Sarah Palin's Hand

2 9 10 Bearman Cartoon Sarah Palins Hand

I questioned myself as I thought of and drew this editorial cartoon.  Even now I understand the impact of the word “retard” or “retarded” but I don’t know if I am offended by every usage of it as others.  First some background.

Former Vice Presidential candidate and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin continues to make news this month.  This week she was a keynote speaker at the Tea Party Convention.   During a Q&A discussion she could be seen checking out notes written on her hand.

And last week she called out President Obama to fire Chief of Stafe Rahm Emanuel for saying that some liberal activists are “fucking retards”  Yet when Chris Wallace confronted her about Rush Limbaugh’s similar use, she blew it off as satire.  So when someone uses the word “retard” or “retarded” in jest it is OK.  HUH??

As someone with a close relative who has Downs Syndrome, I would have to be restrained if someone called her a retard.  But I don’t have the same visceral response if someone called me it or my ideas retarded.  So as I say, I struggle with whether or not “retarded” should be avoided in all speech. 

For those who have an issue with using “retarded”, do you have similar issues with words like “idiot”, “moron” or “imbecile”??  If not, why not??  All of those words were used as IQ categories before the term “mentally retardation”  We now use terms such as “special” and “developmentally disabled”.  In 25 years, will those too be considered bad?

What is your opinion??

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100 Responses to “Sarah Palin's Hand”

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  1. writerdood says:

    I love this cartoon.
    This is one of my favorites.
    Good work!

  2. Lynn says:

    bearman, this is a thought-provoking post. here’s the thing. people using that word says to me, more about that person than they would probably care to admit. using the word retard is just insensitive in today’s world. then again, no one says you “have” to be sensitive, it’s more a matter of just being socially aware and well, cool.

    look, just say for a moment that the issue here is about a derrogatory term for people of color. (you know the word) since the descriptive name for that race has changed over the years does that mean that the (you know the word) is now appropriate? maybe we should ask a person of color? again, great post!

    • George says:

      That ‘word’ really depends upon the person using it. ‘We’ use it all of the time as a pronoun basically, but if someone of different heritage used it, that would be grounds for a tidy ass-whoopin’. It’s confusing, I daresay, but when in doubt, don’t use the word in public at all. 😀

      • Tracy Brady says:

        If the use of the word is to liken one person to another who has mental-development issues, then yes, people who are actually mentally-retarded should see it as a slur and be offended by its use. George is right, in such a context, it is not a word that should be used in polite or public conversation.

    • Lynn the difference is that N—- has seemingly always been used as a pejorative when referring to blacks. Retarded was in use long before it become a medical term.

      George and Tracy – I choose to only use words that I have comfort in using in front of any person. For me it isn’t a contextual thing. I knew guys who would have no problem talking negatively about a group/person behind closed doors. Yet they wouldn’t dare to say anything to their face. I on the other hand have no problem telling people when they piss me off.

  3. brandy8989 says:

    Great cartoon! Somebody told me before that the word retard used to be a normal word, which was used to describe people with intellectual limitations until somebody thought it would be funny to use that word to insult people. Shame on us normal, ordinary people!

  4. George says:

    I’m mixed about the use of this word in certain instances. I don’t think ‘retarded’ is a dirty word, but society is slowly transforming it to be due to the derogatory use of it lately. I wouldn’t call a mentally-challenged person a ‘retard’, but I would call my friend or enemy one. It’s like any other word, you should be careful when you use it in public.

    • Should you be careful b/c you are afraid of how someone else will judge you for using the word? If so, then I just stop using the word completely (but my own choice)

  5. tmcelmurry says:

    I’m with you on the question of when words are appropriate and when they are not. It’s easier to merit the impact of a word in a smaller group gathering, but when broadcast nationally you know the words gonna cause issues. There are several words that could cause major issues nationally but not in a small group. One I use a lot is “Gay” such as ….”Man stop acting so Gay.”…or “Stupid Gay Computer”. If I were a public figure there would be know way I’d ever let a sound bite escape my lips with Stupid and Gay in the same sentence, even though it’s not referring to the gay community it would still cause feelings that my words would never intend. So I have to agree that some words can be used in different contexts and be OK if the size of the group receiving it is small enough so that your reasoning behind the words is easily identifiable. The Talking heads on both sides of the rows just need to shut up on TV when it comes to how they feel about each other and do the job our tax dollars are paying them to do.

