Shut Up

Bobby Halton

Perhaps the most dismissive thing anyone can say to another is, “Shut up.” It means what you have to say doesn’t matter, your opinion doesn’t matter, you don’t matter, you are inconsequential, you have no value, and you have nothing to add to the conversation—period. It is a demonstration of the moral and intellectual superiority of the one assaulting you. It is a dehumanization of you, a subjugation of you, a debasement of you. It is how weak people win with bad arguments, intimidation, and force. It is the weapon of choice of bullies; thugs; and, lately, Internet gangs.

There have been and will continue to be those who perhaps never having experienced malevolence, betrayal of humanity, randomness, or flat-out bad luck or those whose bullying has never been challenged who will continue to oppress dissenting opinions and expose their world view as sacrosanct. Delusions of zero this and no more that or everyone and anyone can do anything—we just need to train them—will continue; they have certainty on their side, they know they are right and we are wrong, now shut up and sit down.

Today, such certainty delusions are wonderfully popular in academic, political, and Internet circles and make those who embrace them feel superior to those who are more skeptical and uncertain. It is all fun and games until someone gets their eye poked out, as the saying goes. Eyes, as it turns out, are getting poked out.

Firefighters are usually among the skeptics. We are slow to accept some things, which generally is a good thing; fast to place ourselves in danger to protect others, which, again, generally is a good thing; but also tend to trust the elite crowd a bit too much, which sometimes jams us up. Maybe it has to do with IQ tests, classifications, and positions in the social pecking order.

MORE BOBBY HALTON

Initial Reporting, Shared Understanding

Life Isn’t Fair

The Best Damn Job We’ve Ever Had

We should lean toward believing our lying eyes more than we do the academics, politicians, or others who sometimes present self-validating work as scientific research when, in fact, that is the opposite of what scientific research should do. Science is supposed to try to refute the hypothesis, not confirm it. Just because we can’t figure out how to recreate a phenomenon does not mean it does not exist.

And then there are political elitist bullies who will ascribe all kinds of motives to whomever they dislike but will lose their collective minds if you dare say anything the least bit disparaging about whomever they enjoy. They will tell you that despite what their candidate has done, it’s what they say that matters—and that you must vote the way they want you to vote.

Maybe because we didn’t test high in the IQ tests in grade school and were relegated to the C group in third or fourth grade we knew from an early age that we would not be going to Harvard, wearing a lab coat, or be tugging on an ill-fitting cardigan as an adult while someone on a couch told us their dreams at $200 an hour. But we didn’t care; we had visions of us in a different future; for us, a more heroic future; and hell, who wants to wear a lab coat, seriously?

We saw ourselves as the type of men and women who would find much more satisfaction tilting at windmills, standing up against insurmountable odds, challenging ourselves every day in more objectively concrete ways, in physical ways, emotional ways, and spiritual ways. In the third grade, we fought bullies and were sometimes bullies. We were team captains and picked sides and were sometimes the last one picked, but we always gave 100 percent and always knew we could be better, faster, stronger, kinder, and smarter. Generally, we were uncertain, skeptical, and always all in.

We had heroes like Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland of the destroyer Samuel B. Roberts who, in the face of insurmountable odds, nonetheless showed complete resolve. We found that we could, if necessary, figure out most stuff; fix most things; and, even if it wasn’t pretty, make it run. Copeland shared a valuable lesson with us, and it wasn’t when he faced down a ship 12 times his own to protect his charges.

When a ship was being outfitted in the dry docks, the admirals could make certain modifications to them at their discretion. Destroyer escorts were referred to as “little boys” because of their relative size compared to a destroyer. The naval warfare theory was that these smaller, faster, more maneuverable ships were best suited to escort duty for carriers and destroyers and were meant to engage subs and act as decoys and defenders in groups surrounding fleet assets.

As the Samuel B. Roberts was being outfitted, an admiral thought it unnecessary for this little boy to have a three-tube torpedo launcher mounted as part of its weaponry. Copeland thought otherwise, and he didn’t hesitate to let the admiral know.

A short time after taking command of his ship during the battle of Leyte Gulf, Copeland had to use those three torpedo launchers to try to stop a much larger force of tyrannical bullies, members of the Japanese Imperial Navy. In part because of the bravery of his ship and his counterparts on other ships of Taffy 3 Task Force, the bullies were stopped and thousands of American soldiers were spared to fight another day.

The point is that the good admiral on the dock that day listened to Copeland; he didn’t tell him to shut up, and he didn’t tell him he was wrong. The Navy didn’t put torpedo launchers on destroyer escorts, but Copeland was smart enough to ask for one and some unknown admiral was smart enough to respect that request.

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