver an untrue and insincere sentiment.
The same amount of effort could be spent on being honest and respectful. Now that — that’s something I can get behind 24/7.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a career-related or personal situation — I’ll take respectful any day over polite. Our world is in need of more hard truths and frontstabbers — those who will stand before us and deliver honesty and in a most respectful fashion — instead of coating our inquiries, actions, and ideas with a cheap varnish of feigned approval or passive-aggressive dismissal.
Is it so much to ask to have the truth delivered to one’s face and with respect?
I’ve never had any affinity for Ann Coulter. I don’t agree with her views, tactics, or anything much that she stands behind. But who am I kidding? There are plenty of people who feel the same way about me. But one thing I believe in and will stand behind till my dying day: the President of my country is the President of my country. That means that he deserves to have his title capitalized and be addressed with every ounce of respect that is due our nation’s Commander-in-Chief. And I don’t care how you vote/voted/will vote nor whatever level of LIKE you have for whomever holds that office at any given time.
When you have earned the office of President of the United States, there’s a respect that goes with that title. Not blind faith, mind you, but respect. We have a political system, broken and flawed though it may be, that affords not just every candidate a voice, but every American eligible to vote a voice (current bullshit voter identification laws notwithstanding). So vote if you don’t like what you see. But here’s what I offer the next time that Ms. Coulter — or any of you, would like to call the President of the United States a “retard” (and perhaps even make repeated references using such demeaning language) or address those with special needs with anything less than respect:
First, think about my nephew, Aren. He is autistic. When you use that word, you are directly insulting my nephew, my sister, his father, his grandparents who adore him (one person of which is my mother), his sister, every child like him and his or her parents, and ME. Do you really want to fuck with me on this?
Next, watch this video. These athletes do more than you or I could ever dream of doing — and they do it before breakfast, with less, and better. These are the people who were formerly referred to as “lame,” “cripples,” or even “gimpy.” Unlike those who compete in the Special Olympics, many of these people weren’t even born with a deficiency. Rather, life handed them an event or situation that transformed them forever. How dare we ever think that they are less deserving of our respect than you or I, each blessed with limbs and brains such in “proper” working order (though my soon-to-be 40-year-old knees would beg to differ on that occasionally).
Meet the Superhumans from STITCH on Vimeo.
After that, think about the number 44. That’s how many people have served The United States of America as President in 223 years (since 1789). If your life had taken you on a path to hold the highest office of our country — to be one of 44 leaders who each hold the direction of our legislation, economy, and general welfare in his or her hands (which is tougher than any job you or I will ever have) — seems to me that you’d have lived a life worthy of respect and where the R-word could be left where it belongs: with other tiresome, pejorative, and demeaning words that are ripe with nothing but negative implication and crystal clear tones of disrespect.
Finally, take the words shared so often by my friend Merredith to heart. She talks often of her mother, Bea, whom I never had the opportunity to meet. When Merredith would hear someone saying hateful words about someone else (or even her), Bea would simply say, “What Ms. Coulter says about those with special needs says more about Ms. Coulter than it does about those with special needs.” Indeed it does. And I know more and more every day that Bea and I would have gotten along like peach pie and Blue Bell vanilla bean ice cream. And I do hope that the Universe watches over Ms. Coulter’s family in a way that she never has to face someone she loves suffering a traumatic neurological or life- (and body-) changing physical injury.
If I were being polite, I would say that Ms. Coulter made a misstep. A faux pas. Whoopsie! *Giggle* *Gasp* And then I’d go back to vacuuming the living room.
If I were being honest and respectful, I would say that Ms. Coulter has shown us, without a doubt and repeatedly, who she is, what she values, and the tactics she’s willing to use to make her point. And they are all, collectively, classless. I would like to see the Republican party encourage Ms. Coulter to volunteer in a center that serves those with special needs. And I would like to see her take up John Franklin Stephens on his offer to join the athletes of the Special Olympics at the next Games. I would also tell her that I think her remarks are complete and total bullshit and are devoid of the respect that is due our nation’s President, regardless of her political inclinations and the liberties she feels those inclinations entitle her to.
If this blog post results in some supporters of Ann Coulter never buying my book, subscribing to my blog, calling me a cunt, leaving hateful remarks in the comments section, or otherwise calling me out as a loudmouth, idiot, miscreant, neanderthal, “hysterical”, author, twat, woman, and person in general with an opinion, I’m completely okay with that. Lay it on me down below. As I’ll stand behind my differentiation of polite and respectful and the value (or lack thereof) in each any day of the week and three times on December 10 (my goddamned 40th birthday). I will also remind myself to respond always with the grace shown by John Franklin Stephens from the Special Olympics — pissed though I might be — to those who don’t show due respect.
You’ve been slapped. And now, a word from Ms. Aretha Franklin.