Call Me Crazy, But…

It’s difficult, looking for just the right word,
So it’s tempting to get a bit lazy;
And critics of someone’s behavior might claim
The behavior they’re seeing is crazy.

Unless there is reason (most often, there’s not)
To suspect that the cause is insanity,
You’re dissing the mentally ill with your slight,
But the group that’s at fault is humanity

Now, why should I bother? It’s only a word—
No reason to make such a fuss—
But it matters, which people you label as them
And which ones you label as us.

Hey, maybe I’m over-reacting a bit;
Your intentions were perfectly nice
And maybe you think there’s no need to complain…
But maybe you need to think twice.

And no, I’m not telling you what prompted this.


  1. mouse says

    I’ve found it very difficult to excise the word “crazy” from my vocabulary. I’m embarrased and try to correct myself each time I slip, but I’ll be damned if I can manage to stop it before I do.

  2. says

    @ mouse, #1

    I agree with Cuttlefish–thank you for trying, for being aware. That’s better than 95% of the rest of the planet.

    And it is a process. Our word choices are often so unconscious, our language ingrained, especially stuff we learned as kids. I didn’t really have a problem exorcising words like “retarded” or “short bus” cracks, mostly because I have a little brother who is on the spectrum and has learning challenges, so I’ve always been really sensitive to that kind of language (though I would hope that even without the example of my little brother, I would have learned to be more aware of the hurt my words could cause).

    The hard thing for me was getting rid of the word “spastic” or “spaz”. We used it all the time growing up, kids and adults. (It might be a California thing? Or a NorCal thing? Dunno.) When I went to university in Illinois, I met a girl who eventually became my best friend. And she had a seizure disorder (among other motor control issues). Now, I had no clue that “spaz” etc. were ableist slurs. I had no idea where they came from. They were just words we used growing up. But when she was younger, growing up with a disability in Michigan and Iowa, those were the words kids used to attack her. It took a while for her to even tell me–she knew I didn’t mean anything by it (and I was usually insulting myself, not anyone else), but still, the words cut each and every time.* Actually, the only reason she said anything was because I asked her not to use “retard” anymore, and she took that opening to ask that I change my language, too. I felt so terrible, so guilty that I had been using painful, triggering language against my best friend for so long (and I still feel guilty that I didn’t catch it earlier, didn’t pick up on the fact that I was hurting her). But even though I was highly motivated to change, it still took a mortifyingly long time for me to finally stop using those words. (Maybe…a year?) And I had help–we would call each other on it if we slipped up and used those words. But you gotta just commit and chug through.

    Also, it’s actually great if you slip up, stop yourself, and correct your language in public! I’ve found that it’s a really effective example to other people, and has occasionally started important conversations and encouraged others to try to change, too!

    * I actually just finished a conversation with my dad–a straight, white, Christian male, pretty much the gold star of privilege, except he’s definitely working class–about how words hurt. He totally doesn’t get why I care about the things people say about GLBT people, women, etc. You know, the whole “just ignore it, why do you let it bother you?” thing. I tried to explain that for the most part, I do ignore it and let things go, but sometimes it’s like Water Torture, like little pinpricks all through the day, and I’m not able to ignore it in aggregate. So even though it looks like it’s just one little thing that set me off, it’s actually the culmination of so many “little things” I’ve heard throughout my day.

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