Our Nation’s, optimistic Founding Fathers had assumed that citizens of diverse opinions would amicably and constructively, debate the day’s contested issues and further, that the results of such debates, would be of use, in the proper conduct and maintenance of a representative democracy. As declared in prior essays, the reality proved to be disappointingly, otherwise. Citizens sharing identical opinions formed insular groups of people of like opinion, in reciprocally, acrimonious, relationships, with other such groups, of divergent views. These “cold wars” were and still are notably, strident, regarding the contested issues of abortion, right to bear arms and immigration.

Thus, regrettably, in our extant, divisive society, the retention of one’s principled candor, as well as his desired relationships, requires, at times, (with mandatory exceptions, below) the exercise, of an appropriate measure of circumspection in our societal inter-active communication. In similar fashion, our familial and social relationships, from time to time, call for such contextual diplomacy, in one’s statements and responsive communication. Stated simply, the intention is the continued maintenance of one’s honesty (consistent with his self-image) while not offending the speaker; with whom one may significantly disagree. We will furnish a few fictional fact patterns in illustration.

Example: A newly engaged couple attend a dinner, given by the parents of the future bride, principally, to meet the prospective son-in-law. The latter has always hated seafood. As it happens, the host has prepared shrimp marinara as the main dish, and during the meal, she asks him how he likes the dinner. A response, which is diplomatic, yet, nevertheless, true, might be: “Everything was beautifully done,” thus, truthfully complimenting her on the appearance of the meal, but avoiding the subject of taste.

Example: An ardent New York Yankee fan is having drinks, after working hours with a few of his fellow office employees. One of the groups makes the following assertion: The Boston Red Sox, are, by far the best team in the American League. To avoid contention, the Yankee fan might inoffensively, respond: “I saw the televised game, last Wednesday night, they are a great team.”

Example:  A married couple, walking together with the husband’s parents are participating in the Easter Parade, on Broadway, in New York City. The husband’s mother is sporting a particularly garish, wide-brimmed hat, with large, attached, artificial flowers, and asks her son whether he agrees, that her Easter Bonnet is chic. The circumspect son, examining the atrocity, might, candidly and inoffensively, respond, “It certainly is striking,” or, the hat is “outstanding.”

We would recommend such circumspect replies, aimed at the avoidance of the unpleasant necessity of candid, uncomfortable disapproval, to normally, acceptable parlance. The tactful practice should be strictly, limited to social discourse, that is free of offense, or that does not decry principled morality or constitutional rights, viz., equality, and free speech.  The recounting of racial, religious or ethnic slurs, or jokes, does not, and should not, merit the grace of circumspection, but should be publicly and energetically, rebuffed. Reprehensible statements are not deserving of a safe harbor. We would furnish a somewhat unusual, (albeit true), recollected illustration of an unusual hybrid of the two principles.

It was in the late ’60s, we as young lawyers, attended a local Bar Association holiday cocktail party. We noticed a woman, energetically, and vociferously, arguing in favor of censorship; a practice, which we have eternally abhorred. The violation of freedom of speech, by means of the arrogance of individuals, who, arrogate to themselves the sacred duty and the singular ability to protect society from sin, has always rankled us.

The enthusiastic and personally vexing, speaker, apparently mistaking our resolved silence for tacit agreement, smilingly approached us and made an enthusiastic declaration about the responsible necessity to promote a moral society, and, accordingly, the positive impact of censorship. We repressed our strong feelings of anger and, tactically, avoiding the subject, politely said to her, “May we get you a drink or, perhaps, some food?” She, nevertheless, continued, unabated, to preach her ardent sermon on the benefits of censorship. Finally, we stated, politely, and circumspectly, “To be frank, Miss, we have never approved of censorship.” She unabashedly, responded: “Really? Then, pointedly, “Well, then, what do you think of sex, in the movies?” To which question, we, instructively, and sarcastically,* answered: “It probably could work, if the seats don’t fold up on you!”


* N.B. With maturity, sarcastic anger was beneficially, eliminated from our personal behavior.

Published by


Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s