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THE VANISHED WORD                

by Michael Kirwan

     There is an attitude afoot in this country, one that clings to the notion that if something is not spoken of it ceases to exist. If there is no active vocabulary for certain topics to be discussed with, then those particular subjects will simply fade from the public consciousness. The Rabid Right Wing Nut Jobs are devoted adherents to this notion of label erasure as social containment. In their understanding, if sex education is limited to hysterical calls for abstinence then teenagers will naturally abandon screwing around with each other. If the “Reefer Madness” mentality is the only one presented then everyone will recoil in horror from the joints, pipes, pills and syringes that currently offer a brief respite from the endless tedium of modern living. If any mention of homosexuality is excised from the curriculum then children can be free to grow up fearing, hating and attacking queers in a religion-fueled panic. It has become a standard practice for the Rabid Right Wing Nut Jobs to “rephrase” anything detrimental to their odious objectives. Suddenly what was obviously a “capricious, sullen, vendetta-inspired invasion to shore up the war machine” becomes instead a “valiant, noble, freedom and democracy spreading endeavor”. They do it all the time. The latest being the irrational and discarded “creationism” being reintroduced as “intelligent design”. I’ll go on about the new language of war-mongering and the use of fear to encourage people to forfeit their civil rights in a future RANT, right now I want to talk about another word game that’s being played out in our popular culture.

      I must admit that I was very skeptical when the “N” word business started. I’m always unhappy to see words reworked to suit political agendas (again, I love the language and am very leery of omissions, reinterpretations and misuses) but it seemed, at least on the surface, that this critical examination of ethnic and personal slurs might actually have promoted a more civil discourse throughout the nation. During the excessively “politically correct” movement of the mid-90’s all the derogatory expressions used to humiliate and condemn with hateful generalities were officially deleted from civilized conversation. It was established that no longer would it be acceptable to refer to individuals or groups by the base and common nicknames that permeated our speech for at least the past hundred years. The “N” word ploy seems to have eradicated the hurtful terms if not the underlying prejudices.

      I don’t call dark-skinned people anything anymore. When I grew up I didn’t use “Colored” or “Negro” as an invective, but as a descriptive adjective. “Black” came into fashion when I was a teenager but it never really worked for me. My artist’s eye could never reconcile the color (or absence of for all you sticklers) I knew to be black with all the hue and tone variations I observed among that community. Sorry. I just stopped labeling dark-skinned individuals as anything. If pressed I could squeak out “Black” but it wasn’t actually correct, had too many negative connotations (Black Magic, Black Hole, Black Death, black and blue) and in general, I felt awkward thrusting so many different sorts of people under the one umbrella denomination. And yes, I’m no saint, and frequently described some people as “niggers” before I realized how creepy and uncouth it sounded.

      I grew up in a racist household. Ignorant, fearful parents and relatives in a neighborhood where color and religious boundaries were as real and recognized as solid brick walls. I heard the word “Spic” often even though my aunt across the street had married and bore two children to a Puerto Rican man. My mother was from the Deep South and her loathing of dark-skinned people was as ingrained as her love for Hank Williams’ music. The nuns at St. Rose of Lima elementary school passed up no opportunity to condemn Jews in the harshest possible language. It was an ugly atmosphere and by the time I was twelve or thirteen I knew that I wanted nothing to do with it. The shining emblem of this moral morass was my own grandmother, a pious, pill-popping, everyday mass regular who clutched her rosary beads while spewing more animosity and pure evil every time she opened her mouth than any one else on the planet, living or dead. The depth of her unyielding hatred would make Hitler seem like a powder puff in comparison. Luckily for all of us she had no power. Her prayers to make others drop dead seldom worked.

      But I digress. As the concept behind the “N” word gained momentum a whole slew of negative slurs fell from everyday usage. At least as far as the media was concerned. I was genuinely surprised. Even the insults hurled at my own tribe were seemingly diminishing in popularity. ‘Faggot” and “fairy” and all the other words that supposedly demeaned cocksuckers were no longer allowed under the new rules. All of the unpleasant colloquialisms were banished from polite society and swept neatly under the carpet of practical speech. Hurray! We aren’t going to be as nasty to each other! (At least verbally) The “N” word directive had actually done some good.