    P.S. Just so you know, your not #52 on my list, your around #27 or #28. Comfortably in the middle. 🙂

    • Agreed. I find it disheartening though that Palin would publicly outcry when one person says it and laugh it off when someone else does.

      Alright!!! Moving up the list.

  6. MJ says:

    I’m offended that there are still people that have problems with the use of any word in America. This is a Freedom of Speech issue. There is no such thing as a so called “Special Needs” person. There are only fellow humans that inhabit the earth. Pathetic! People get over it. I’m so sick and tired of people that try to censor any form of “Freedom of Speech”. I believe that this is one reason why the comics are so bland and sometimes very unfunny in the printed dailies, because an artist might have to worry that an idea will be rejected by the closed minded to avoid confrontation. Now there is a flipside to that though, where just flat out inconsideration should be found as inappropriate. But still “Freedom of Speech” is just what it implies. If you are thin skinned and have a problem with “Freedom of Speech” then you should avoid contact with human interaction, and stay indoors and lead your little sheltered life in solitude. Call me what you will, but I find it refreshing to see other people call it just like it is.

  7. Not being much interested in Politics generally, I have no idea who this Palin person is, but the cartoon made me laugh anyway.

    Treating people with contempt is rarely a good idea. It demeans the speaker more than the spoken to, and makes the world a harder, colder place in which we can live together.

    • Great quote. Good to see you off Twitter Jande…

      • Thanks!

        Heh! Doesn’t look a bit like me! >.>

        Yeah, funny thing about shyness (I am super shy!). I keep wondering what the heck I’m doing out here in this mad social river. Then I find myself wading out even deeper.

    • tmcelmurry says:

      Surely you are pulling our legs (is that acceptable, don’t want to offend any one with prosthetics or restless leg syndrome 🙂 ) that you don’t know who Sarah Palin is. Even not caring about Politics I’m sure you knew she was running for Vice President, surely. I trust you are joking, if not you might just be the most sane person around having not been indoctrinated from the Democratic/Republican bull that festers on every newspaper cover and news website around the world.

    • nursemyra says:

      Good for you Jande!

  8. This brit is staying well out of this one…

  9. MJ says:

    On a side note, I have been a cartoonist/illustrator for 31 years now, and on the printed pages for 22 years. I came to the conclusion to continue being on the printed pages that there is a certain code of conduct which you need to adhere to in order to appear in the printed pages. Yes a majority of my material is geared towards a watered down version so not to offend blatantly, but that also in return does stifle creativity and results in tons of material that would never see the light of day in the politically correct dailies. Which really grinds me the wrong way. And I applaud my editors and publishers that give me the freedom to draw what I want, how I want, when I want. I have had material that was not so “politically correct” published, but because of the way the business is as it stands I understand there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed or drawn if you want your material to reach the printed pages that are delivered to the masses. As a cartoonist/illustrator I feel that fellow cartoonists/illustrators should stand united as a single entity if you want to see edgier material on the printed pages. Just stand together united or continue to let editors and publishers stifle creativity and new ideas. This is no longer a true “Freedom of the Press” which in my mind is a serious problem that really needs to be addressed. ACEC, AAEC, NCS give me a break. All cartoonists/illustrators should band together, publish our own insert available to the printed dailies as is. Sure there would have to be a quality control, but it should be allowed for all creators to submit material. You want the funnies take it as is or just let your publication take it’s quick demise and fail because this is the only way you will be able to get your daily funnies in your publication. Yes, there would be a downside as in immediate loss of income. But it would also directly cut out the middleman as in “Syndicates” as they are right now. But it would create an ultimate “THE FUNNIES SYNDICATE”. I believe that cartoonists/illustrators would eventually end up ruling the printed pages and probably be the only survivor in the printed page offerings. Seriously, cartoons sell, they sell advertising, they deliver news, they deliver laughter. I don’t want to hear this can’t be done, because it could be. I would subscribe to a huge printed daily that was entirely made up of funnies that was available globally. I do believe that the masses would also. It would take time but a very viable project. So until we the cartoonists/illustrators stand up and unite and do something about our profession by ourselves things will never change. The syndicates will stay take our material and decide what gets on the printed pages, take a chunk of our money and laugh at us because we let it happen. By the way how many fellow cartoonists/illustrators have lost a job or earned a paycut because a daily has ceased operation? I have! Still we sit back and do nothing, while the profession gets dwindled down to nothing. Any thoughts?

