America is the Free Speech country. (Unless you make a silly comedy about a Korean dictator.) Still – or maybe because – it’s a Free Speech country, Americans – though not exclusively Americans – have adopted successful strategies for, when people begin exercising their Free Speech rights with an opinion, you have a reliable method for shutting them up.
Which in a way is a good idea; otherwise, everybody would be spouting off about everything all the time and you would not be able to hear yourself think… about the right way of thinking about things, which of course is our own way, and the way of the people who agree with us, who are, of course again, as right about everything as we are – God bless our collective accurate perceptions!
Over the last couple of days, when one comes to mind, I have been jotting down a word or a phrase used to invalidate people’s opinions and put them speechlessly in their place. It works something like this.
Somebody says something, somebody else takes umbrage or offence – if those mean two different things – and they say something in reply that stops the original speaker in their expressatory tracks, their reaction sometimes accompanied by a noticeable gasp – either of exasperation, or humiliation and shame, depending on their particular temperament. Whatever the nature of the gasp…
The conversation is over. (Though there may on occasion, depending on the participants, be some subsequent fisticuffs, or less frequently these days, a duel. But mostly, it’s silence, and then you tentatively move on.)
Here now are some of those conversation-stopping words and phrases. Along with some hopefully helpful implicational translations.
Here’s the first conversation-ender. When you call somebody
(Translation: “Not only do I disagree with what you are saying, but you express yourself in an annoyingly superior and condescending manner. It’s like you were speaking for the Lord, for heavens sakes!” Hence the word “preachy.”)
You hear that, you heave a sigh (if not as gasp), and you give up. I mean, what is the appropriate comeback for being labeled “preachy”? “No, I’m not!” is not really that strong. “No, you’re preachy!”, is significantly weaker. Plus, you sound like you’re seven.
You surrender and you simply stop talking. At least about that.
Next “conversation stopper”:
(Translation: “You have this insistence in your voice indicating that you sincerely believe what you are saying!)”
Yeah? (As in “And your point is…?”)
Translation: “What you are saying may indeed have legitimate merit, but it is so incendiarily disruptive, the reasonable people have decided not to talk about it.”)
(Translation: “You are excluding of a lot of the specifics.”)
(Translation: “You are including way too many of the specifics.”)
(Translation: “You are using your heart instead of your head.”)
(Translation: “Have you no feelings whatsoever?”)
(Translation: (“Your positions seem to advantage your own personal situation.” A reasonable retort to which is: “Who’s don’t?”)
(Translation: Of course you believe the sky is falling.)
(Translation: Of course you believe the sun will come out tomorrow! But have a chat with a pessimist and you will discover that you’re wrong!)
(Translation: “You lack sufficient experience.”)
(Translation: “You have a ton of experience. But it is unhelpfully outdated.)
Tedious. Boring. Repetitive. Long-winded.
(Translation: “I’m sorry. Are you still talking?”
And finally, the umbrella conversation-squelcher:
“Not being a… (INSERT THE APPROPRIATE QUALIFIER HERE, FROM MEMBER OF A SPECIFIC ETHNICITY, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, PERSON WHO GREW UP LIVING NEXT TO A FREEWAY, ETC.)… you could not possibly understand.”
(Translation: “I know, and you don’t. So do everybody a favor and STOP TALKING!”)
These, and I am certain many other words and phrases appropriated precisely for the purpose – and perhaps you can add to the list – invariably instantly curtail any further discussion on the matter currently at hand. As a result, what you are left with is a cavernous divide, where people wind up stewing angrily in their own ideological juices and nobody harboring differing opinions connects, creating a world of ever-increasing isolation, suspicion and mistrust.
Of course, that could just be me, being preachy.
Or too old…