Warning: Contents May Be Offensive

I don’t think the law allows me to put into print all of the things I’ve been called in my lifetime. Dumbass, smartass, idiot, moron, racist, bigot, zealot, Nazi, communist, radical, and even xenophobe (yeah, I had to look that last one up too) are just the tip of the iceberg. When I was in grade school, the name-calling hurt.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but playground rhymes did not adequately defend me from the hurtful comments of others. As I got older, the only thing that changed was the nature of the insults, not their frequency or intent.

Then a strange thing happened in high school: I started to get some self-respect. I don’t think I changed who I was, and I know it didn’t really change how I was treated, but the overall effect was nothing short of miraculous. I found out that the world was a much different place when you looked people in the eye. Despite how ferocious the words coming out of their mouths, a bully looks much less impressive when you can see the uncertainty in their face. And insults have little effect when you see them for what they are: a weak attempt to belittle and diminish in the vain hope of gaining even a false sense of superiority.

I’ve been called a wimp by people half my size, and I’ve been accused of being stupid by people who couldn’t spell G.E.D. But the only thing I took from each incident was the understanding that the fastest way to prove your own inferiority is to use insult instead of intellect. When you use name-calling instead of a logical argument, the only thing you diminish is yourself. And the more often you go to that well, the more shallow and worthless it becomes.

I don’t get offended anymore by the names people use to describe me, because I know they’re not true. But something that does really offend me is the number of politicians and public figures who still cling to such tactics. It’s time that we stop giving attention to anyone without the aptitude to have a discussion without essentially using statements like, “Oh yeah, well your mom wears combat boots.” You can change the rhetoric by using bigger words, but it still doesn’t add to the argument.

Terms like “racist” and “bigot” are thrown around so often that they really have no meaning. Who is the last President of the United States who WASN’T compared to Adolf Hitler in some form of protest or another?  Anymore, if you’re not referred to as a “radical” then you’re probably not strong enough in your own convictions. The point is, critics don’t attack the irrelevant. And, while we oftentimes struggle with our own self-worth, ironically, our opponents will tell us exactly where we stand by how they try to defeat us. Usually it’s when they can’t attack your standpoint, that they start attacking you personally. And I have a hard time being offended by that.

But what also offends me is when people walk around with feigned indignation every time they’re attacked, when they themselves have used similar tactics in the past. If you use derogatory terms to define others, you lose all credibility trying to cry foul when they’re used against you. How pathetic is it when some of the same people who called George Bush a fascist took such strong offense at billboards comparing Obama to Hitler?  You can’t attack someone with a knife then claim to be a victim when they, in turn, draw a gun.

This country must both stop drawing little mustaches on people, and screaming bloody murder when it happens. There are far too many difficult discussions to be had to get mired down in the kind of incivility that plagues seemingly every public discourse.

If you want to question my politics, my policies or my preferences, be my guest., but you better be prepared with facts, figures, examples, and references because if you simply call me names, all you’ll do is strengthen my resolve. And don’t for one second think that you can change my mind by trying to feign indignation and plead for pity. It’s been said that two things define almost everyone who’s gone on to greatness: that they were all once ridiculed, and that in the end, they didn’t care.

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Volume 6, Issue 15, Posted 8:42 AM, 07.27.2010