Notes from a Rabid Observer
In case you hadn’t heard, there’s still a word on the streets that systematically nullifies the opinions of everybody it is applied to. The world at large still uses an adjective that means “your voice is coming from a particular place, and is therefore unimportant.” What’s worse is that it’s politically correct to use it, and toss it about as if it’s just any other descriptor and doesn’t speak lengths about the validity of one’s beliefs. The term is derived from the agitation and paranoia in a person infected with rabies, and the etymological origin of the word isn’t so distant that it has taken on a drastically different meaning since. The adjective “rabid” is one of the biggest inhibitors of legitimate discourse that isn’t an enormous faux pas.
To say that somebody is “rabid” is to delegate them to the fringes of any ideology, when most reasonable people take what they like from various schools of thought. A “rabid” lefty is a tree-hugging face-painting vaccine-fearing CEO-hating idiot who is so entrenched in his beliefs that he refuses to acknowledge that not everybody wants to live in a hippie commune. A “rabid” righty is a pauper-hating money-grubbing gun-wielding Hummer driver who is more in love with the theory of social darwinism than with his fellow human beings. We live in a world of social and political binaries, seemingly because it’s easier to formulate a counter-argument when every alternative perspective can all be forced into one single cohesive “opinion.” I know that most women have become aware that when a guy labels them “hormonal” it basically means “you’re not arguing from a rational place, and therefore I don’t need to accept your conclusion.” It’s invalidating. But the thing is, people are wising up about how invalidating it is. Your douchebag ex-boyfriend may have used that angle whenever he was losing an argument, but you rarely see thoughtful individuals tossing that term around in serious social discourse. “Rabid,” however, can be used to invalidate anybody, and is still used in just about any arena. It might be difficult to frame a pro-life argument against an educated woman who is pro-choice, but it’s easy to assume victory when you can label her a “rabid feminist.” This is hardly a novel observation, but I would like to point out that, of all invalidating phrases, “rabid” has survived for a fair amount of time in our dialogue.
The scariest part about “rabid” is that the people who are labeled as such often don’t realize the implications. If you were to search “Rabid Republican” online, the first site on the google radar will be the “Rabid Republican Blog”, which is a community for those proud to be republican. “Why, yes, I am very opinionated and strong-minded,” somebody who has just been labeled a “rabid feminist” might think to themselves–but that’s not exactly what the label is driving at. It’s one thing to say that you have very strong and steadfast opinions, it’s another thing to say that your opinions are steadfast because of your inability to consider reason from dissenting points of view due to an overwhelming bias. What’s dangerous about the phrase “rabid” is that a lot of recipients don’t realize what they’ve been hit with until too late. They were too busy feeling flattered that somebody would consider them so passionate that they didn’t realize “passionate” was the last thing they wanted to be considered if their opinion were to be taken seriously. I think that’s why the label has stuck around to such a degree, because people don’t immediately strike it down whenever it’s brought up. But the next time you’re debating immigration reform and somebody disagrees with you, do you really want to be told, “Oh, you’re just on your ‘immigration-period’”?