Friday, March 18, 2011

On the Use of the Word "Teabagger"

I choose my words carefully.

I have never been a great fan of false modesty. I have enough flaws and problems to be genuinely modest about that if there is something that I can actually do well I see no reason not to acknowledge that fact. Some things I’m good at. Some things I’m not.

Writing is one of the things I’m good at.

Yes, I know I just ended that sentence with a preposition. I am also aware of the history and purpose of that particular rule and so choose to ignore it as being an unnecessary restraint on clear prose. Your mileage may vary.

Everything I post here has been read through at least four times. I don’t always catch all of my mistakes, but you can, as a rule, be assured that the words used here are the ones I intended to use, particularly if I make a point of using the same ones repeatedly in the same situations.

I am well aware of the words I choose. I am aware of their history, their denotations and connotations, and the effects that they may have on readers.

Which brings me to the word “Teabagger.”

Several people have complained about my use of that word, either directly to me or to friends who have been gracious enough to link to things I have written here. They find this word offensive. They say it belittles people who are actively engaged in trying to change the country to reflect their politics. They think it shows contempt for those so described.

To which I respond, “why yes, yes it does, and thank you for noticing.”

I am very well aware of the history and meaning of the term, probably more so than those criticizing me. I know that it describes a sexual act – the dangling of one’s testicles in the face of someone else, possibly into their mouth, depending on how the term is used – and that this act can be an erotic thing, a prank, or a power play depending on the situation. I know that it is used as a slur based on that. I am also aware that in the Wisconsin prison system it is used to describe the act of defecating in another prisoner’s personal coffee mug.

Please note that I do not accuse the political Teabaggers of those acts. I have no idea what Governor Teabagger does in his spare time, for example, nor frankly do I care. When he is off the clock, he may do what he wants with his testicles or his coffee mug, and more power to him. I will, in fact, go on record as saying that the frequency of such acts among political Teabaggers is probably no more or less than it is among the general population.

So why use the term at all, then? Why describe this political movement and its adherents with this word?

There are a couple of reasons, actually.

For one thing, it is the word that they chose when they first metastasized onto the American political scene a few years back. They proudly called themselves Teabaggers and insisted that I do the same. And so I have obliged.

The fact that eventually somebody stopped laughing long enough to explain to them what the term meant, which in turn caused them to demand to be called something else, I find irrelevant. I will not allow them to revise their own history in the same way that they casually revise the history of my country to suit their own personal fantasies. That would be irresponsible.

For another thing, the term as I use it is in fact meant to be belittling, contemptuous and offensive.

This movement – and to the extent that they subscribe to it, the people who support it – is a dangerously ignorant attempt to drag my country into a nightmare of authoritarian theocracy, a second Gilded Age of poverty and plutocracy in the name of “individual freedom” and an utterly hallucinatory version of American history, and it should be treated as such.

I am aware that it started off as a quasi-libertarian movement. Leaving aside the stupidity of that position – libertarianism being an ideology designed by Nature and Nature’s God to be subsidized by the government and one that has failed to achieve even its own blinkered goals whenever it has been attempted – the fact is that the Teabaggers are no longer such a movement. They seek power. They seek control. They seek to impose their narrow theocracy and authoritarian rule on the majority who rejects these things.

And they have the flat out arrogance to do so in the name of a long tradition of American history and values that utterly rejects such ideas.

It is our responsibility to treat the contemptible with contempt.

It is our responsibility to treat the ridiculous with ridicule.

It is perfectly appropriate to describe the pejorative in pejorative terms.

I use the term Teabagger because it fits my purpose. I use the term because every time such people try to betray the American past, sell out the American present and impoverish the American future I want other people to see how contemptible and ridiculous they are.

To those who would rather I not use the term, I simply say this:

I will worry about defending my children, my values and my country from this plague.

You can worry about making sure that they are not offended by the contempt and ridicule that they so richly deserve.

And we’ll call that even.


Ewan said...

You might, I think, enjoy and the blog in general. Not quite as polished as 4Q10D but also eloquent..

David said...

Jim Wright is one of my blogging heroes! I've followed his blog for a long time now, and I can't tell you how many times I have finished one of his posts and said to myself, "Yes! That!"

And that post was one of them.

Janiece said...

I use the term "teabagger," too, even though it offends both my children - their father is a member of that movement.

Which goes a long way in explaining why we're divorced, actually.

David said...

Yes, I could see how that would. ;)

I think we as a culture have forgotten that there are appropriate times and places to be offensive. We can't responsibly just go about doing that willy nilly, but sometimes considered thought leads us to a place where that's the most sensible option.

And I'm so there...

KimK said...

You keep rockin' the teabags, there, Dave!

Eric said...

Hear, hear!