When I’m feeling intellectual and bored during breaks, I like to examine my immediate family as a microcosm of society. With six kids, friends, and significant others returning to live under one roof, there are countless dynamics at play that can disrupt the peace. Extremely different beliefs, exacerbated by variations in temperament, naturally lead to arguments. In short, we can get a little heated.
But being exposed to so many different points of view provides valuable insight. I’ve heard plenty of misinformed arguments and disputes in which identification of the “winner” was a matter of perspective, and I’ve seen unconscious biases clash against far different opinions. When I was younger, sorting out which point of view was “right” proved to be confusing. Yet, this environment has led me to understand that there are depths to expression, existing beyond the words themselves: intended meaning, motive, audience, and physiological factors (such as hunger, sleep deprivation, or stress). As much as I’d love to have a nice, peaceful Christmas with everyone smiling around the tree, I recognize that there will be bickering by noon. Although I don’t like it, I’ve learned that arguing—voicing one’s opinions and debating their validity with other free-thinking individuals–is healthy and necessary for both the individual and the family system as a whole.
Another thing you learn when you live in a big family is that there are many kinds of silence, and moreover, there’s no such thing as a blissful silence. It doesn’t exist. You can’t live in a society where everyone agrees upon each other’s opinions—people are simply too different from one another. In order to maintain the appearance of an undisturbed unity, some opinions must be muted or compromised.
The idea of peace that many harbor, in which the lion lies with the lamb, is a classic example. That lion will die from starvation. A compromise is made in favor of the lamb's desires, with the lion suffering the consequences of this so-called “peace.” In the natural order of things, however, when the lion eats the lamb, an argument can be made that both parties win. The lamb feeds upon the food that has come from ground fertilized by the lion and its predecessors. As such, it doesn’t face competition from the lion in terms of food, because the lion hasn’t resorted to vegetarianism. The lamb’s life ends with the lion’s satisfaction, but the quality of the lamb’s life is also increased by the conflict.
It appears, then, that the balance of conflict within society should be judged with regard to the “natural order.” As naturally varied individuals, we’re inclined to voice our disagreements. We work as a unit to improve our chances of survival, so opinions that undermine the integrity of our unit should be discarded. Nonetheless, they must be heard all the same, or the unit itself may become the external “other” against which the self must be defended.
One of the more disappointing events that occurred during the presidential election was the shaming of Trump supporters, resulting in the blanket label “racist” being thrown over the entire demographic. The majority of students I know who voted for Trump informed me that they did so quietly or by implication, due to the environment on our campus and on social media. Admittedly, I am wary of voicing my opinion in this article, because I worry about being misunderstood. But, there are people I know and love who couldn’t speak their minds about aspects of the campaign unrelated to racism, sexism, or identity-related issues, and I see something very wrong with that. I see something very wrong with shaming the entire Trump demographic. It’s illogical, because creating an opposition along candidate lines only furthers the division between opposing camps. The silence we’re left with at the end of the day is not a peaceful one.