       But hold on, my fine buckaroos. There is still a blatant insult to US HOMOS being used everyday, by almost everyone, including ourselves. It’s the word “suck”. This sucks, that sucks, you suck, this toaster sucks, this TV show sucks and that vacation was the suckiest thing ever. It’s used repeatedly and constantly and it is an inflammatory statement about Queers. We should petition for that term to be included in the “N” word category. Come along boys, do you imagine that it refers to a woman sucking on something? Or babies nursing at the teat? It’s definitely not alluding to the function of a vacuum cleaner. Vampires? I think not. The entire thought process is that whatever “sucks” (or “blows”) sucks COCK. The negative inference is that whatever is awful, whoever or whatever is being offered up for ridicule, is being compared to one man fellating another. If you are present when a friend exclaims, “This soup sucks.” what you should be hearing is, “This soup is as disgusting as one guy sucking off some other dude.” It certainly isn’t considered a “bad thing” if it’s a woman performing the same service. Yet it’s become such an accepted phrase, such a generally applicable put-down, that we’ve become blinded to fact that every time it is uttered there is a subconscious association with our signature practice. Substitute “prays” for “sucks” and see if some other group doesn’t feel the sting. No, no, no. In the spirit of the “N” word template, it is imperative that we start howling if “it sucks” is used in the popular media. WE have to stop using it and call out those who do. I know that it’s simply regarded as harmless banter, an easy shortcut to express displeasure, but we have to start asking the question, “What follows the verb?” Real sentences do not end like that. The population is reinforcing its latent discriminatory agenda against Queers whenever this term is used and it’s high time we pointed out this infraction in self-righteous indignation. So please, think twice before you join the chorus and CONDEMN a person, place or thing by saying that it “sucks”. Sucking cock is a noble, glorious, sincere act of worship and should not be reduced to an innocuous slight. Who we are and what we do should not be a catchall invective in polite conversation. Those days are over. We are not the punch line or butt (excuse me!) of society’s disappointment any longer. What truly sucks is that someone else hasn’t launched this ship before now.

     Just a few odds and ends tangentially related to the “N” word project. I think that queers in general are less bigoted than straight folk. We’ve been ridiculed and denigrated and are our own unwanted minority but I don’t think that that’s entirely the issue. I know that in my case I am certainly much more interested in a person’s cock size and availability than I am in their skin color. Whether they speak a different language or participate in obscure traditional rituals is of no concern to me if they’ve pulled their cocks out for my attention. I’ve had wonderful sexual encounters with guys of every conceivable ethnic background. To me, being a willing partner is the primary, secondary (and so one) consideration. I’m sure there are queens who discriminate, but I’ll bet that they are all in a “relationship”. Lone wolf renegade faggots like myself have no time for that horseshit, we just want some dick.

      I don’t want to sound overly enslaved to the tenets of accurate linguistics, but can anybody clue me in as to why “Colored People” is offensive whereas “People of Color” is not? It just seems very “six of one, half a dozen of the other” to me. As I pointed out, I’m not generalizing about race anymore, it’s a ridiculous habit. A very lazy way of referencing the world. If I don’t like somebody it’s because they’re a jackass or an idiot and it has nothing to do with their appearance. I will however gleefully deride any and all religious affiliations. But race? I fill in “fag” whenever I’m called upon to specify my race on a form. I don’t identify with “white people”. I’m a man and I’m queer and nothing else. (I know somebody out there is going to cry foul about my lumping cocksuckers into the same sac. I’m just building on my own experience and observations in the tribe, I can’t draw what I can’t see. )

      My one serious disaffection for the “N” word protocol is that a couple of years back, during a contentious and feverish Scrabble tournament with one of my gaming opponents, the word “relates” was dropped onto the board with the “s” occupying the bottom middle triple word square. Not a great point score but a nasty tactical play. I countered with “wop” (a slang term for an Italian, in case you PC boys are unfamiliar with it) in the corner, creating “prelates” across. 54 points and the game. However, I was challenged and cried bitter tears to discover that “wop” had been removed from acceptance in the third edition of the Scrabble dictionary. Although I’m glad that Americans are insulting each other less, I’m not pleased about words being completely banished. Especially when it fucks up my Scrabble game. Bitter tears, gentlemen, bitter tears.


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