Free speech or just an excuse to be insensitive?

English: Kids at shore
English: Kids at shore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Humour at the cost of hurting another individual, that’s cool? Really? How is it ‘Free speech’ if it costs a tear and stabbing pain to another? Here is an excerpt that got me agitated, again.

I’m not surprised you get along well with all the other neighbours. If you put fifty children with Down’s syndrome in a room there is going to be a lot of hugging.

The only way the writer could ‘get back’ at a mean neighbour is to compare him to someone with disability? So according to the writer people with challenges are to be looked down upon, ridiculed, basically the children of the lesser God? I have worked with Down syndrome children and I assure you there is nothing derogatory in being compared to them. They are sensitive, kind, honest and the gentlest creatures on God’s Earth.

I know he was trying to be funny and was exercising his ‘Free Speech’, but I beg to differ. It isn’t ‘free’ if another pays the cost of expressing it, with tears and pain. I love humour and often do indulge in a little ‘smart alec’ dialogue delivery where the recipient, usually my mom, decides to chase me with her rolling-pin. However, I do respect the fine line between hilarious and insensitive. I was once laughing my head off at a Friends episode when my elder brother walked in, took me aside and spoke these words to me, “It’s ok to laugh with someone but never at someone. Is this entertainment for you, laughing AT someone.”

I know he was being a little too critical, since these characters were universally loved for being comical and not because they were ‘stupid’. However, it did highlight something in my mind, the fine line between respect and entertainment. I never watched another episode of friends again, as I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that I was laughing at someone, even if that was someone I loved and admired. In hindsight, it should read, especially because it’s someone whom I love and respect.

I had a friend who rationalised her name calling as, ‘it isn’t mean if it’s true’. For e.g., A horrid teacher can be labelled a B*&^% if she truly is mean and obnoxious. I agreed with that reasoning until I met a dog lover who remarked, “Who says female dogs, a bitch is mean or obnoxious?” That got me thinking and I realised that dogs are faithful and basically a man’s best friend, it isn’t an insult to call a man a dog but it’s insulting to the dog if the man is horrid. Unless off course, if you consider dogs to be repulsive or to be despised.

Which is exactly what the writer is equating people with Down syndrome to be, despised. If you meant to insult someone and you did it by comparing them to people with disability you are insulting people with disability, that’s not free speech that’s mean, rude, backward and unintelligent. You can’t justify your statement saying it was targeted towards the mean person and you meant no disrespect to the people with disabilities. You just compared them to a mean and obnoxious person, how is that not insulting?

Wake up people, just think before you speak or write and if you do, then have the humility to apologise and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise what I was doing.” There is nothing more painful than someone justifying his or her wrong; it’s like being hurt all over again. Spread a little love people, I’m done with the hatred and the name calling, aren’t you?