Silence!

I learned young, in my cells, the truth that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.   Whenever something scary or painful happened to me or my sister, something that cried out for discussion in the home I grew up in, silence was imposed.   “You have to respect my right to ignore your pain,” was my father’s position.   He actually said as much to me explicitly, when we were both adults.    He had his own terrible pain, clearly, which made him very uncomfortable in these situations.    Why did I have to respect his silence?   I lived in his house, he bought me my clothes, my food and everything else.   I suppose that was how his logic worked, though it applied long after the childhood rationale was gone and he’d regret it all bitterly as he was dying.    

Silence is a prerogative of power.   If you have the power, you simply sit, lips pressed together, a silent “fuck you” the most irrefutable response to anything you don’t feel  like talking about, for any reason or no real reason.   That’s power.  Ask the powerful nominee a question he doesn’t want to answer.  He has already spent hours strategizing with the lawyers of the man who nominated him, has vast experience in this process himself as legal advisor on such nominations to a past president.   He is asked a question he doesn’t want to answer.  Clamps his lips together, stares at the questioner with undisguised hostility, knowing he can eventually run out the game clock.  “My answer, sir, is a loud, silent FUCK YOU!” he glares, mouth constricted to the size of a tightly clenched sphincter.

If a powerless person is sexually assaulted in the woods, a hand clamped over her mouth, and there is nobody there to hear her muffled protests– was there a sexual assault?   Come on.   Is this even a question?  

The Constitution was largely silent on the question of slavery.  To many of those who did not immensely profit from the “Peculiar Institution”, chattel slavery was an abomination.  For the rest a virulent racism was encouraged, so they didn’t care about the slaves.  It would not do to enshrine slavery too explicitly in the liberty-granting blueprint for republican democracy written by men who believed that all men were created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable human rights and so forth.  Lawyers are geniuses of this kind of thing, inserting the devilish, controlling details between two commas, bland as all get out.   “… such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit…” [1]  yeah, there we go– the constitutional basis for the Fugitive Slave Act is authorized by an equally innocuous-sounding clause.  Read the Constitution, it’s not long.  See if you can find the three discrete, discreet phrases making slavery as lawful as anything else a landed white man had a right to.  As a law student it took me a long time to find all three.

Silence!  Those who would be tyrants must become masters of this.   Speaking with a definitive, uncontradictable voice is only possible when no contradiction is allowed.   First thing you do, silence all the investigative journalists.  Then the lawyers of the opposition.   Once these troublesome elements are dealt with, the sailing is much smoother for a tyrant.  Of course, “tyrant” is such a judgmental word.   Can’t we just say Leader?   Or Winner?  

Silence!  Your right to be heard is limited by my right not to hear you, fucker.  If you can make yourself heard, go right ahead.   Let me just put on my state-of-the-art noise canceling headphones and my sleep blinders, ah, that’s much better.  Alone with my own thoughts.   Among them, no thought of taking off my blinders and deafeners.   Scream away in your victimhood, assholes, it’s so much faint white noise to me.

Silence, while sometimes the best response when tempers are hot, more often than not benefits the powerful and the guilty.   The most important single thing required for an unjust scheme to  succeed, without adverse consequences for the hatchers, for any crime to be committed with impunity, is silence.   Silence is golden, literally.

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