I recently read an editorial piece by Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, about the harm that the movie “Tropic Thunder” is “sure to visit upon people with intellectual disabilities.” The movie reportedly uses the term “retard” several times within the context of its story, and Timothy Shriver is campaigning against the use of the “R-word” by calling for a boycott of the movie.
I don’t personally care for Ben Stiller, and I have no intention of seeing the movie because I rank Ben Stiller along side Will Farrell for making movies for stupid people. So, it comes as no surprise to me that they would go for locker-room humor to pander to the lowest common denominator in our society. Many movies do it, using many different techniques, some less controversial than others.
However, I have to agree with many who say that our skin has become way too thin in this country. The Politically Correct have gagged our minds as surely as dictatorial third-world countries gag the mouths of their citizens. Words are indeed powerful things, but the very foundations of our country guarantee our freedom of speech and thought (however crude that speech or thought may be). I have to ask those who, like Timothy Shriver, crusade against free speech and thought: Would you jeopardize that great right just because of one word or one faction? A grown up would realize that the user of an offensive word is behaving as a juvenile; the meaning and intent behind the usage being just as childish. I’m occasionally guilty of it myself; so are we all.
There is a fantastic scene in Fred Zinnemann’s movie “A Man for All Seasons” where Paul Scofield asks a young religious zealot just how far he would go to pursue the Devil. Would he tear down the law to get at the Devil? Where, then, would you hide should the Devil turn upon you? I would highly recommend watching that scene for the brilliant argument that Scofield puts forth for upholding the law, or the foundations upon which society is built. It would make any reasonably intelligent person think twice about rallying support to suppress speech and thought.
At any rate, like so many other words, the term has become part of our American lexicon, and will remain so. And what if the Politically Correct are successful in removing the term “retard” from that lexicon? They will then open the doors for others to remove terms they find equally offense, words that the Politically Correct may find important — perhaps words like “Bible”, or “God”, or “Jesus”.
Having compromised the law, where, then, will they hide should the Devil turn upon them?