Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond
Send your nonfictional open letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Open Letter to the Phrase “Having Said That.”
A certain tentativeness of opinion has become fashionable of late. By that I mean a little rhetorical polka that avoids asserting anything of consequence, a verbal watering down that would put your Miller Light to shame, an everyday, omnipresent flip-flop that has squashed direct communication everywhere.
I’m talking about you, Havingsaidthat. You have wriggled your way into the mouth of every Letterman, every shiny-tied anchorman, every political pundit who can now read one poll every way but sideways, every Fox News body language “expert,” and every reality talent show judge. Even the humble weathermen and subway station apocalypto (2013 end of times! Havingsaidthat maybe 2014!) have paid homage to your cutesy chicanery. You have transformed thousands of former communicators into verbal diplomats, timid J. Alfred Prufrocks wading in pools of ambiguity, measuring out their lives with spoons of Havingsaidthats.
And don’t even get me started on your spawn, Thathavingbeensaid. It not only accomplishes the lexical bet hedgery that you do, Havingsaidthat, but with an agile transposition of words it separates the speaker from the very speech he just uttered, abandoning his words in a little crib on the cold doorstep of an oratorical nunnery, orphaned and alone. With a little passive-voice fairy dust, Thathavingbeensaid wipes the verbal slate clean to start on the next noncommittal pearl of wisdom. I bet you are so proud of your little boy, aren’t you, Havingsaidthat?
I kind of get the appeal, I do. You allow your disciples to cushion their blows, to cover all their bases, to issue deformed stepchildren of opinions that couldn’t possibly be attacked because it would just be too pointless and sad. Those who drink from your cup are able to fill the void of a conversation with a kind of soft fluffy substance that promises to love everybody, all of them, equally, while at the same time remaining as elusive and ethereal as dark matter. You entice the hardheaded away from their hubris and convert them instead to a religion of relativism. You whisper to them so softly, allowing them to give in to the much gentler, fuzzy borderline indifference akin to what overcomes them while flossing or listening to the Shins. Hey man, it’s all good right? To each their own and birds of a feather and there’s more than one truth and all that jazz?
But here’s the thing. People will choose what they want to hear anyway. They’ll attach themselves like leeches to either the point that comes before you, Havingsaidthat, or the point that follows on your heels, and the unloved clause will fly away into oblivion like space trash. There is your speaker, smug, thinking his little oral dance was a display of balance worthy of a Niagara Falls tight rope walker. But all the while the listener will be nodding along only to part of the sentence, leaving the other half hanging pants down from the tip of the wire, close enough to feel the spray of the falls on its bared bottom and screaming for a barrel.
But you already know this don’t you, Havingsaidthat? Don’t think I don’t see your long con. Eventually, to compensate their listeners for the confusion you and your Thathavingbeensaid spawn yield, drinkers of the Havingsaidthat Kool-Aid will need to double their verbiage in the hope that the half that sticks is substantial enough to warrant the breath they wasted on it in the first place. As they need to use more words to salvage the lost ones, you will accumulate in their rhetoric, multiplying and engorging yourself on their effort, all the while breeding a tangled orgy of meaning and counter-meanings until the original thrust of the conversation has deteriorated into sputter and whine.
Soon, everyone in the world will be frozen in a kind of cold war of your passivity, imprisoned in endless equivocating conversations. People paired off in Union Square, amid the snow banks of Siberia and dunes of Morocco, in restaurants, on bar stools, sidewalks, side by side at urinals, trapped in tents, kitchens, board rooms, shoes stuck to the earth as they strain to rediscover their original points, drowning in Havingsaidthats and Thathavingbeensaids, pigeons landing on their shoulders leaving them white-stained statues, going without food and water, shriveling and dehydrated into chapped-lip dry-mouthed glazed-eyes slumped lifeless figurines stuck on repeat, “Havingsaidthat, havingsaidthat, havingsaidthat…..”
Yes, I see your plan, and I will stop it. I will unleash the verbal battering rams that are statements without equivocation. I will breed unfettered opinions. Havingsaidthat, I will defeat you.
Your avowed enemy,
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