Before talking about why nuclear weapons and the military budget need to be on the agendas of more activists (in the next post-ette of this belated, Approximately Monthly Missive), I’m feeling called to say a word about words, certain words that I often have a reaction to. Okay, I’m just going to talk about one word:
Ridiculous gets under my skin when people use it. I find it disconcerting when articulations of murderous, spiteful or hateful policies are dubbed ridiculous. I look at the word and think: Something is ridiculous if it is worthy of being ridiculed. But I don’t want to ridicule something that scares or threatens me or the world around me. I want to build opposition to it. I don’t just want to mock or make fun of it. I want to stop or change it. If I make a joke about it, it is an uncomfortable use of wit (I hope) because we have to keep a sense of humor about ourselves and the fights we are in to keep our spirits up. Staying lighthearted in the struggle is essential to keeping from beating each other up when we disagree. It helps us pause and return to seeing the best intention in others on our side. But that sort of humor isn’t about ridicule but laughing at our common and sometimes absurd humanity.
Writing this post will help me move on. I don’t want to lay a trip on people mid-conversation to take on this word. It’s like how people misuse the word “literal” in the most absurd ways that are anything but literal. Then some people really get upset at the loose language. I don’t want to be one of those. Satire and parody have their place, and that was me in the Betsy DeVos “swamp monster” costume with the Trump Dis-organization as evidence.
Let me take a moment to refer to definitions. This is the first that popped up in Google for me:
ri·dic·u·lous /rəˈdikyələs/ adjective
deserving or inviting derision or mockery; absurd.
“when you realize how ridiculous these scenarios are, you will have to laugh”
synonyms: laughable, absurd, comical, funny, hilarious, risible, droll, amusing, farcical, silly, ludicrous; (rare) derisible, senseless, silly, foolish, foolhardy, stupid, inane, fatuous, childish, puerile, half-baked, harebrained, cockamamie, ill-thought-out, crackpot, idiotic, absurd, preposterous, ludicrous, risible, laughable, nonsensical, senseless, outrageous
I thought maybe ludicrous would feel more apt, so I looked it up too:
lu·di·crous /ˈlo͞odəkrəs/ adjective
so foolish, unreasonable, or out of place as to be amusing; ridiculous.
“it’s ludicrous that I have been fined”
synonyms: absurd, ridiculous, farcical, laughable, risible, preposterous, foolish, mad, insane, idiotic, stupid, inane, silly, asinine, nonsensical; informal; crazy
Well, I like a lot of the synonyms listed above and could see using them for monstrous, political ills that are anything but funny. But I’ll still avoid ridiculous in favor of unreasonable or incredible or any number of words from the above definitions. Something can be unreasonable, even though someone will build an argument for it. Something can be incredible when its advocate lacks credibility even if other people give them more credence and standing than they deserve.
The idea that more guns will protect us from gun violence is unbelievable even though it seems many US-ians believe it. Still, it is anything but laughable…or ridiculous. The idea that one country could spend almost as much money on its military as the rest of the world combined and still argue that it needs to increase its military expenditures should be as unbelievable as it is incredible and unreasonable, but here we are, and I’m not amused. Building massive walls around cities by absurdly fearful, armed outsiders shouldn’t be “a thing.” My look in the picture to the left was bemusement, not amusement at the “welcome” sign on the wall Israel has built around Bethlehem, a scant six miles from Jerusalem, that is designed to choke Palestinian society into submission if not out-and-out death.
In the immortal words of Zippy the Pinhead (okay, Bill Griffith): “Are we having fun yet?” And no, I don’t think micro-encephalitis is a laughing matter…or ridiculous!