I really hate it when people tell me “you’re better than that”.
It usually comes in an email or a comment in response to some ranting post and usually takes a form similar to “How DARE YOU use the word [insert non-PC term here (e.g. retard)] to describe [insert name of retarded asshat here]. You are better than that.”
It would be nice if people really did have such high opinions of me. But saying “you’re better than that” never actually means that. It is rude and condescending – like something your third-grade teacher might say after you get caught cheating on a quiz. (“Why are you cheating, Joseph? You are better than that.”)
Every time I get an email like that I want to scream. And I want to respond with a post. A post telling the world that I am, in fact, NOT “better than that”. If I was then I wouldn’t have done it in the first place. That seems pretty obvious.
I’m not a third grader. I know full well what I am doing. And I always debate writing a nasty response to people who tell me “I am better than that”.
“I know it’s tough to hear”, I always want to write. “But I really, really am not ‘better than that’. I am, in fact, just ‘that’. It’s true. Deal with it.”
Unfortunately, I never respond like that. Instead I usually act like a scared third-grader.
I try to explain myself or make excuses or, if none of that works, then I apologize.
But not any more.
Not after reading this post by Andrew Sullivan.
His post is a simple, elegant response to an email he received from a reader who was mad at him for using the word “midget”. The reader was specifically upset by this sentence:
Prop 8 has helped unearth the seething homophobia in much of black America. Even for a dandy, feminized midget like Prince.
Personally, I thought it was pretty funny. The reader? Not so much.
It would have been very easy for Andrew to ignore the reader and move on to more important things.
But I have a feeling Andrew, like me, is sick of hearing people tell him he is “better than that”.
And so he responded – perfectly. His response will now serve as a template for me.
Instead of ignoring the reader’s comment or making an excuse or apologizing, he simply printed the complete email sent to him by the reader complaining about his use of the word ‘midget’.
And then he linked to a hilarious clip from South Park showing Eric Cartman fighting a ‘midget’.
Humor, my friends, is always the best response. Thanks for the lesson, Andrew.