Sometimes I feel myself biting my tongue in conversations about “controversial topics.” Which is funny, because so many people consider me outspoken when it comes to “controversial topics.” Yes, I have many opinions, but that’s not really what I like to say, or even when I want to say. Opinions don’t really mean much to me, on their own.
Opinions are only worthwhile, especially when it comes to these “controversial topics,” when we take into consideration what’s forming these opinions. What are the ethos, pathos, and logos behind an argument. What about the pragmatics of it all, aka: Why should I care?
First of all, let’s make sure that we all know what I’m talking about when I say “controversial topics.” I’m not talking about The New England Patriots, and their deflating of footballs, because Football is just a game. It’s a game I enjoy, but I understand it’s just a game, and it’s entertainment. Should a team be cheating? No, of course not, but for me to say that something like a discussion on deflated footballs has as much weight in my mind as systematic racial inequality, poverty in America, gun violence, police brutality, the treatment in our society of minority groups, immigration, extreme nationalism, the portrayal of minority groups in various media, and how divided our society chooses to be in relation to all of these topics is ludicrous.
But that’s not where I bite my tongue.
I bite my tongue when I’m around others whose beliefs differ. As important as I think that it is to feel uncomfortable when that discomfort can lead to change, I still often give people passes on feeling uncomfortable. And I’m ashamed of myself.
How can I get behind a computer screen, and say all I want? How can I not also take that tenacity and confidence to my daily, real life, interactions?
I don’t bite my tongue saying what I feel. I bite my tongue when I realize that what I said makes someone else uncomfortable. But then there’s no dialogue. There’s no chance for real understanding. I can’t make my connection, of having others understand why I feel so strongly about my convictions. They’re not simply “logical assumptions,” but they are the result of what I have learned, and what I have experienced. They are both the pathos of the things I have witnessed firsthand, and the logos of what is logical, moral, correct. The ethos comes also from my own learnedness, but of what others believe, of what our society values and holds dear, and how sometimes the actions of our society, and the individuals in it, contradict those same values.
The pragmatism is a result of others seeing that, if things were different, these things wouldn’t be, and our society would be better because there would be no place for unnecessary suffering. The pragmatism is that we all benefit from living in a more just, empathetic, loving society.
But I can’t get those words out when I see others feeling uncomfortable. Though I so badly want to say these things. My inner self is torn.
Yet I am forced to feel uncomfortable. I am forced to listen to Donald Trump, as he slowly marches towards the Republican nomination, and his hatred. His illogical rhetoric. His lack or empathy, caring, or understanding for those whom he labels ever so blatantly as “the other.” His special brand of extremism is that which rallies others to not think about others in a way that maintains their value as human persons, but instead pushes people to think for the good of this America that is locked in our collective consciousness. An America that is exclusively white.
This is an America that does not value the contributions of my brother, my mother and father, or myself. This is an America that does not value the contributions of Mexican Americans, who hail as “immigrants” to this country (though that fact in itself is highly debatable). This is the America that sees everyone who is not Christian as not worthy of being American, although Muslims and Christians believe in the same God (a theological fact which Trump wouldn’t ever try to dispute).
This is an America that is fine with a young Mexican American male student, who is on the phone with his mother, to whom he speaks Spanish, though both of them know how to speak English, being harassed by several older white men at a convenience store, telling him to, “learn to speak Goddamn English,” and to, “go back to Mexico,” and then when he rushes outside is followed out to his car, to be continued to be harassed, called “illegal,” “dirty Mexican,” “fucking wetback,” stupid beaner,” and many other awful things.
This is an America that is okay with this sort of treatment towards a young, hardworking, Mexican American boy, attending the only college he could afford to attempt to make a positive impact on his community, and on his society at large. But this is an America that trains that same boy to be silent when his own opinions are uncomfortable to those who benefit from living in this America.
Well, I for one am ashamed for playing into this America. There is no room for me in this fabricated America. And how do I know this America is not the real America, though it so obviously has such a strong hold on how we act, and how we are treated. Well, if this America were real, there would be no place for me. Yet I’m still here.
I am ashamed because I have willingly played into a fabricated America.