I turned on my iPod to "shuffle songs" for the first time in forever, today. This evening I was treated with a long-lost friend, "Take It Back" by the Barenaked Ladies. And as much as I love the song, I hadn't really listened to the lyrics until tonight. This line popped out loud and clear in terms of my day, today:
"It's hard to keep your mouth shut. Harder still to make noise."
In fact, that line played right as I sat down to write this post. Kind of spooky.
It would be very easy to say I was gutsy because I didn't say anything, today. I kept my mouth shut when faced with great temptation to let someone have it. I should get applause for my restraint, right?
No. I shouldn't.
Let me explain.
Remember That One Kid in Poetry class? Well, this isn't about him. This is about another sort of That One Kiddiness, a distant relation to that concept known as "That One Older Guy In Class Who Won't Shut Up".
This is not to be confused with "That Continuing Education Person". Because I LOVE having older folks in my classes. I love hearing what they have to say, and I love picking their brains about stuff, and I love their down-to-earth-wisdom and their excitement and their just plain awesomeness, even when they're arguing with me.
But That One Older Guy In Class Who Won't Shut Up (hereafter known as TOOGICWWSU) is another matter entirely. He (and it usually is a he) is the sort of person who thinks he knows more than the professor, and wants to share this information liberally and with great fervor, often interrupting other students...or the professor...in his zeal. He is often condescending, often bigoted, and often wrong.
In my Mass Media class, I have TOOGICWWSU, and he has the three strikes: often condescending, often bigoted, and often very wrong.
I know what you're thinking. GLS, why didn't you realize this sooner? You've been in this class for awhile now, right?
Because he was a sneaky one. He kept his mouth shut until last week, except to utter a few brief (albeit insightful) comments. And then? The dam broke, and now he can't open his mouth without sounding ignorant or racist or both.
I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, at first, because he's an older fellow. And granted, none of his racism is said "in anger". But upon further examination I realized...he's in his late fifties. That's not THAT old. And he's of the generation that probably "knows better", or at least has had time to think about it. He ought to know that there are some words that it's just not right to say anymore, just some topics that it's okay not to bring up in class, and just some basic manners that are human to human, not race to race.
But while I'm sitting in class thinking all of these things, and in the car fuming about these things, and sitting here at my computer typing about these things, I come to a sadder realization.
Yes, props to me for not strangling him out of sheer embarassment and anger.
But...no points to me for not saying anything. Because isn't that the problem? When he talks, everyone (including the teacher) just winces and says...nothing. Not even a sneaky deflection. Not even a wry comeback, or a carefully-worded clue that he might not be right. That he might not have all the answers. That he might clean up his replies if he wants to engage in "continuing education" at a college in Seattle, where liberalism is quite rampant and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Democrat (not...that you'd want to...I'm just making a point).
The reason why people feel free to say what they say is because they assume they are agreed with. I think it's fair to say that others are intimidated by the common TOOGICWWSU because he is older and "wiser" and hard to argue with.
But at least I know where I sidestepped, even if today does feel like a gutsy fail. Maybe on Thursday (our next MM class) I can think of a way to gently let TOOGICWWSU know that I do not agree with his assessments by thinking through a logical contribution to the discussion. Could backfire on me, or I could chicken out. But being gutsy is about trying, isn't it?