Editor's note: Andy Hinds is a stay-at-home dad to twin girls. Before the kids were born, he made a living as a freelance carpenter and adjunct English professor. While watching his kids, he blogs at Beta Dad, tweets, and writes for DadCentric, Aiming Low, as well as several local print publications in his current hometown of San Diego. He voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and plans to do so again in 2012.
After the final presidential debate on Monday, social media was aflutter with armchair analysis, jokes and memes. Some of the commentary was insightful and some was funny and some was antagonistic.
And then there was Ann Coulter’s tweet.
Perhaps in order to be heard above the fray, Coulter, a conservative pundit famous for her outrageous and vitriolic one-liners, chose to go ahead and say the most immature, offensive thing that she could think of: “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard,” she tweeted, apparently referring to what she perceived as Romney’s somewhat less-than-aggressive performance.
Almost immediately, tweets and Facebook posts appeared, scolding Coulter for her use of the r-word. Even like-minded conservatives rightly wagged their fingers at her.
However, among the thousands of people who shared or retweeted Coulter’s words, many did so without attaching any disapproving comments, apparently because they shared the sentiment and had no problem with the word choice. (The absolute best response was written here by Special Olympics athlete John Franklin.)
Special Olympian's take: Hear what Franklin has to say about Coulter's tweet
Perhaps not surprisingly, Coulter, who has made a career out of shocking people, responded to the controversy by doubling down the next day with another tweet using the word “retarded.”
Being mean is her schtick, and she has perfected it. And it worked. I hadn’t even thought about Ann Coulter in probably a year, and here I am thinking and writing about her.
What makes this comment especially mean is not that she called the president a name. She calls a lot of people names. A lot of people call the president names. That’s childish and rude.
But calling someone a “retard” is not just childish and rude, but cruel as well; and not so much to the person at whom you have directed the slur, but to the people who have carried that reductive and hurtful label throughout their lives because they have actual developmental disorders. To use the word “retard” as an insult is to say that developmentally disabled people are worthy only of disdain and derision -- that they are subhuman and unworthy of our compassion.
I would disagree with anyone who accuses President Obama of being intellectually challenged. That’s quantifiably false. But you can claim it all day long and I won’t think you are cruel -- just wrong.
However, if you use a slur that simultaneously dehumanizes innocent people that have nothing to do with the point you are trying to make, someone needs to have a talk with you.
I’ve been preparing myself to have that chat with my own kids as they approach the name-calling age. I wish Ann Coulter’s parents had done a better job of delivering that message to their daughter.