I often use words like “crazy,” “insane,” and “nutbag” to describe people whose views I think I bizarre, illogical or bigoted. But as Tekanji points out, words mean things. And while words like “crazy” are pretty steeped in my vocabulary, it really isn’t all that hard to make an effort to purge them. Consider this Step 1.
Well, that’s just crazy! But I don’t mean Jill. I’m talking about the notion that we can’t say “crazy” anymore without offending someone we weren’t even talking about. It’s insane!
Look, I don’t usually set out to offend people, but my life does not revolve around avoiding it either. Sure, there are certain sensitive situations, “a time and a place”, etc. I care about other people’s feelings and take them into account whenever possible. But when I look at the Bush Administration, for instance, I think “crazy”, and that’s what I’m going to call it. When I heard McCain say that he would keep troops in Iraq for a hundred years, I thought “insane”. And it is. And that’s what I’m going to call it.
In response to someone who suggested that not being offended by the use of these words is possibly a result of privilege (i.e. never having been affected by mental illness) I posted the following comment on Feministe. It sums up my thoughts on the subject quite nicely.
If PTSD, anxiety and depressive disorders count as mental illness (and I think we’ll agree that they do) I can assure you that not all mentally ill people are offended by words like “crazy”, “nutjob” or even “insane.”
The common usage/meaning of these words is so far removed from anything referring to actual mental illness these days, that being offended by them seems almost deliberate or self-inflicted; one almost has to be trying to be offended.
I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. I do not want to be insensitive or uncaring. I do my best to be careful with my words, and I try not to offend people when I can help it. I just think this is going too far. I believe that most people these days understand that when we say “crazy” or “nutbag” we’re referring to what we consider irrational, over-the-top ideas (often political) and that we are in no way referring to an actual mental condition.
I will not use “retarded” as an insult because it still commonly refers directly to mentally disabled people. I will not use “gay” as an insult because it still commonly refers to homosexuals. But the words in question here (crazy, nutjob, etc.) have evolved to the point that they mean something altogether different now, and I will continue to use them, without apology, to refer to the ideas of over-the-top “wingnuts”, fundamentalists, etc.
And privilege plays no role in my feelings on the subject.
Call me nuts, but that’s where I stand on the issue. Although I think the fact that it’s an issue at all is more than a bit whacked.
P. S. I won’t be around to moderate comments for the next twenty four hours or so. Don’t think I’m ignoring you if you stopped by to shout, swear or call me a loon. I’ll be happy to return the favor around this same time tomorrow.