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Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
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The “c” word


Fri, Jul 18th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

As a historian, I could talk your ear off about taboo. No, not that board game, although I’m pretty good at it. No, not the fifties-vintage cosmetics brand. I’m talking about those little quirks that each society has about what’s good, what’s bad, and more often than not, what’s ugly. The word actually comes from the South Pacific, as a word for something set apart or forbidden. It was the brave and bold Captain Cook that first introduced the word into the English language (possibly before he was chopped into bite-sized pieces) but it wasn’t like we waited for the word before decided what was okay and what was not. Over the past 300 years or so, we’ve come up with, and done away with, more taboos than, well, possibly pieces of Captain Cook. When once it was taboo not to remove your hat in front of a lady, our most modern taboos usually apply to Facebook wall posts or proper Twitter hashtag etiquette. Truly, we have entered a new Golden Age.

But all joking aside, we still struggle daily with the taboos not only of the here and now, but of the generations that came before us. I try to keep an up to date catalog for Boomers of “words and terms you’re not supposed to use anymore” and the recent flap over the name of the Washington football team is good proof of that awkwardness. The entire Hobby Lobby fracas over the past few months could be boiled down to a taboo on certain actions that are, funnily enough, actually prescribed in the Bible to begin with. The most successful of the fallen taboos of late would have to be the slowly crumbling opposition to marriage equality not only in Minnesota, but even recently in Wisconsin... pending a judicial review. Never let it be said that taboos do not die easy.

For instance, there is a large amount of our United States population, and the population worldwide, that have to deal with a taboo on a daily basis. Unlike race, or gender identity, or marriage rights, this taboo is still largely swept under the rug and often given a simple (and insulting) label as opposed to education, understanding, and tolerance. The people that suffer from these unfortunate situations have been taught since birth to hide their true selves at all costs, even when it results in tremendous pain to their lives and bodies, because they don’t want to be called out in front of the rest of society with the good old-fashioned blanket term of “crazy.”

Some people have mental illnesses, and that’s okay. Some of them simply cannot help it. Sometimes there is something not programmed correctly in their brain. Sometimes, as simple as it seems, they have what could be described as a few wires crossed. It wasn’t a choice. They don’t want it. They are often tortured by things they do not want to do or see or experience, but their minds literally will not stop. They want to be happy, they want to not cause a scene, they want to be “normal” just like everyone else, but they have a genuine medical condition that prevents them from doing that... and instead of helping them find treatment, we treat them like freaks because of it.

Just like the walls of sexual and racial discrimination have fallen down only recently in the historical timeline, I hope someday that we will be able to say that the shunning of someone’s mind, through no fault of their own, is a thing of the past.

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