I am not in the habit of posting politcal comments on this site, particularly with reference to an election in which I cannot participate, in a country that is not my home.

But Ann Coulter has driven me to make an exception.

Last night during the foregin policy debate between Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, Ann Coulter live-tweeted her reactions to the debate including her assessment that Romney had made a wise choice in taking a more passive approach in response to his opponent. Coulter expressed herself in a manner that, to my mind, is far beneath even the lowest standard of political discourse when she tweeted:

“I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.” (Ann Coulter)

Ann Coulter is a fifty-year-old author, speaker, and political commentator in the US. She is a lawyer and obviously an educated woman.

No doubt Ms. Coulter’s primary goal in life is to get attention, in which case her strategy has worked admirably. Even I am now paying attention to this strident opponent of anything that she might even remotely perceive to be “liberal”. But the use of a term like “retard” to refer to anyone, let alone the President of the United States of America, is such a contemptible misuse of the notoriety granted to someone in Ms. Coulter’s position, that it is hard not to feel compelled to comment in whatever forum might be available.

Coulter’s comment was not an off-the-cuff, heat-of-the-moment throwaway line in conversaton. She itentionally typed the word “retard” in reference to Mr. Obama and then purposely sent it out to an audience of millions.

When the political process in a country has deteriorated to the point where it is thought to be a legitimate strategy to turn one’s opponent into an object that can be dismissed with a derisive abusive noun, that country is on the brink of serious trouble. If Ms. Coulter represents any sizeable constituency within the US who would approve of her comment, there needs to be serious questions asked about the health of the largest power in the “free” world.

I do not care if Ms. Coulter disagrees with Mr. Obama. It is fine with me if she wants to vigorously attack his policies. What I find despicable in her twitter tirade against the President is that she sees fit to express her disagreement with a word that has been used in the past as a slur against a vulnerable and marginalized constiuency of the human community.

When I was a child, a “retard” was someone who was beneath consideration because that person lacked certain abilities deemed essential to be considered fully human.  A “retard” did not have to be taken seriously. A “retard” could be put away from the mainstream of the human community and was not worthy of receiving the privileges and freedoms taken for granted by the majority of the population.

A society that is unwilling to accord full respect to its most vulnerable members is set upon a course of violence and abuse that, one imagines, even Ms. Coulter would find obejctionable.

It is to be hoped that cultural commentators who have a wide public audience might use their influence to help create a more civil society rather than reducing political discourse to the lowest possible level.