The Tacit Complicity of Silence

Those of you that know me at all know that I’m not big on voicing my political opinions on things.  It must be the Yankee in me (see, I’m not totally Southern), but I consider one’s politics about like one’s genitals:  I’m happy you’ve got them, and am sure that you are proud of them, but don’t go sticking them in my face (no matter how well I know you) or waving them around in public (except at certain kinds of parties, likely involving alcohol).

It isn’t shame, or feeling unsure, or anything like that.  It comes from a very pragmatic place.  When entering into any political debate, imagine the chances your opponent has of convincing you that you’re wrong.  Those are the same chances (more or less) you have for changing their mind.  You are probably not going to convince them of anything, so the whole thing is rather masturbatory ((as a side note, this metaphor for politics and genitals keeps amusing me)).

And yet.

And yet I am realizing that silence too says something; you can’t say nothing even if you don’t say anything.  If you don’t share your thoughts, your opinions, then other people are going to read into that whatever they want – probably that you agree with them, unless they want to hate you, and then it will be that you support mandatory puppy murder.

Silence enables the popular opinion, no matter how wrong the popular opinion may be, and while you may not consent to the actions done because of that, I think that you are complicit.  Inaction is a statement of indifference if nothing else, of not caring enough to say anything one way or the other (which may not at all be what you feel, but until humans perfect ways to telepathically transmit emotions and beliefs (AND WE SHOULD NEVER DO THIS) all that others know is what you say).

Edmund Burke said, “All the is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”  I find it true.  Not every issue that more people should speak about is evil, but so much evil is allowed (though silently condemned) because of silence.  The rape culture is a culture of silence and fear.  Racism is still so pervasive because so many are afraid to say anything negative against the examples of it that they see.  Abuse, bigotry, and prejudice are stronger because those that practice them are met too often with silence, silence which enables future actions.

That doesn’t mean that I’m going to espouse political debate as a foundation of change, because I still don’t believe that entering in to a debate to convince your opponent of something is entirely sane.  I do believe that people should share what they believe, though, not to convince those that will argue, but to support the silent victims, those that feel alone.  They should speak up to let their beliefs be known, so that their opinion is not automatically counted in with the majority.  To shed light on dark opinions.

It is understandably difficult.  We fear judgment, the judgment of our peers and our superiors, who may believe differently than we do.  We fear alienation for our beliefs, and so we hide them and keep quiet.

But while you or I may have to hide our belief that a homosexual should have all the rights of everyone else for fear of alienation, a gay man has to hide who he is.
While you or I may be afraid to speak up against creepy, unwanted, overly aggressive advances for fear of judgment, the victim lives in fear of being raped, or with the silent shame of it.
We fear being judged for our beliefs, but the people we don’t speak up for fear for who they are.

This is no panacea to the world’s ills, and believe me when I say I realize that I am as guilty or guiltier of it than most, but I think it’s an important step.  The hardest problem to fix is the one that you won’t acknowledge or aren’t aware of.

I don’t mean to come off as preachy, and I don’t have a call to action or any such thing.  This is just an observation, a thought on my mind that I haven’t been able to shake.  What does my silence say about me?  And what does it say to those listening?

I just think it’s too easy to misinterpret silence to keep saying nothing, I guess, so while I’m not going to go trying to convince you that my way is the right way, you may hear a little more of what I believe, so that at least I’m being judged for what I actually think rather than what you think I do.

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