The Police Officer, The Construction Worker, The Indian, The Biker and The Retard

by Terence Leung

In my mind, nothing is sacred; race, gender, family and even myself… you name it. For some reason, in conversation and in thought, there is this fine line of class that I will gleefully toss myself over when it comes to jest and humor. It’s the kind of sadism you need to be able to actually enjoy something like Dr. Phil.

After all, aren’t people either too sensitive or too ignorant?

Up until three weeks ago, I had played with that theory, walked around, head held up high, and believing that I was not privy to either.

That was not until YMCA.

That dance: Y-M-C-A!

Of course, lets not forget the “retard”, he of the triplicate 21st chromosome.

To explain, I was at a varsity basketball game, when during part of the halftime show, a assumedly (place ignorance here) Down-Syndrome stricken man named Bill ran stark-raving mad onto center court. With limbs flailing and an expression that would make a French mime shiver with jealousy, Bill began the YMCA dance in maniacal fashion, sending the entire crowd into a crazed frenzy.

As my frail memory seems to falter these days and my sadistic impulses filling the gaps, here are the probable thoughts that ran through my head at that particular moment:

  1. “Ha Ha! Dancing + Retard = Funny! I am entertained!”
  2. “They should have midgets too! Wait a minute, they like being called little people, don’t they? Who cares? I’m entertained!”
  3. “God I hate this song. Hey, look at the retard! I am now entertained!”
  4. “See, retards can serve a purpose in this world! They entertain!”

Believe me, I too was in a crazed frenzy. That is, until the logical conscience-imp in my head came along and smacked me six ways ’till Sunday.

See, it’s one thing to laugh at Warren in Something About Mary when he spouts brilliant lines of comedy such as “haf you thseen mah baydseball?” or “haf you thseen mah weenah?” with the combined look of bewilderment and retardation in his contorted face. It’s humor that’s portrayed on screen and yes, no matter how much you argue, it is OK to laugh at that. It’s not real. After all, I once heard in a song that, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”

The movies, television, media and our everyday lives that invariably encompass those things will always try to push the boundaries of taste, especially humor. It is because it is not real. Racism, sexism, prejudice, stereotypes and insults that cut deep don’t become until they are real.

What I saw at that game became completely real. Surreal. There was no projection screen in front of me, no actor playing Bill, and no extras filled the stands. After my initial, reflexive fit of humoristic sadism, the conscience-imp managed to lift me metaphysically out of my body and asked me in a helium-soaked voice, “Do you see the humor now, you shit-headed, heartless, bed-wetting, wank-fuck?”

People were not laughing at the YMCA song (as they should), at the Village People, at the dance, or at the person doing the YMCA dance. They were laughing at the retard doing the YMCA dance, to the YMCA song, by the Village People. Now let’s take out the prepositions in the last sentence and rewrite it simply as, “They were laughing at the retard.”
Overcoming me was this wave of anger, bitterness, resentment, and emotions that I simply do not prepare myself for these days. After all remember, why bother when you’re not too sensitive or not too ignorant?

I wanted to leave and I wanted to pathetically tell people to shut up. I wanted to run out to center court and shout at the top of my lungs all Russell Crowe-Gladiator style, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!”

Right. I would be told to get off my soapbox, leave my public service announcement at the trashy second rate YMCA community center next door, and to sod off. Inevitably, here goes the gag-reflex counterargument: If Bill went out there on his own accord and wanted to entertain people, there is nothing wrong with the reaction of the crowd if Bill accomplished what he set out to do.

True? Yes, absolutely. Bill was entertaining.

However, the flaw in the argument becomes apparent when you replace Bill with a person without any physical and/or mental ailments. You can’t imagine anyone replacing Bill. If you actually went out there on our own and had the audacity to dance to YMCA like no retard has ever danced before, your friends (if you had any left) would quickly tell you to get a backstage pass to the nearest Crazytown.

Now let’s say, against the sage advice of your now former friends, you did it. Y-M-C-A! What would the reaction of the crowd be like? Nobody would be laughing, most would be confused and maybe some would chuckle with sympathy, at least initially. Then some whore to the red light sadistic zone would stand up and say, “Ha Ha! That guy/girl is dancing the YMCA like a retard! Funny! We are now entertained!” Laughter ensues. Face it; people would now be laughing at you, doing the YMCA dance, to the YMCA song, by the Village People.

Nobody ever told Bill he would look like a retard if he went up to center court doing the YMCA dance simply because, well, he is a retard. It is here where what we see in mediums that are not real, blends into the very visceral tedium that we call life.

Am I too sensitive? Should I start bawling like a little miss nancyboy when I watch I Am Sam now? I don’t know. I don’t even know if I should giggle with glee anymore watching Dr. Phil berate his “patients” and call it “psychological advice”.

The fact is there is no fine line. There is only what is real and what is not. I can laugh at Warren, but I must make sure not to laugh at Bill. I have to be genuine about it. The part that gives me brain constipation (and this happens a lot) is: at what point does something become real? If my friend can actually say something laced with equal parts humor and sadism such as, “I’m a true believer that with retards, you can beat them until they’re not”, does that become real? It was said in the real world. Or does it only become real when I truly believe that statement and act upon it? If that’s the line that separates reality from simple banter, this isn’t the kind of neighborhood that Mr. Rogers told me I would be living in.

This existential line of thought can be extended further than sanity should allow; if Bill were given the choice to have his discrepancy removed or be the way that he simply is, what would he chose?

Ah, to be a “normal”. Bill lives in a world of blissful ignorance. Not the same kind of ignorance that you or I, “normals”, share like common currency, but the kind of ignorance that allows him to be at peace with himself; the kind of ignorance that allows to him to not see the crowd point and laugh; the kind of ignorance where he wouldn’t feel compelled to fire back a volley of counter-insults if someone called him a “retard”. Funny then, it takes a retard to not be too sensitive and not too ignorant; the kind of person I wish to be.

So then, would Bill, after a day of being “normal” (if given the chance, most like likely in a film), chose to go back and have that extra chromosome imbued upon him again?

I just don’t know anymore. I have concluded next to nothing after all of these words; I hope those of you who stuck through reading this discharge of crazy-speak have more of a concrete idea than this writer.

However, this much I do know: I will continue to laugh and joke about things that society don’t laugh and joke about, although, I won’t laugh and joke with such blissful and ignorant fun anymore. It’s what I hope will maintain the natural equilibrium between the woefully undefined real and not real. Watching that equilibrium shaken like a destroyed ant farm on television or in my mind definitely satisfies my sadistic impulses like heroin to a crackhead. Watching it in person in a real-world setting is definitely… something else.

Something else… thank you Bill.

  • The Police Officer, The Construction Worker, The Indian, The Biker and The Retard
  • by Terence Leung
  • Published on April 1st, 2003

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