Calling People Names Is Bad… Not Being Able To Handle Being Called Names Is Worse

I got an e-mail that I thought was terrific to comment on. I think it brings up something incredible that has changed in our society. So I want to (as I usually try to do in these situations) make it a “bigger picture” issue.Right now, I personally boycott any website, blog, newspaper, or magazine that has any posts in it that are anonymous. I think anonymity is one of the greatest assaults we’ve had on the dignity of thought and the properness of speech. People write the most nauseating, hateful, ugly, nasty stuff and get away with it, because they’re anonymous. Discourse is dropped; people are attacked – it’s awful. So I personally won’t look at any site, newspaper or magazine that does that routinely, and I don’t think you should either. I think if you’re not going to stand by what you’re saying, then it isn’t worth reading or hearing about. If you’re that cowardly, your opinion is meaningless, or should be held such, by reasonable people. And then “Mark” sent this. This is a reasonable question, but I bet Mark is a lot younger than me. And I’ll tell you how I know that at the end:

I heard you the other day counseling an 11 year old boy not to be hurt by words used by bullies, and then go out and get lessons in karate and learn to defend himself. I wasn’t clear on whether or not he should just defend himself if the “word-callers” attack him or if he should attack the “word-callers,” but what concerned me was your statement that they are just words and he shouldn’t be hurt or pay attention to them.

Just to clarify that….the law of the land is: you can defend yourself if it appears somebody is physically attacking you to cause you bodily harm. You can cut them off at the pass if they lay a hand on you; you can do what it takes to stop them from assaulting you. That’s why I suggested he take karate, so he’ll know how to do that and have the confidence to follow it through. To the rest of this:

Of course it would be nice if we could all ignore hurtful words, but the fact is that “hate speech” exists and that it does hurt…especially children in their formative years, and if that speech is directed at one’s growing sense of sexuality and self-definition. Using words like “pansy,” “sissy,” “fairy,” and especially, “faggot” do more than hurt – they isolate children from the rest of their peer group, separating them sometimes for years, contributing to teen drug use, alcoholism, and suicide. They hurt big. I cannot imagine you advising an African-American child to ignore and get over the use of the “nigger” word, or a Jewish child the “kike” word. Instead, we would have the perpetrators of this hate speech tracked down and punished. So why do you think it’s okay to let kids use the “fag” word and tell the boy to get over it?

Off the top of my head, I don’t remember what word it was. It didn’t matter to me what word it was, but if that’s the word it was, there it is.

Hate speech is hate speech, and homosexuals have suffered hate far too long to be relegated to some kind of status where it is okay to abuse us even at a tender age, and society will look the other way. You often mention your own son in your program. Think for a moment what you would want for your son if he were gay and 11 years old and being called the “fag” word. (Actually, my son is straight and he’s been called that). Blow it off and get some karate lessons, or get the karate lessons and work with the school to shut the mouths of the little brats with hate speech in their vocabularies? Not everything can be fixed, but telling the abused to “get over it” implies they somehow deserve it. (I do not see that logic at all). No child deserves verbal or physical abuse for being different. Thank you. Mark.

And his last name is private as far as I’m concerned. Okay. The reason I think he’s a lot younger than me? Is because I grew up with “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never harm me.” I was brought up with a philosophy that being called names can be ugly. And does anybody think I only know about this “intellectually?” That’s because the crap you read about me is just that….crap. Nobody but me knows my life.

My father was a Jewish boy from Brooklyn. He married this drop-dead gorgeous (yeah, I know I look like him) Italian lady from Italy – Catholic. Brought her here. I got nothing but verbal, and in addition, physical abuse because my father married outside Jewish law…mind you, in a neighborhood where absolutely nobody was Kosher and respected Shabbos. Nonetheless, my Dad married a shiksa! I was ostracized, I was verbally abused, I was even physically beaten up for being different. So you’re coming to the wrong place if you’re trying to plead “omigosh, you just don’t understand, do you!” Nonetheless, my mother would repeat, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never harm me.” I got into a fistfight, where I attacked, because somebody called my mother a bad name. I came home, and my mother said, “Why would you do that? You know who and what I am. I am not created by their words. It doesn’t matter.” Stunner. Just total stunner.

That’s what I think parents of black or Jewish or gay or whatever… parents should be raising their kids to understand. You are not what somebody calls you, unless, of course, you choose to behave like that, whatever that means. If somebody calls you a jerk and you act like a jerk, well, then I guess the name applies.

I am against all of this hysteria about a word. When a Bill Maher can imply that the death of our Vice President might be a very good thing, and virtually nothing happens to him, but one of the sacred words is used (the “f” and the “n” word), well, then somebody has to pay. Much too much sensitivity, and I really think it’s all about having power. If you can’t use a word, I have power, because I can punish you just for a word, so if you don’t agree with my philosophy, and you come anywhere near that word, I can call it “hate speech; hate thought!” and shut you down!

I’ve been called all kinds of names. Google or Yahoo! me. It’s unbelievable what people will say about me, and they know nothing about my life. But they pretend they do. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never harm me.” Because I know who I am. I know what’s in my soul. I know what my character is made of. You all don’t. So you all call me a name – it means nothing! And I would say that if I were black (and I am a Jew), if I were gay (I happen to be straight). But many of you find names to call me anyway. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never harm me.”

I brought my son up the same way. Because people, even in the press, would try to hurt me by hurting him. So, I had to bring him up to be stronger than that. “Sticks and stones will break my bones; names will never harm me.” I know me. I know my conscience. God knows me. You can’t hurt me with a name. And that’s how all our children should be brought up – black, Hispanic, gay, straight, undecided, whatever. We’ve gotta be sterner stuff than that.

And now that philosophy is being used against us in a world war – a global war. The Islamic fanatics and their cells in this country use how you’ve been intimidated by names and words, that you’re not allowed to describe what they’re doing viciously, inhumanely all over the world, because they’ll get you on hate speech. One of the things this country was founded on, is, whether it’s stupid or not, you can say it, and you won’t end up in the Tower of London, or on Al-Jazeera with your head chopped off. Think about what you’re letting this country become. I don’t like it when people use bad words on each other. It’s disdainful, distasteful, disgusting, stupid, mean and horrible. However, bring your children up that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” Let’s not be so weak. I went through a lot when I was a kid, and I didn’t understand it, and it made me depressed, and angry and hurt, and all that sort of stuff. But I’m made of sterner stuff because of it. And that’s what you should wish for your kids, too. All of growing up isn’t pleasant.