  10. MJ says:

    C’mon. You aren’t serious about never hearing about Sarah Palin are you? I just don’t believe that!

  11. MJ says:

    Ha,ha,ha! Yes I know, my bad. Just used to a few sentences at a time. Just hit a nerve, and went all Rambo! Ha,ha,ha. That is what editors are for, and I should of been conscious about it. As sometimes I do an occasional column. Et leest I be a gud spellar sumtimes. Ha,ha,ha!

  12. Good job sparking some thoughtful discussion, Bearman. As has been said, so much depends on context, but I personally don’t like being guilty of hurting someone’s feelings. Unless peeved beyond rational control, I like to follow the “golden rule.” 🙂 For me, words like “retard” are so loaded that I find it safer to avoid them entirely.

    Funny comic, btw. 🙂 Made me laugh aloud.

    • Chris you are like me where your online persona is exactly like your off. No fakeness online.

      Well of course all my readers are like that (psss…shh I had to say that so noone would get upset)

  13. Anonymous says:


  14. Love the Sarah Palin cartoon..
    The retard issue is loaded. Years ago, my first job out of grad school was working with the handicapped. The name of the agency: Specialized Services for Retarded Citizens, 1976.
    I might occasionally call someone a ‘retard’ like Rush Limbaugh for instance.. but I also understand the origins and the potential for damage.

  15. yorksnbeans says:

    I really didn’t know how to answer that poll. I think there is too much emphasis on political correctness sometimes. I don’t see anything wrong with the actual word retarded, if it is used in the proper manner. Although, I can not remember the word “retard” being used until I started hearing it pronounced RE-tard, which is totally unacceptable in my opinion. It is blatantly making fun of someone. The term mental retardation is not offensive, at least to me, but that’s where political correctness comes into play and people are now questioning whether it’s even acceptable to use it.

  16. just jill says:

    oops….forgot to change my name! 😉

  17. spilledinkguy says:

    I draw stuff on my hand(s) all the time, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten much attention for it! 🙁

  18. Sheila Deeth says:

    I love the cartoon. Fascinating post and discussion. I remember one of my kids had hearing issues when he was younger. Someone complained at him, “How’d you miss that? You must be deaf!” To which he responded, “Well, I do have hearing problems.” Makes me think twice about lots of words when I hear them used. Switching countries makes it even more interesting. You try to avoid terms that would be derogatory only to learn the other term is the derogatory one elsewhere.

  19. Lynn says:

    whoa this post stimulated some good debate ..congrats bearman, this was an awesome post!

  20. G says:

    Interesting….I was first exposed to the term “retard” due to the various group homes that sprouted up in my neck of the woods when I was a kid, then exposed to the term while performing classical music (‘retard’ is a musical term that means slower tempo). The term “retarded” is actually a medical dianogsis that I used to see with great frequency when I was working with old inmate prison records and old medical records.

    Having said that as a prelim, I would say that personally, I don’t have a problem with the word “retard” so long as it’s used in the proper context. Is it wrong to call someone retarded? All depends on how it’s used. If you’re using it as an insult, then by all mean, yes. If you’re using it as a medical or musical term, then no.

    One question I would like to ask of everyone is this: How do you feel about various state agencies changing their name from say “Dept of Mental Retardation” to something like “Dept of Developmental Services”? (like they did out here).

    Certain words do have the power to hurt, but is that because we let them hurt by having such a visceral reaction to them, or is that because that they were hijacked in order to make people have that visceral reaction to them.

  21. Donald Mills says:

    Very good Cartoon Bearman. I was just shocked she could read.

    As for your poll, in my view “retarded” is an ugly word and I’d prefer not to hear it used in any context.

