You may not know it to look at me, but I’ve said some stupid things in my life. On the other hand, if you do know me, it may not come as a surprise. These stupid things range from the harmless to the harmful. To wit, asking a man named Sam if he liked green eggs and ham and mocking a stranger with a severe stutter because I thought he was pulling my leg. He wasn’t. Somehow, I managed to get out of the situation without him literally pulling my leg and beating me with it. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did.
Granted, the stutterer example occurred decades ago, and I would be sinning against the Holy Spirit if I thought I hadn’t been forgiven for it already through penance, fasting, and prayer, but, as you can imagine, the memory lingers like an adolescent’s cologne in a locker room.
In the intervening years, I have used Anglo Saxon in mixed company (i.e., Anglos and Saxons), talked trash about a supervisor who was a professional narcissist, and called the guy upstairs in my walkup in the Bronx a “hijo de puta” when he decided to conduct what sounded like a bowling tournament on the hardwood floor. Somehow, I managed to get out of that, too, since he moved back to Peru.
Stupid comments result from falling off the high wire between wit and vulgarity. Without making excuses, falling off that wire is easy to do, especially when the winds pick up. And you don’t have to be Philippe Petit, the French funambulist who walked across the Twin Towers in 1974 on a high wire, to know what I’m talking about. I speak of the winds of love–not to be confused with the wings of the dove–and the social-cultural-political winds of history.
Take love, please. I have said “I love you” prematurely, untruthfully, and even mistakenly, which reminds me of the time in high school when a girl suddenly kissed me and, upon seeing my shock, explained that she had tripped over a step and landed on my lips. In a manner of speaking, I have done the same thing minus the tripping, which is to say that love is not only a battlefield but the emotional equivalent of the Tet Offensive. Explaining things away or trying to convince the other party of your noble intentions is to invite a thousand rounds of 82 mm mortar fire. I don’t recommend it.
Then there are the social-cultural-political winds that can knock you off the high wire and send you to the pavement at the rate of Galileo’s free fall. Of what do these consist? All you have to do is look around at the accusations of Nazi, SJW, hater, homophobe, racist, and fascist to see that not only are stupid things allowed but encouraged under the new rules of the game. These rules allow anyone to lob accusations at the “enemy” like hand grenades.
But the political situation isn’t a game and the rules aren’t new. Rather, they are simply the old rules in new wrapping. We live in an age of marketing when saying something stupid and hateful can go viral, landing you either a Netflix series or censorship from the Ministry of Truth at Trending.Com, depending on where you fall off the political high wire, Left or Right. But, in the end, stupidity in an app is still stupidity.
Speaking of which–and this relates to the Ken Lay/Enron maneuver–since the new rules function in a digital world, do not write stupid sayings down or record them for posterity. Don’t write them in emails, letters, journals, poems, essays, tweets, or blog posts. In other words, dear reader, don’t do what I have done. Let your stupid sayings and rationalizations be verbal, not written. Therein lies safety. Take heed of the Roman poet, Catullus, who writes of his girl: mulier cupido quod dicit amanti, in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua (words a woman says to her lover should be written in wind and running water).
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point out that most of the verbal stupidities I have heard have issued from my mouth or that of other men. Although Catullus’ girlfriend may be in love with love and not really him, in the legendary words of Ricky Ricardo, it is more likely that we men have some “splainin to do.”
Image credits: feature by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash. For more, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”
This topic reminds me of a time I not only put my foot but my entire leg in my mouth. A friend was dating a Jehovah’s Witness. I never said a negative thing about it, knowing that she’d made some interesting previous dating choices. One evening she dropped by unannounced with him so I could meet him. After she apologized for interrupting my dinner, I said, “Oh, that’s OK – it’s not like you’re a Jehovah’s Witness.”
Well, technically, you were right….!