As the great slack-jawed rabble line up to seek compensation for the dirty words and nasty names that put holes in their souls, I often wonder how they can stand the stank of their own gripe. Then, after scratching my balls for a minute, I raise a greater philosophical question: Can the rest of us believe them?
I’m not speaking of hate hoaxes, though they are an aspect of the same problematic problem. What I mean is, is it really that bad? Does taunting someone bust up their wee psyche simply because they say it does? Consider this: If you called the cops (which is precisely what you would do, always) claiming that a mailman punched you in the forehead, and they arrived to find not a mark on you—no swelling, no bruising, not even a scuff—those cops would have a hard time doing anything about it, even if it did happen. There’s no claim where there’s no evidence of injury. Yet we’re expected to take it on faith that people can be inwardly broken, crippled, and destroyed if a stranger calls them names. How can you tell if that’s true?
By way of example, let’s say I were to select a black man from the farmer’s market or library or wherever, and call out, “Hey you, with the dignity, Lancelot Link! C’mere a sec. I’ve never met you. … It’s neat that your dad and I have that in common.” If he replies that my barbs leave him mentally unstable, do we have to take his word for it? If I further suggest that his “… eyes are like shimmering, limpid pools. That’s rare in a nigger” and his nostrils begin to flare (we’ll have to take his word on that, too) and his pretty eyes burn with the salt of outrage, is it for real or for show? Could it be that his offense is manufactured for want of a prize? Does not a man of such melanin sometimes tell fibs?
Or pretend I espy a woman who is far, far too ample for her height and is eating a lamb rack like a corpulent shah. Giddy, I scream, “Hey lady! You’re so fat, J.D. Salinger built a secluded cabin in your neck!” When she doesn’t catch the reference, I add, “And how ’bout the time Werner Herzog dragged a boat over your ass?” I then crown my wit with a fart noise. As tears deplete her fat body of precious salts, we all must wonder aloud, “Is this real sadness, or are these the tears of a self-marginalized, roly-poly crocodile? Does she merely crave attention the world has so rightly denied her?”
To make sure you follow my point, vividly imagine that I approach a gay man in a family restaurant and tell him to “go count your T-cells, shitbird, your yap is leaving pecker tracks on the serviette.” He would probably run to a car nicer than mine as I remind him, “The Bible has nothing good to say about your rectal funhouse, you fruit!” A smidge rude, I admit, but I ask you: How wounded can one fruit truly be by my poor manners? Is his faggy discomfort worth a million gay dollars? Ten million? And if it is, isn’t that motive for some cosmic, Nth-level exaggeration?
As inconsiderate as some words may be, I find it hard to mentally link them with actual crime. I know insults can sting, but this reeking wave of offense seems cheap, artificial, and rehearsed. It also strikes me as just the eensy-weensyiest bit suspect that these invisible wounds can only heal with a double-action balm of spotlight and money. So suck it up, spongeface! I am not the custodian of your feelings. Cops aren’t here to serve and protect your ego. And as far as lawsuits go, indulging is bad enough, but rewarding hurt feelings is how little girls learn to cry on demand.