  22. David says:

    Brilliant cartoon! There was a really great Colbert Report that was on last night about it and you guys seem to come to the same hilarious conclusion.

  23. Robert says:

    Pailin’s perception of the word retard as an insult against the child, does not reflect people’s normal usage of the word, what it does reflect is her guilt for how she feels about the child. Plain shows all the symptoms of a classic narcissist, that child damages her self view of narcissistic perfection, for her, that child is a retard and her guilt forces her to lash out against those that use that word, the word that she uses to mentally describe the child.

    • Not sure I can agree with that. Knowing many people with disabled children, none of them feel guilt. I don’t think her comments regarding Rahm or Rush had anything to do with her own child, but rather politics.

  24. Susi Spice says:

    ok so here are some thoughts. I deal with a lot of younger people.. generation Y (mine) and the one below me… generation Z and so on. I can assure you that now kids not only use the word “retard” in the derrogatory sense of describing another person as “stupid” or not someone who is smart… but also they use the words “mentally challenged” “special” “developmentally challenged” etc in thr exact same fashion as the word “retard” except they say it using an accent which aludes to someone with speech impediments.

    As bearman said above what once was a medical term perfectly acceptable in polite society has become an offensive word because of the context in which people use it over time. The exact same thing is happening with “special” and “mentally challenged”. Are people inherently mean?

    Look at this recent pop song as well; what does this say about society?


  25. Brogan says:

    Lol, good stuff.

  26. Bo Lumpkin says:

    I was going to say something extremely funny but I got up and washed my hands and now I don’t have my notes.

  27. frigginloon says:

    I would have gotten here sooner but my friggin dumbassed internet connection ceased to be. So what did I miss huh? Ooooh Sarah Palin. Blahahahaha I had to laugh when I saw her hand , it had like 4 words on it.

    On the word retarded, I never use it. However dumbass…oh yeah!

  28. John K says:

    what, no wink?

  29. Nate Fakes says:

    It drives me nuts when people get offended over words. I joke all the time, and toss out “offensive” words, but c’mon. It’s not big deal. If someone doesn’t like it, I try to watch what I say (like if I’m at grandma’s), but otherwise I think it’s fine to say whatever is on your mind. I know it sounds retarded, but that’s how I feel!

  30. Tony says:

    Too much political correctness around today. I wouldn’t use it to describe a retarded special needs person, but if someone is just plain stupid then they deserve being called a retard. Will I get into trouble for saying that???

  31. Tony says:

    Oh I mucked up my strike out tags, forgot to put a / in the second one. be a dear & fix it for me please Mr Bearman. Couldn’t help it the stupid retard that I am….

  32. writerdood says:

    I wonder if the “Center for the Retarded” should change their name to the “Center for the Mentally Challenged” or something.

    My nephew uses the term “Tard” as an insult. It’s shorter than saying Retard. For example, he’ll say, “You Tard” instead of “You Retard.” He’ll also sometimes call people “Tard-O.” This has nothing to do with the Tardis that Dr. WHO uses, but is actually just a shortened form of retard, because he is simply too lazy to employ a two-syllable word when the same information can be conveyed in one syllable. Tard-o is used when he needs something more cutsie.

  33. Susi Spice says:

    sarah palin is a moron… lol end of story.

  34. jynksie says:

    I’m all fine with people “suggesting” that saying this word or that word is improper, but I will still defend your right to say these words til my last dying breath!! I HATE–hate-hate-hate…. forced upon political correctness. If we didn’t have those kinds of people who’s ignorance is bliss (the “retahded” as we say in Boston), then how would we know where the line of decency and decorum lay?!? The words you use in your everyday language says a lot about who you are, so I want to hear you speak w/ unfettered access to all the words in the english language and see which ones you CHOOSE to use to express yourself!

    I stand behind the use of the word (retahded) retarded, because there is an entire sect of people of who SHOULD be labeled as such and I call them by an even worse name, I call them -politicians-!! o.O

    • I am with you on the PC thing. It has gotten way out of hand. So you blast a person from using certain words. Rather than educate them and get them to think differently you encourage them to keep the same potentially closed minded attitude. They just don’t use it around you.


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