Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: The “New” S-Word

So I am at a dinner party and one of the guests talks about raising her children. Of course, at this point, three of the single people drift away but a couple stays, as do I, of course. I always find myself interested in what is important to people when they raise children: how to say ‘no.’ sometimes, while other times, ‘yes.’ Tricky business, as I see it, childrearing today.

In any case the conversation was about the “bad words” that should not be used in family situations. Colleen, the mother says something rather startling (in a wonderful way). In her family, the “S-word” is “Shut up!” That’s the word the children are not to say to one another or to their parents, teachers, or grandparents, etc. “How wonderful!“ I blurted out before anyone else could respond. The others who had not drifted off concurred, whether voluntarily or under the duress of my leading the jury, as it were, we shall never know.

After a pause, mother Colleen added, “Well, it seems like nobody allows anyone to talk anymore; no one wants to hear anyone else’s point of view.

To which I blurted out again, “Exactly!” And then I realize I had done it twice now—not allowing the others in the circle to respond before me. Perhaps it is because I was drinking wine, I don’t know, but I think it was, anyhow, only my first glass, so I doubt as much. I think, rather, I was simply too exuberant regarding this particular topic.

Thus I shat up again, allowing the others to respond, which of course they did. “Yes,” the other woman standing there said, “I find it positively distressing when I hear someone say ‘Shut up!’”

“It happens all the time,” said the man who appeared to be her husband. “Terrible.”

This time I waited before I said anything, trying to get my banter-timing a bit better than I had stared out. “You know,” I said, “I read that Don Lemon, a CNN commentator, on his show had actually quashed one or two of his interlocutors who were speaking to him about a topic with which Mr. Lemon rather did not agree. ‘Shut up’ he said, just before putting down any possible word of opposition.”

What he actually said was “…Not the time to talk about guns or whatever? yes it is! Shut up, I don’t want to hear it.” ] Now, ironically, I am probably on the side of Don Lemon on this issue, or at least very sympathetic to what he had to say but I was focusing on the “Shut up!” bit of his remark.[1]

“Yes,” a third person in the conversation added, “I saw that and also saw that a commentator named Laura Ingarham said that LeBron James should keep his political views to himself and ‘Shut up and Dribble.’”[2]


A number agreed. And they didn’t like it, especially because one or two were basketball fans.

In the end, as I look back on it, I think that’s why Colleen’s advice, nay rather, rule for her children seemed so timely to me. Because people on the left and the right are just telling those who oppose them to “shut up.” But can that really help. I think when one shuts down dialogue, it only really promotes a nasty kind of overreaction, even rebellion.

Ingrid Bergman once said, “I was the shyest human ever invented, but I had a lion inside me that wouldn’t shut up!”[3] I imagine that is why she was such a great actress. But truth, beauty, and especially freedom always seem to manage to work their way up to the surface. You can’t keep them buried for too long. LeBron’s voice was louder than ever after Mr. Ingharahm’s attempt to repress him. And however right Mr. Lemon may be on the issue of the day, it seems to me that he would be better off letting the opposition speak and oppose it on principled and well-reasoned grounds, than merely shouting it down.

So here’s to Colleen’s good choice, when it comes to her banning the “s-word.” Maybe her children will be at the vanguard of a more civil society. And if you don’t agree with me, well you can just—no not shut up. Rather, just write me an email and tell me that you disagree. Way cooler.

Pax et bonum, et licet loqui.

[1] On “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.”




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