Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘R’ word degrades people

Many of us read the news every day.  If you read the news this past week, you likely saw many stories. How many left an impression on you? I know that I saw two stories that caught my eye.

These two stories were different, yet similar. One is a national story, and the other a local story. The first story was about White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and his reference to some liberal activists as “retarded.” This was followed by Rush Limbaugh’s intentional use of the same word the next day.

The other story concerned a local girl from South Hadley, who allegedly committed suicide after being bullied by her peers.

At first glance, they seemed to be unlinked. They were, at least in nature. Yet, when one looks deeper into the story, they would see that the stories were linked by their theme.

We may very well read these stories and just flip to the next page. Another day, another story. However, we must look deeper into the issue. What wounds are being inflicted here? You hear about people with intellectual disabilities being discriminated against or you hear about a girl who took her own life as a result of being bullied.

You may be tempted to think that it is not your problem. But it is. It is our problem as these people that are suffering are humans just like you and me. What we need to do ask ourselves is: “Would I be content to be that person that is being hurt or discriminated against?” You wouldn’t now, would you?

First, let us look at the national story. This story is bizarre in many dimensions. First, we have Emanuel using the inappropriate term. When you use the word “retard,” it should not be used to describe a person. This is demeaning to those who have intellectual disabilities, formerly known as mental retardation.

You don’t call people this word. You just don’t. It is not an issue of political correctness. We live in the real world and intellectual disabilities are real issues facing individuals.

People with intellectual disabilities have done nothing to deserve the unfair wrath and stigma of this word. Even Sarah Palin voiced her displeasure at this use of the word because of a situation within her family that made the phrase cut too close to the bone.

However, the next day, this all changed. Palin decided to not say a word of reprimand with Limbaugh’s intentional use of the “R” word in the context of demeaning a fellow. I am disgusted with Palin that she turned the use of this word into a political issue by reprimanding a democrat but not a conservative.

Anyone who uses the word is in the wrong, no matter who the person is or what political affiliation he or she takes up. If I use this word inappropriately, I’m wrong. If you say it, you are in the wrong.

I am even more disgusted at Limbaugh. Limbaugh can’t shut up. Limbaugh doesn’t know how to shut up. I’d bet that Limbaugh wouldn’t like it too much if people talked down about him when he was too old to fight back for himself. Limbaugh is one of the coldest and most heartless people I have ever heard.

I have now written about the misuse of the “R” word in nearly every semester that I have written for “The Daily Collegian.” Once again, I call for action among those of you that I can reach – the student body here at the University of Massachusetts. Stop using the word “retard” to describe a fellow human being. There is no good that comes out of it. You are only hurting people by using it, whether you are aware that you are using the word or not.

The second story occurred in South Hadley, only several towns away from this campus. This is a tragic local story that has made the national news. According to CBS, Phoebe Prince was a 15-year-old freshman at South Hadley High School. Prince, who moved from Ireland, was viciously bullied by a group of peers until she was found dead in her closet, suspected of committing suicide. A growing life was tragically and needlessly cut short.

The lesson that needs to be taken from this by all, not just those of us here at UMass, is that we must always be there for people. We all have our own lives but we all have the same common goal to live happy and successful lives. Attacking the helpless and demeaning a life to the point that they give up on life is not the path to follow. We are better people than that. We can’t let the cowards that bullied Prince or those that build their lives by destroying others prevail over the good in this world.

The times may change, and so may the ways to praise or insult someone change. However, there is one thing that never changes, and that is the honor of dignity. Just remember that while nothing good will ever get accomplished by tearing another person down, there is always dignity for you and the other person in helping to build that person up.

Matt Kushi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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  • E

    EdFeb 11, 2010 at 4:52 am

    Sometimes the extent of something defines it.

    To compare the CRIMINAL ASSAULTS on Phoebe Prince to political figures calling each other “retarded” (which, btw, means “stupid” in this context) is to confuse hugging your girlfriend with crushing her rib cage and breaking every bone in her body.

    The District Attorney (yes, her, but) are conducting a criminal investigation into the death of Prince. Published reports indicate that some 30 other girls in the school have retained counsel – and I hope they will need it. This is a far cry from whatever a loudmouth blowhard – be it Rush Limbough or Al Franken – has to say.

    And there really is a difference between an insult and hounding someone to her death. Much like between hugging your girlfriend and crushing her to death…

  • J

    jack ryanFeb 10, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Phoebe Prince — Has anyone else been watching the sleazy, slithering school officials as they gradually sneak back under the rock of passing time and short attention spans that will hide them? From the very start I knew that NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING would be done about the bullying which drove a kid to take her own life. The principal and superintendent have done nothing because they are not men; they are pinky-handed paper pushers who live for getting a paycheck of over 100G’s per year. Hey, they WANTED to be administrators, but when it came time to actually DO some administrating, they mumbled, pushed papers, lied, an currently WAITING for everything to be forgotten by major news sources. South Hadley will flower again, the Cleavers will smile Hello, and some other kid will endure unspeakable torture at the whims of the “mean girls” or other sick school bullies. SOUTH HADLEY, you are a disgrace.

    Hey, Matt. What about an angry column directed at the suits in South Hadley?