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Describing Joan Rivers: Human Beings Are Neither Animals Nor Are They Vegetables

Wesley J. Smith

Joan_Rivers_at_Udderbelly_09.jpg

Whatever the future holds for Joan Rivers, who may have experienced brain damage during surgery, she will always be an exceptional human being deserving of equal rights and perceived moral value.

To put it another way, contrary to some stories describing her potential health outcome, she will never be a carrot. Carrots are vegetables, human beings never are.

We need to stop using the v-word to describe our brothers and sisters with profound cognitive disabilities. That word is just as bigoted as the n-word for people of sub-Saharan African descent, the k-word for Jews, etc. From my piece, "That Unrepentant Bigotry":

Many of our brothers and sisters remain the victims of a pervasive but nearly invisible bigotry — and indeed subjected continually to profoundly demeaning and hateful characterizations — mostly without social protest, cultural opprobrium, or even notice by the usual enforcers of cultural comity. Indeed, the "hate speakers" may even be applauded or their denigration either not noticed or ignored, perhaps because the denigrators are often themselves unaware that they have engaged in hurtful rhetoric.

Ironically, this still-discriminated-against group is also our most diverse. Its membership comes in all races, ages, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and any other human identifier one can conjure. In fact, if not already within this scorned cadre, any one of us could become a member at any time, and all of us have — or had — loved ones who could be so identified.

So, who are these despised unfortunates? People with profound cognitive disabilities and catastrophically debilitating diseases, against whom it remains respectable to employ profoundly demeaning descriptives both in public discourse, public policy advocacy, and private conversation.

I am often amazed that in a time when a football team is pressured from the highest levels of political leadership and ubiquitously in the media to change its name because it is offensive to Native Americans, that so many have no compunction whatsoever using the hurtful and inaccurate v-word as an epithet to characterize the most defenseless among us.

Yet, it is just as demeaning to the intrinsic human dignity as racial and sexist slurs. We need some serious consciousness raising.

Image source: Wikipedia.


Cross-posted at Human Exceptionalism.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.

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