Pat Healy: My real passion is my hobby.Mary: Really, what’s that?Pat Healy: I work with retards.Mary: Isn’t that a little, uhm, politically incorrect?Pat Healy: Well, heh, to hell with that… no one’s going to tell me who I can and can’t work with, right?
A state legislator introduced a bill to remove the word “retarded” from California’s law books on Wednesday, calling the word outdated and demeaning. State Senator Fran Pavley’s legislation would replace all references of mental retardation with the more accepted term “intellectual disability.”
In an official capacity, that’s fine. You expect bureaucratese to be as bloodless and obtuse as possible. But to believe that changing the name of the condition somehow changes the condition, as George Carlin famously ranted about, you’d have to be an idiot. Or a moron. Or an imbecile, or any of the other words that mean the exact same thing as calling someone a retard.
“Intellectual disability” or “mentally challenged” describe the exact same reality as “retarded”, one in which a human being’s intellectual capacity is damaged, limited or deficient, which any honest person would agree is a condition no one would willingly choose. And I’m sure schoolchildren are busy right this moment using even those terms in a demeaning and pejorative way toward their peers. Words are empty vessels; mean-spirited insults can inhabit any of them.