Sticks and Stones

Posted: December 2, 2014 in Comedy Journal

I grew up in a racist place. It’s not evil or monstrous or full of villains, but it’s racist. I went to school with a black kid, and we all liked him, so we thought we weren’t racist, but we sure told a lot of nigger jokes in the back of the bus for kids that weren’t racist. My favorite was when the joke wasn’t explicitly about black people, it was just a recycled Polack joke. I won’t pretend for a second I didn’t. Should a network ever threaten to take away my cooking show… I won’t be able to identify the one time I used the n-word as quickly as other people have.

I’ll have to admit I used it a lot, and I still do, sort of. I just did: and I will again. I’m in love with language, and I’m a pretty attentive lover: nigger, cunt, or faggot, are all language’s asshole; they’re gross, but probably going to touch my tongue. I think it gives me a pass that I talk about it, and if it doesn’t, well, I’m already on the bus, good luck kicking me off. I think words are weapons, and I want to be a warrior, so I will use them, and sharpen them and figure out how they work. Also, more importantly, I should treat my weapons with respect.

I don’t think not saying something is respectful. I think it’s limiting. We, as a culture, need a word we’re not allowed to say. We need a “worst thing,” an “unmentionable.” I hate it that all we have serving that role now are insults to blacks, women, and homosexuals. There’s no “Obscenity” other than unfairness. Fuck is no longer the heaviest swear. Not by a long shot. If you want to pretend it is, imagine a three a year old kid running down a Wal-Mart yelling one of the “dirty” words I’ve mentioned. Fuck’s barely even funny. The other three make you hate his parents… but are hilarious.

Fuck’s a broadsword, and we’re all wearing armor. The other three are still dangerous though, because they trivialize people. They get shot out of a barrel of inequality and legitimate damaging practices that puncture our defenses. They can’t be marginalized the way fuck can. (We all have sex, we don’t all get treated as “less than” because of how we’re born.) That’s the danger of these words. They mean something… but what they mean IS changing. I think for the better. I think cunt’s less offensive everyday. I know nigger is. Faggot is weird because it was so carelessly used for so long that it has recently become dirtier, now that we’re treating gays like people (way to go everybody!) I think it’ll slide back to where it was too. The ugliness of these words is not inherent, they’re ugly because they represent things we are unwilling to address. They’re catchalls and cop-outs. People behave as if avoiding them remedies the situation. I don’t think so.

I am unimpressed by an inability to offend. I am unimpressed by proper behavior that does nothing to improve discourse or understanding. I fear I sound a bit like a gun nut arguing that more guns make us safer, that more “niggers” or “cunts” in the national vocabulary is what will bring true equality, and I know it’s not that simple, but neither do I think that being afraid or banning those words is possible, or helpful. You can’t uninvent the gun, or the hate-speech, but you can teach folks their uses, and it would be great if we could just quit wanting to use them. Can I push for reasonable word control? You know, maybe like background checks before you say “faggot,” or you’ve got to register your “nigger” with a black friend. I’m certain if you read enough Sylvia Plath you’ll know when to say “cunt.” If we respect each other enough to know each other, we won’t have to wear our guns outside our belts. We’ll be some fearless motherfuckers.

  1. I’m reminded of my two favorite Louis C.K. bits:

    And of course, if only for the payoff:

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