Should I Shu-u-u-u-t U-u-up?

A rare RFL clarification to my prior post. I used the words “shut up” today. I wished I hadn’t. I meant it the way kids these days will say “shut up,” with a tone of “no way,” or “get out of here,” or “you’re kidding me.” It was meant to be casual, yet still express my shocking amazement at Lincoln and Washington being entirely self-educated.

I should have known that readers would not be able to HEAR my
light-hearted used of heavy words. And, I’m sorry if my words felt
insulting. The first blog comment chastised me, understandably, for
sounding callous in these tough times. And he suggested I should think
about “privilege.”

If you felt similarly, let me push back about that. Lincoln and
Washington were not privileged. That was the major point. They
experienced poverty in Lincoln’s case, and the loss of a father in
Washington’s. They weren’t at great private schools, charter schools, or even public schools. Lincoln experienced more defeats than most of us ever will, yet he kept on. And although people like me, vested with
attachments of privilege, are “supposed to be” deferential, docile, and
demure, I’m not sure that’s always the role for people with formal
authority. My point, poorly made, was this: anyone can do anything,
especially in these times. And yes, even if unemployed, even if not
privileged, even if disadvantaged. I did not mean to insult those in
trouble but to challenge and encourage by the inspiring example of
Washington and Lincoln.

I’m grateful to the early commentator who prompted this unusual second RFL.

Love to hear your thoughts as you

Lead with your best self,

  • Dan, one should always be careful of the free use of the popular vernacular. If this is not your normal “voice” people will superimpose the tone you least expected. This point seems to come home to me most often whenever I try to slip in some “cool” language with my son. He will stop, stare at me with unblinking 11 year old eyes and slowly shake his head. Needless to say, at that point I know he has pwned me.

    For Lincoln and Washington – I disagree fundamentally about privilege. To me the term literally applies as its root – personal law. If one live in a circumstance in which they need not volunarily participate in societal duties, they are privileged.

    Washington was the son of one of the wealthiest landowners in the colonies and better schooled than almost any of his peers. His risk as a wealthy landowner to side with the revolution put ALL his privileged life at risk. Had the revolution failed, he would have been hung and his lands confiscated.

    Lincoln, although enduring a decidedly more harsh upbringing, was able to do several things which marked him as having some privilege. His step mother encouraged in him a love of reading. Although his family relocated several times, they did so as independent farmers, rather than indentured servants. Lincoln also was able to set aside the farming life – by choice – and pursue his own interests. This enabled his broadening experience and ultimately his election into the legislature.

    Modern comparisons are hard to come by against Lincoln and Washington. If we were to make some analogies – Obama’s upbringing more closely resembles Lincoln’s which George W. Bush’s is more akin to Washington. Neither were obligated to serve in public office – but both chose to do so. I find that a much more compelling case than any unprivileged upbringing.

    • Jon,
      Thanks for weighing in and offering a different cut through the word privilege. It’s become a hot word, as you’ll see from my original post today. I agree that it’s darned hard to use today’s terms for times 150 to 250 years ago.
      I also love your analogy to borrowing the cool language of kids (heck, you and I couldn’t even sound cool when we WERE kids!).

  • Shut Up! I got it from the original read of your message. Knowing your compassion (Danpassion) for others I knew precisely where you were coming from. You’re so on point these are the Best of Times, not the worst of times, these are the times that We can rise to the occasion and make our worlds a better place to be. Thanks for your unusual follow-up posting!

  • Been there with the mis-communicated text inflection. The hazzards of Internet Communication.

    If you really want to get crazy with the miscommunicated inflection you can end the blog with the retro 80’s slang, “Lead with your baddest self.”

    And reaching to bring it full circle, the use of English slang could bring us to Samuel Clemens — Mark Twain — who went through a childhood of incredible loss, losing three siblings, and losing his father at 11, and dropping out of school at 14 and becoming a typsetters apprentice. He went on to be one of the major fathers of American literature, ushering in the acceptability of using common American English vernacular in literature.

    Anyone can do anything. They just gotta know and understand they can…that last part is sorta the kicker.

  • You hit on two communication dangers with the words “shut up” in your message today.
    The first was noted by Jonathan and that is the danger of us Baby Boomers using slang that may not be associated with our generation; next time consider “far out,” or “mind blowing.”

    The second is the danger of e-mail communication and how it is perceived by sender vs. receiver. As the sender, you heard the intended inflection for your “shut up!” but readers will each interpret that infection personally. (It’s the same issue as when someone types a message in all caps without realizing that it may be interpreted as “yelling” by the reader).

    So, maybe you get a “C” in Slang Usage, but your rapid follow up communication to clarify is certainly an “A+.)

  • I agree with you. We have put too much emphasis in formal documented certified diplomitized education for fear of legal action when a mistake is made. It also absolves responisibility from learning on one’s own.
    We have such an artificially intellignet society. Common sense is not part of it, since that cannot be documented.
    Look how Bill Gates is knocked around by so many with more education than he and less performance than he.
    Maybe if we expected more and did not tolerate various phrases we would appear and actually function at a higher level.
    Just think, there are some phrases that only some groups can use publically without social and legal recrimination.

  • Although a person may be able to get away with no degree and a high level of informal education being a strong entreprenuer, the same cannot be said for most entry-level positions in government or corporations. So being able to do “anything” is not necessarily the case when a person does not have a formal education. Perhaps we can change this.

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