Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Le Silence

Le Silence, Odilon Redon

Le Silence is the title of the above painting by the French artist Odilon Redon. I won't ever forget the moment I saw it, nearly thirty years ago, somewhere along the coast of France in a museum with a retrospective of his paintings. I'd never heard of Redon and still don't know much about him, but that painting made me stop and stare and has always resonated with me.

Well, I'm not going to be silent about this -- this question I've had all morning -- this thought:

A man was executed last night in the state of Texas for murder. His clemency appeal had been denied by the Supreme Court of the United States. The man had an alleged IQ of 61. He was mentally retarded. The accuracy of the IQ number was evidently in question, and the man was perhaps not as significantly mentally retarded as originally determined.

In the state of Pennsylvania, a top Republican operative made a joke to a crowd of 200 people about Obama supporters being "mentally retarded." Evidently, not a single person objected. Here's the joke: I was very embarrassed. I was in this parking lot and there was a man looking for a space to park, and I found a space for him. And I felt badly — he looked like he was sort of in distress. And I said, ‘Sir, here’s a place.’ And he said, ‘That’s a handicapped space.’ I said, ‘Oh I’m so sorry, I saw that Obama sticker and I thought you were mentally retarded."  You can read that story here.

During the last week, I've been arguing, fruitlessly, in the comment section with a man who insists on calling me a libtard. You can read a bit of that here.

What kind of state is Texas that kills a man who is mentally retarded? What kind of country do we live in that allows the death penalty when every single other western, industrialized, so-called "civilized" country has banned it?

What kind of country is this where people support an openly bigoted corporation that sells processed fried chicken sandwiches behind the mantle of "freedom of speech," defends the right to carry semi-automatic guns in the name of liberty from tyranny and kills a mentally retarded man in the dead of night and calls it justice?

Why should we be proud of ourselves?

Why are we silent? How can those of us who agree that this action is obscene -- the state-sanctioned, institutional murder of a mentally retarded man --  change it? How can we turn aside or laugh, even uncomfortably when people continue to use the mentally retarded, people like my daughter Sophie, as the basis for their jokes and criticism?

I think we need to scream:

The Scream, Edvard Munch
Jim Roddey, Pennsylvania's Allegheny County GOP Chair  Telephone: 412-458-0068
(Mr. Roddey's phone: 412-512-6747)
The Republican Committee of Allegheny County
100 Fleet Street, Suite 205
Pittsburgh, PA 15220

And I realize that it's stupid to argue with others on a conservative blog. I don't want to say I'm like a fly to shit, because that would imply I think conservative views are shit. I really don't.


  1. I detest all iterations of that word. And I've seen one that starts with an F that is really beyond the pale.

    In my opinion there is no correct usage of the word anymore.

    And, for what it's worth, I think your cop skills are honed quite well.

    Thinking of heading to LA on 9/29 for the play and I'm coming with a friend. Any chance for a meet up before or after the play or on Sunday morn?

  2. Oh, Elizabeth. It's all so fucked up.

  3. I hadn't heard this story. You ask all the right questions. It does seem like the inmates are running the asylum now.

  4. When I read that "joke" I felt the air leave my lungs. Elizabeth, all you can do is to keep doing your part and telling your story. Over and over if you have to. (And you will have to.) I think homosexuals are making headway and that is because they have educated people. I for one have changed my views on homosexuality and it was because someone told their story.

  5. sigh.

    you're asking all the right questions...


  6. Earlier I had commented (on FB) that there's no longer a political divide, instead it is a cultural one. And after reading "Skunkfeathers" I am more convinced than ever. People who would continue to use a vile insult even in the face of someone explaining that they take offense because it demeans their child, who would continue to do so and actually revel in it, is part of another culture. And while I am all about diversity, I think we should follow Maya Angelou's instruction to believe Skunkfeathers and his culture when they show us who they are.

  7. And then there is this:

    Mark Ewing, an Alaska State House hopeful, and self proclaimed torch carrier of conservative common sense, described one way to help a strapped state budget:

    ” the state should consider moves to stop providing education to “children that have a hard time making their wheelchair move.”

  8. It's the "jokes" that get to me the most ... And there's no wit to them at all ... Only bullying insults. I've had to ask someone in my family to quit sending me e-mail political jokes. They're horrible.

  9. It's crazy that the measurement of that man's IQ is even at issue -- because the real issue is the death penalty itself, which is wrong in EVERY SINGLE CIRCUMSTANCE.


    His IQ just makes the situation more obscenely cruel.

    As for "libtard," that's a Limbaugh-ism, I believe. And we all know Rush just says whatever he can to get a rise out of people. He's like a cranky fourth-grader with no friends.

  10. Elizabeth, I just love you. I hadn't heard this "joke" and reading it hurt my heart. You are right on every level. And even though it hurts me to hear the words "mentally retarded" used that way, what makes me sadder is knowing how much it hurts my friends like you.

    Thanks for always teaching me ways to stand up and be brave.

  11. Elizabeth, I couldn't see the Redon print on your page, but looked it up. I think the juxtaposition of Le Silence and The Scream is striking. I just scuttled a post back to draft because I couldn't adequately express my outrage over the things I'm seeing in the world around me, about how mad and scared I am. You did a fine job, and thanks for speaking up, and for bothering to try and debate with a closed mind.

    I'm not sure when politically correct sensitivity gave way to overt judgement and cruel name calling in this country, but a lot of it seems to be done under the guise of religion and politics, which is sickening. I blame ignorance and I'll get that draft tweaked and join you in screaming out loud. This is seriously no time to be silent in America, as a woman or as a reasonable human being.

  12. dear elizabeth, the clarity with which you see is both a gift and a curse. a gift to all of us with whom you share that bell like insight, but a curse to you, because the vast majority of humanity cannot see with the clarity you do. i am glad you speak up anyway, even in places where it might well be futile, or maybe not.

  13. We should be screaming because hatred and fear sprout from the same sick soil and the more we excavate and enrich the soil, the better. Thank you for screaming. I'll keep shouting as well and I know it will make a difference.

  14. And then the sentencing of Jared Lee Loughner for the Tucson shooting. I'm sure I am not the only one troubled that the man had untreated schizophrenia at the time of the shooting. What a completely tragic situation.

  15. What can I say that hasn't already been said? That Jesus or Buddha or hundreds of thousands of people haven't already said?



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