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Like me, you have probably attended political, activist, or community meetings where if not after ten minutes you were afterward sorry at heart. Can I call the feeling one of “Why can’t we just get along?”
It is difficult for getting along to get along when the system has an obligation to listen to all and the members of its body politic are often widely divergent about what should be got along with. You can just about count on too much time wasted on energy draining complaints about what is trivial to all present except the person who feels great upset at the color used on the library trim. I should not leave out the perennial axe grinder who cannot get over an event that took place in 1980 and has yet (to their mind) to be satisfactorily settled, preferably with a public apology.
I wonder. Is there anything more daunting and difficult than trying to be fair to the disagreeably fractious? In too many instances the chance of success is pretty dim because the unhappy want to be that way and will switch to complaint in another chord if there’s a danger they’d be appeased. A parent will know the general routine as one of childish whining in a process to nickel and dime their way to success at the expense of others. The usual complainer is NOT a lot different. Oh, they differ in size and age, but otherwise are pretty much adolescent connivers with oh so very much on their wish list agenda and very, very little to contribute. (Observe and note how odd it is they feel so proud of this lack of achievement and are comforted by the notion that we admire them, which we might do if rendered impossibly inebriated.)
Is our system built on fractious factions forcing us ever into political and social struggle? I think yes. House, Senate, Executive, and Court are divided elements and are rarely examples of smiley get along. (That does on occasion happen and is far more frightening than their squabbles.) The fractious faction however annoying it may be or downright bad it may appear is far more alive politically and socially than a system where “democracy” has been subverted into dictatorship. Oh yes, we are messy and annoying, but that is freedom and liberty; things conveniently left out when unanimity rules the countryside. Our habits of divisiveness may appear weak, but they are ultimately stronger than a lockstep society where enforcement becomes a major occupation of those in control and a preoccupation of those suffering the delights of rigid repression.
A funny (maybe peculiar is a better word here) side of this is the sincerity of those who see unanimity itself as important enough to warrant extra effort to implant it whether it’s wanted or not. What appears to be, and in some cases may be, a desire to reduce friction and contribute to social justice and peace is (when stripped of its hype varnish) an imposition of an authoritarian standard that sets up a regimen for all. I doubt it is a good thing ever (except for those in the control slots) to limit debate and behavior according to an ideal, pure and honest as they define such things. But you know, a benign or smiling label can be a disguise. Some call spouse or child beating a form of teaching respect. Others call for honoring traditional values when they mean the male privilege of multiple wives. If we look into what’s behind the high sounding words of appeal we’ll sometimes discover little more than a desiccated dog turd. A saccharine coating wastes sugar while not adding much to canine feces as a food.
The sincerity and commitment behind some of the really good bad ideas I hear tripping down the aisles of political and social action can’t be denied. In followers of really good bad ideas there is a sincere desire to fix things. And gosh, is that ever dangerous! The wish to fix all society with rules about hate or an insistence on safe spaces are at their base a decision to proscribe and/or censor what the fixers find objectionable. They are not opposed to hate if they agree with it; for example by hating hate. Don’t you hate that? Conflict does not cease to exist because the well-meaning try to banish it. It’s my view that stifling conflict or trying to silence what some of us don’t agree with is ultimately a greater danger by imposing an orthodoxy which by its nature will be repressive and highly “conservative” in view even if the view is supposedly liberal in origin. If you reflect a moment, many complaints about political correctness aren’t based on the notion we take our time to consider another view but on the imposition of a “correct” dogma. The more difficult task (and generally avoided by the fixers) is to listen to and get some understanding of what they think is hate. Labels and “correct” thinking get in the way of accomplishing that. We can’t eradicate hate with banishment any more than Stalin was able to form a perfect society by banishing citizens to gulags.
The other day someone confronted me with a petition. The thrust of the proposal was actually aimed at silencing certain political voices, but they called it NO HATE IN MY STATE. How wonderful, I thought, that there are souls so naïve and innocent in existence but to achieve NO HATE IN MY STATE they either have to become rather draconian or move. I suggest their moving as easier on us all.
Is fractiousness annoying? Yes. Is it a problem more horrid in consequence than censorship and through police? No. A diverse people who are free will be contentious. When contention is shut away (notice I did not say it was done away with, only hidden) the result may appear peace but it is peace based on submission to dogmatic authority. More lethal to the future of humanity than discord are the forms of imposed one-sided peace. War is bad. A wrong form of peace is worse.