Maher/Disabled are Dogs

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Jan 18 20:36:04 MST 2001

George wrote:
>I have never expected very much from Bill Maher in terms of intelligent
>ideas. certain kinds of jokes have always been offensive. you can't tell
>racist, sexist or homophobic  jokes openly any more. you can still tell
>"retard" jokes. so much for TV political humor.  Bill Maher is not exactly a
>great thinker. I know that Marta's point is that disabled people can still
>be dehumanized openly, without any sense of conscience. after all, what does
>it mean to compare certain categories of persons with dogs? this is not
>funny; it's just stupid.

This reminds me of how we learn ethics--or at least how I did. When I was
in high school, the cafeteria was staffed by retarded people. One guy named
Joey Green had Down's Syndrome and was teased mercilessly by the jocks who
sat at the same table. A new kid named Myron had moved up to the Catskills
from NYC and also worked in the cafeteria, although he was not retarded. He
just needed the money. His father was a waiter in the Borscht Belt hotels
and they barely scraped by--one of the few working class Jewish families in
the area. Most were shop-keepers or hotel owners, and their kids picked up
the worst kinds of prejudices from a highly individualistic and plastic
culture in a resort area. Not as bad as Vegas, but pretty bad. It drove me
to read existential literature to figure out why I was so miserable.

One day Myron got sick of the teasing and walked over to the jock's table.
I can see it like it was yesterday. He was wearing baggy, unfashionable
pants, a gravy-stained t-shirt and an apron. He told them to cut it out.
They laughed at him and told him to get lost. He said he wasn't kidding. At
that point the biggest guy, a center on the basketball team, got up from
his chair and walked over to Myron. He towered over him. Myron, however,
was heavily muscled--mostly from waiting tables in the cafeteria and in
local hotels. Words were exchanged and without any ceremony Myron hauled
off and punched the guy in the mouth. Knocked him out in fact.

For weeks on end, kids talked about what happened. Mostly it was about
trying to figure out what made Myron "go nuts". I remember talking about it
to my mom. She said that it was wrong to make fun of people who couldn't
defend themselves and that Myron did the right thing. In the dark ages of
the 1950s, this courageous act was like a beacon.

Louis Proyect
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