When Silence is Golden…and When It’s Not

One of the greatest freedoms in the United States is the freedom of speech. Or is it?

In this age of political correctness Americans are still free to say whatever we want. That’s in the Constitution of the United States. But just because you can say it doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. It’s unlikely the consequences will be criminal but there can be consequences none the less. 

The fact that you can say almost anything also doesn’t mean that you should. Some things truly are better left unsaid. The thing is, sometimes it takes even more courage to let it remain unsaid then it takes to actually say it. 

Which brings me to one Mr. Donald Trump. As an American, Mr. Trump is free to say whatever he would like. That doesn’t mean he should. He may very well be right (he may very well be wrong) that a judge of Mexican heritage could have some bias against him. It might even be a subconscious bias. That doesn’t make the judge a bad person or even a bad judge, it makes him human. 

We all have biases and we have them for a huge variety of reasons. If Mr. Trump found himself a different judge that judge too would have some sort of bias. Such is life.

None of that however means Mr. Trump needs to say anything about a biased judge. It was dumb to say, not because it might not be true but because even if it were true there was nothing to be gained by saying it. He would have been better off just being silent on the issue. 

One can only conclude that Mr. Trump simply doesn’t have the courage to remain silent…about anything. He seems to lack the courage all true leaders have to risk looking disconnected by remaining silent when they would really rather say something. This lack of courage puts him in an untenable position when it comes to earning the trust of those he would lead. 

A leader who lacks the courage to remain silent when silence is called for is a very limited leader.

On the other hand there are times when a leader really needs the courage to speak up, to admit a failing and simply accept the consequences that come with it. 

Like maybe when, for whatever reason, you violated standard practices and written guidelines that come with a very trusted position. Instead of just admitting that you messed up royally, and maybe even criminally, and saying you will accept the consequences and try to do much better next time, you pretend it’s no big deal. 

I’m writing of course of Mrs. Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency. Her denials, twisted words and revisionist history in the face of a scathing report from her own State Department shows a complete lack of courage to share the full story with those she would lead. Withholding information is a much of a lie as is providing the wrong information.

A leader who lacks the courage to speak up and tell the truth is a very limited leader. 

Sometimes it takes courage to speak and sometimes it takes courage to remain silent. Effective leaders have the courage to do both. One thing seems certain, when Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump say their opponent is not qualified as a leader to be President of the United States they are both correct. 

Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

Like many Americans I watched the first Republican Presidential Debate. Also like many Americans I watched it to see what kind of outlandish things Donald Trump would say.

He did not disappoint. 

Whatever you think of Donald Trump you have to give him this…. he knows how to get the attention of people. In a particularly testy exchange with one of the moderators Mr. Trump stated that “frankly, he didn’t have time for political correctness. He said that our (the American people) concern with never offending anyone is limiting our progress, or something to that effect.

On that singular point he may be right!

I have long said that if you’re speaking to a large enough group of people that virtually anything you say can and will offend somebody. I now have proof.

First let me acknowledge that I have indeed said some stuff in front of groups that I wish I could take back. I suppose I should also acknowledge that I have also said some clearly politically incorrect things simply because they were funny. If people were offended I just figured they needed to get over themselves because it wasn’t meant to offend, it was meant to be funny.

Which brings me to a recent presentation. I told I joke that could not, that could absolutely NOT offend anyone. 

I told a joke about the rancher who came out one morning to discover that someone had cut the tails off of all his cattle. He knew immediately that he would have to wholesale the cattle because there was no way to retail them. 

That’s it. That’s the whole joke. It’s like third grade humor. It’s just dumb, the fact that it’s so bad a joke is what makes it funny. People groan about the joke and then share it the first chance they get. (Yes, you’re going to share it too, you just can’t help it) 

The group I was speaking with was not especially large, maybe 100-120 people. There was just no way that dumb joke could offend anyone…. Except it did.

At the end of the presentation I was approached by an individual who actually had tears in their eyes. They were very emotional in telling me that animal cruelty was nothing to joke about. They couldn’t believe how insensitive I was to animal lovers in the group. They told me that even though they were the only one complaining there were many others in the group who were equally offended. (Nope, I wasn’t at a PETA convention) They told me that cows have feelings too. 

I may now try to find a way to insert that joke into every presentation that I do. I just want to see if there is another person on this planet who is offended by the joke. (being offended because the joke is so bad doesn’t count) 

I agree 100% that we should show respect in all of our interactions with people. There is nothing wrong about being sensitive to the views and opinions of other people…. but that’s a two-way street. 

Maybe EVERYONE needs to lighten up a bit. Maybe we have “over-corrected” with all the politically correct stuff. Maybe, just maybe, something can be funny… just because it is.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to stop sacrificing the truth in the name of political correctness. 

This much is certain, no matter what anyone says to me it can only offend me if I let it. I don’t need protection from the politically correct police. If I’m tempted to be offended by something someone said I just need to consider the source and the context and then I can CHOOSE to ignore it. 

I’m wondering if we can apply some common sense here but I suppose I’m going to get ripped because this whole post is politically incorrect.