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Lawton Posey: The cone of silence would be useful

I had been thinking about a piece of advice appearing in the Letter of James in the Christian Testament. Then that advice appeared today in a reading in the church I attend.

Let me, preacher style, quote it for you.

James says, "Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger . . ." The belief that James might have been the brother of Jesus and an early leader of the church may add weight to this admonition.

However, it stands alone, and is sound advice for anyone of whatever persuasion. Believers and non-believers can take this advice to heart.

Now, I must speak personally. Many who know me would be quick to say that I am seemingly oblivious to this advice. I am a great and compulsive talker, and came from a family of great talkers.

My father's sister Sade was a champion. She came to visit us from her log house in Horse Shoe near the French Broad River in North Carolina and regaled us with stories.

She could utter more words per minute than the Pentecostal minister down the way. Between phrases, she would take a quick breath and continue. I can still hear her mountain style speech.

Family stories, bits of wisdom, thoughts, all spilled from her well-filled mind. We loved her, but wished at times to get a word in edgewise.

She did not speak from an educational background. She spoke out of her experiences as a mother and grandmother, as a faithful Presbyterian, and as inheritor of a proud heritage.

Even though her husband was Mr. Glenn, she named a son Posey Glenn, which continued the proud Posey tradition of storytelling and rattling the rafters with utterances.

As I have gotten uncomfortably close to 80, I find myself repeating. A good friend will gaze up into heaven, eyes glazed, while I go on and on about the familiar.

It is all in good fun.

Or is it?

The desire to speak quickly is seemingly imbedded in the approach of candidates for office, whether minor or majestic. The political conventions are oceans of talk.

In their quickness to speak, the talk can get nasty, and the facts distorted. Never mind which party the speakers belong to, they have a job to do.

These days it is not so much a declaration of principles that is involved but an attack against persons. Political speech is like that.

Experts will listen to the recorded speeches and extract lines that can be used against the speaker.  

Let us follow the Apostle James. Let us have what is sometimes called a "cone of silence."

That term arose from early radio navigation in aircraft. When the pilot entered the cone of silence where no dots and dashes or single tone were heard in the headphones, it was assumed that the beacon or airport safety were below.

Applied to political speaking, religious preaching, or bloviating, the "cone of silence" approach would be beneficial.

A month before an election, when most people have made up their minds anyway, no public speeches could be made. Television coverage, often disguised as "news," would cease.

To lift the spirits of television watchers, old episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show" could be aired. Churches would meditate in silence as the Quakers do.

The monthlong silence might be unbearable to some. The cone of silence might, on the other hand, be a blessing, as the American public could know that deliverance is at hand.

Whether one reads or honors the Bible is of no moment. The advice is sound policy.

It is worth a try.

This essay took 28 minutes to write. For the next 28 minutes, let us all keep silence.

Posey, a retired Presbyterian minister, lives in Charleston. His email is


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