Learning to Use Zingers!

Have you experienced people in powerful positions telling you what to do – especially when “their own house was not in order?” I have, and I learned to return the favor with “zingers” targeting their weak spot.  So can you!

What I mean by “zinger” in this context is a clear response to the inconsistency in a person’s behavior — whether spoken or written or acted.

My zingers began when I was a professor at a small college.  The governing board of three higher education schools — the State Board of Agriculture* — visited our campus.  They were changing the hierarchy and mission of those three schools — a move that would affect our share of the funding!

On the day the board arrived, they were greeted by students and colleagues wearing black armbands, standing on the road to the school.

In a packed assembly, faculty spoke against the changes.  We were queued up behind the curtains on the stage.  I was one of the last speakers, so I had to listen carefully; I didn’t want to repeat their contributions.  The man in front of me said almost exactly what I had planned to say; I abandoned my prepared speech and chose to highlight what others had said.

My contribution would come later.

It was the last meeting in the auditorium; the board was sitting on the stage, telling the faculty about the changes they were making.

I listened patiently to my colleagues’ objections and concerns. When asked if there were any other comments, I raised my hand and stood.

“I’m just returning from a leave of absence, so all this is news to me. Please correct me if I’m wrong.  Here’s what I heard you say:  you’ve stressed that this change would benefit our students and faculty.  You pointed out that our students would be able to transfer to other schools more easily.  So would faculty.  You mentioned that faculty, especially ours, would benefit from being in a graduate school environment.  Is that right?” They nodded their agreement.

“Great!  To show my support, I want to be the first faculty member to transfer: next semester to that school north of us!”

Needless to say, there was only back-peddle sputtering, because the board had no control over the mechanics of how faculty transferred from one school to another; faculty did!  But my colleagues got a good laugh, and my “teacher behavior” —  listen intently and point out the flaw in the argument — was reinforced.

Listen carefully to the speaker.  Is there something that doesn’t match what he said earlier?

The Takeaway

We’re now considering possible candidates for political positions that could ultimately make drastic changes in our lives.  As members of the community who will be affected by these politicians’ behavior, it’s each voter’s duty to listen carefully — whether hearing them speak or reading what they’ve written (including their tweets!).

It is our voter’s responsibility to note when the candidate’s behavior and other words are not aligned with their campaigning words.  It is our responsibility to notice when they are lying or making false claims.

Each person must call attention to the truth of those running for office before we elect them. And two of the best places to do that are in public:

  • in the caucus or other public meetings where they speak, and
  • in your local newspaper as a Letter to the Editor.

Yes, it takes some work to learn who that candidate really is, what they have said and done, and how they have voted before. But you don’t get to complain if you didn’t do your part. Let’s do better this time!


*In June 2002, the Governor signed legislation that approved the creation of a stand-alone Board of Trustees for that small college.



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