These are my personal thoughts on the word no.

It’s a short word, among the shortest, but in my opinion, the word no is the basis of American society and has been since the beginning.  All of your political rights are founded on the right to tell the government no.  

Don’t like the current government?  Say no and vote for someone else.  

Don’t want the police to search your home without a warrant?  Say no; make them get a warrant supported by probable cause.  

Don’t want to sit at the back of the bus?  Say no, and, eventually, your rights will be vindicated.

There are powerful forces constantly attempting to erode your ability to just say no. The most powerful is the omnipresent psychological urge to say yes to pretty much any proposition.  People, generally, dislike confronting others, and telling somebody, anybody, for instance, a teacher, a police officer, even a stranger, no is always at least a little difficult.  A lot of people, for instance, have great difficulty with telemarketers; the telemarketers are trained to continue talking to you about what they want even if you’ve already told them you’re not interested in what they’re selling.  

Why would telemarketers do that if they know you’re not interested?  Because a relatively large percentage of people eventually cave in and buy what’s being sold just to avoid confronting the telemarketer with the word no.  It works.  If continuing to talk until you comply didn’t work no business would spend money doing it.

There’s a similar, and more worrying, situation regarding confessions to the police.  A ton of people are convicted of crimes which they did not commit because they couldn’t tell the police no.  The police are trained, and like telemarketers, know that lots of people will confess to almost anything if they can keep the psychological pressure up.  They read a suspect their Miranda rights, but it doesn’t matter, because Miranda will only very rarely override the psychological compulsion to comply with a request.  A suspect has the right to stop a custodial (i.e. while arrested) interview with the police at any time, that is, they have the right to remain silent, but they are afraid to tell the cops no.

I teach my children to say no, even to me.  Sometimes I override their wishes because of parental requirements (you will take a bath, kiddo!), but I strongly believe that I cannot raise them to be independent adults comfortable with the boundaries they have set by teaching them to automatically obey just any apparent authority figure, or by worrying about whether they’re being nice to people who are unjustly demanding things of them.  They have the right to say no, and so do you.

Saying no to unlawful demands and to people who are trying to take advantage of your niceness is a right you have and the right of every American.

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