Blurting with Disaster

Posted: Jan 15, 2007 12:00 AM

Good morning (name deleted):

I want to take a few minutes to discuss a problem that I think will impair your ability to pass my class this semester. I also think it will impair your ability to be taken seriously as an adult in whatever profession you may choose. I am talking, of course, about your persistent inability to refrain from blurting out your thoughts while other people are trying to speak - your fellow students and, especially, your professors.

Let me try to persuade you first by giving some examples of past students who got in trouble by immediately vocalizing their thoughts without taking a few seconds to run them past their internal content editor – a practice requiring some degree of self-control:

*One afternoon, while we were having class outside a female student apparently jogged by - behind where I was standing but in full view of the class – wearing very little clothing. An approving male student thought “What a nice (backside).” Simultaneously he shouted “What a nice (backside).” The feminist sitting to his right (literally, not metaphorically) proceeded to whack him upside the head with her notebook. I asked them both to stay after class.

Naturally, the feminist did not want to charge him with sexual harassment because she would be charged with assault and battery. And he did not want to charge her with assault and battery because he would be charged with sexual harassment.

It would have been better if the young man just learned to control his blurting.

*Once, I did an interesting exercise on self-report studies of criminality. I was teaching students about the evolution (but certainly not the creation) of self-report studies, some of which were not-so-intelligently designed. The students were all required to write a brief anonymous account of their most serious criminal act. I then read some of the highlights in class accompanied by my usual sarcastic commentary.

I read one account of a female student chasing a woman down a residential street with a machete after she caught her in bed with her boyfriend. I then joked “They’re doing great things with anti-depressants these days.” I even offered directions to the office of the university psychiatrist.

But the girl didn’t think it was so funny. She thought “But that bitch was sleeping with my boyfriend.” And, simultaneously, she stood up and shouted “But that bitch was sleeping with my boyfriend.” She blew her anonymity and thereafter had a difficult time finding a good study group.

It would have been better if the young woman just learned to control her blurting.

*Once, while discussing the Lorena Bobbitt case, I asked my students what a fair punishment for domestic violence should be (for first-time offenders). A female student thought to herself “Just chop his (hoo-hoo dilly) off.” Simultaneously, she shouted “Just chop his (hoo-hoo dilly) off.” That was thirteen years ago and she still hasn’t found a husband.

It would have been better if the young woman just learned to control her blurting.

Of course, you are probably wondering why I’m hitting you with a bunch of stories of people whose lives were negatively impacted by a lack of self-control. So let me end this missive on a positive note with a few examples of good things that happened when I decided not to immediately vocalize my thoughts.

*I was giving a lecture at a leftist university in the northeast. A Muslim student was whining about how he was “offended” that he was (supposedly) targeted by airport security agents. He also said the First Amendment was not there for powerless people like himself. It was there for white people only. The Muslim fellow smelled so badly I was choking from about twenty yards away. I thought to myself:

“Yes, but you haven’t showered in a month. And, come to think of it, you smell bad enough to knock a buzzard off a turd wagon. That really offends me so sit down and stop whining.”

But I didn’t say it. Instead, I talked about poor powerless Martin Luther King, Jr. and all he accomplished with the First Amendment. And I asked the kid to reflect on the number of countries where such great achievements might be duplicated.

We concluded our exchange with nods of mutual respect, largely because I was able to control my impulses.

*On another occasion, I was giving a speech at (yet another) leftist university in the northeast. A male student wearing a pink dress got up and said that he had logged on to my website and seen me pictured with a gun in front of an American flag. He said he thought it was “weird.” I thought to myself:

“I’m sorry but you’re a dude in a pink dress. You don’t really have a right to call anyone weird (and be taken seriously). And, don’t worry, that’s not a gun in my pocket. I’m just really happy to see you.”

But I didn’t say it. I actually gave him a serious answer about why I use provocative language in my columns. I also explained that one of my previous assertions - that homosexuality is a mental illness – is used merely to expose the hypocrisy of those who think opposition to homosexuality is a “phobia.”

We concluded our exchange with nods of mutual respect, largely because I was able to control my impulses.

*Finally, I give the example of an abortion provider who characterized my columns as “mean-spirited anti-liberal propaganda.” After he said that, I thought to myself:

“I’m sorry but I’ve never drilled a hole in a baby’s head and pulled his brains out with a suction tube. That would be ‘mean-spirited.’”

But I didn’t say it. I did, however, remind him that in some ways I am a liberal. Liberals fend for people who cannot fend for themselves. I asked him what would happen if a fireman went down into a mine shaft and found a helpless miner (as opposed to minor). What would he think if the fireman crushed his skull with a jackhammer and pulled him out successfully, though only after ripping him limb from limb? Would that be liberating? Would it be liberal?

I concluded my message by telling him I would respect his answer so long as he gave it serious thought.

And, so, by now you get my point (hopefully). We all have thoughts we need to keep from blurting out immediately. Next week in class, we’ll see whether you’ve taken today’s lesson to heart. If you blurt out another thought while I am trying to speak, I will think to myself “You really need to get the hell out of this class.”

And then I’ll say, simultaneously, “You really need to get the hell out of this class.”