“A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar our thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind.”
– Sir Winston S. Churchill, “The Defence of Freedom and Peace (The Lights are Going Out)“, radio broadcast, October 16, 1938
To put this quotation into context, Churchill was not yet Prime Minister and the Germans annexed parts of Czechoslovakia. What he is describing is how dictators can’t handle people who think for themselves and break the party line. He was making a speech to the British and American radio public as an appeal to the Americans to shed their isolationist policy just after Neville Chamberlain waived his piece of paper around in the wind and declared “peace in our time”. Well, we know how all of that turned out. If you didn’t, go watch Inglourious Basterds.
Certainly, not all of us are dictators and are afraid of mice of thought, but sometimes we encounter ideas and facts that make us reflexively react negatively to them. The Boffin pointed out to me yesterday that I have a tendency to be, shall we say, expressive when I learn something new that shocks and unsettles me. At least that is what I do when I am comfortable with the company around me. It’s basically reason #467 why I don’t play poker. And, if it has something to do with the U.K., he just wants to don his figurative deerstalker and give me a right verbal lashing, even he perfectly understands why I feel what I am feeling. I usually need a minute or two until “Rational Karen” kicks in.
There is a lot to be said about keeping your cool around those you love and stopping to think before you react, especially before saying things like, “That creeps me out,” in the face of years of national tradition and practice. (It’s best that I do not go into examples. I do not want to reignite any wars from about 200 years ago.)
As an aside…back in 1963, President John F. Kennedy, acting under the authority by an act of Congress, bestowed Sir Winston an honorary American citizenship. As graciously as Sir Winston accepted the honor, I have always wondered if Churchill found the whole business rather amusing. Because Churchill’s mother was American, Kennedy was basically giving Churchill something honorary that was already rightfully his. Go figure.