I’m standing in the rain a couple of weeks ago, trying to get a cab because the stand, where there are usually ten of them lined up, is empty now that I need one.
It’s one of those icy winter rains where every drop seems to aim itself at the half-inch gap between the back of your neck and your coat collar. I’m out in the middle of the street, waving at traffic with one hand and carrying a bag of groceries and one of those portable pet-cage thingies in the other because I just dropped my cat off at the vet.
A car hits a puddle of slush as it zips past, soaking my jeans from the crotch down. I’m wondering if I’m going to catch pneumonia when I see this guy and his daughter huddled under the awning of the building behind me. She’s maybe eight years old, and she’s wearing one of those flimsy nylon kid’s jackets that actually make you colder when they’re wet. She’s shivering; her lips look like they’re about to turn blue. I tell the guy that he can go ahead and take the next cab.
A few minutes later, a cab finally pulls up to the stand. Some douche wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase swoops out of the building and jumps in the backseat before any of us can react. I grab the door as he’s pulling it closed and tell him to get in line with the rest of us.
He pretends not to hear me, which many people don’t seem to realize is the international symbol for “Please punch me in the face.” I reach into the car and try to pull him out by the lapel of his coat, which is quite a trick because I still have the stupid cat cage and the groceries in my other hand. The guy is hanging on to the back of the headrest like his life depends on it and hollering some bullshit about the building management’s policy on cab lineups.
In situations like this I often ask myself what Jesus would do, just to make sure that I’m not being a pussy.
I take a step back so I can line up a kick to the side of the guy’s head. The cab driver is shrieking at me in one of those weird cabdriver languages, onlookers are onlooking, and out of the corner of my eye, I see the little girl. She looks terrified. I can only imagine how messed up she’s going to be if I start smashing the guy’s head into the sidewalk, so I let him have the fucking cab.
I’m still pissed, though, so as he’s pulling away, I call him one of those names that no one is allowed to call anyone unless, of course, they belong to the group of people to which the name usually applies, which, by the impeccable logic of political correctness, makes it all right.
Am I aware that the term I used is widely considered to be one of the most hateful and hurtful in the English language? Can I understand that it carries a terrible legacy of injustice, oppression, and blah-blah-blah?
Of course. That’s exactly why I used it.
I would love nothing more than to know that the sheer power of my vicious, hate-filled words sent that taxi-stealing piece of shit into paroxysms of anguish and self-loathing so profound that he went home, stuck a gun in his mouth, and splattered his tiny rodent brain all over his kitchen ceiling. If one of his loved ones were to get hooked on crystal meth after discovering his maggot-ridden corpse and ended up blowing homeless men in exchange for cheese sandwiches, I would consider it an unexpected but welcome bonus.
I’m guessing that the smug little grin on the guy’s face as he drove off in his ill-gotten cab means the odds of anything like that ever happening are zero-to-nada.
The lesson here, for those of you who haven’t figured it out, is that hate speech is stupid. Not because it’s cruel or harmful but because it isn’t.
The truth is, these words don’t really hurt anyone and haven’t for decades, if they ever did at all. All they do is allow a bunch of politically correct halfwits to thump their chests in self-righteous glee and point to the ongoing climate of racism/sexism/homophobia as the real reason they failed their math test/lost their job/can’t get good-looking people to sleep with them.
Far be it from me to deny anyone’s right to free speech. Go ahead and use the n-word, the b-word, both of the f-words, and the vast selection of c-words as often as you like. Just be aware that what you’re actually doing is providing fodder to a vast herd of intellectual cattle. You’re helping resentful college professors and their counterparts in the media to build careers by playing holier than thou.
The next time you feel like hurting someone, take your cue from the kids on the playground. Get yourself some sticks and stones, ’cause calling people names doesn’t do anything but make life way more annoying for the rest of us.