The costs of keeping your opinion to yourself

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One again I was taken to task in a letter to the Editor, in response to last week’s column. There I responded to questions and concerns others have posed regarding policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints barring children living with parents in same-sex “marriages”.

I expected to ruffle a few feathers for defending a policy that initially caught me off guard, but which seems sound and wise in context. Initially I thought I would respond to Mr. Keller’s questions, assuming they were sincere. But I’ve since determined that they are probably rhetorical questions only, clearing the way for the insults offered in the last paragraph of his letter.

At the risk of misunderstanding his intent, I’ll use that as a spring board for my thoughts this week.

Rhetoric—language intended to persuade or impress an audience while lacking sincerity or meaningful content (Oxford Dictionary online)—came into vogue in ancient Greece. The Romans likewise worked to master rhetorical skills and plied their trade in the “forum”, the marketplace or pubic square used for judicial and other business.

Social media and the modern press afford us many opportunities to engage and share our perspectives. It is hard to imagine any time or condition in the history of the world that would provide such free access to resources that let us publish thoughts or images instantaneously around the world.

Sadly these forums are often used more to impress others than to engage in sincere discussion about matters of importance. Facebook is dominated by selfies and discussions about the trite. Pushing a button lets us immediately appear to “like” or declare “friendship”. But seldom does one see heart-felt dialogue about the things that matter most in life to those individuals.

In fact, perhaps our public displays or statement do reflect what matters most to us.

Most of us in the upper valley tend to keep our opinions and observations largely to ourselves. We might share some with a few close friends, and sometimes then only in a quick joke or comment. Growing up here I got the sense that it was a virtue to keep your opinions to yourself.

But we live in a time where public opinion and policy are often formed on quick polls of the most vocal members of the society. In California the voters twice determined that marriage should be only between a man and a woman. Yes, that is crazy, left-leaning California, where my family and I lived for 19 years! But when the loudest, most violent members of that society shouted down and threatened members of the majority, much of that majority just gave up.

That is why we often use the term “the silent majority”.

If one were to take a measurement of the values of the upper valley, one might reasonably turn to the press, especially the Standard Journal, to take a reading. Articles and columns published might reflect somewhat the editorial views, or at least what they have chosen to allow to be published.

But the letters to the Editor might be the best indicator of public opinion. They should, after all, reflect the views of the readership—more or less. If I recall correctly, of the weekly columns I’ve written each week for the last 22 months only one individual has written in support of my theses. Any others have been in opposition to my views or perspectives.

Sometimes I get a bit discouraged, wondering if perhaps my views regarding family and mental well-being really are in the minority. That doesn’t change my views, but then I wonder if I am only stirring up Mr. Keller and a few others to anger, and that certainly isn’t good for anyone’s mental health!

But on a more pressing note, I genuinely believe that failure for us to take a stance and to declare our values leaves others questioning their own value and veracity. Mob rule, whether by a majority or a minority, is never okay. I perceive that many good, level-headed individuals are losing confidence in their own values and beliefs as they observe that others seem to be only in opposition to those values.

Children and young adults are the greatest losers in this type of situation. As they form their perspectives they are especially vulnerable to pressure from others to conform or to give in to prevailing opinions. After all, adults are supposed to be the experienced ones upon whom they can rely for validation and for correction.

If only the minority opinion is vocalized it becomes the majority opinion, and comes to form the culture in which future generations are developed. That affects us all.

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About the Author:

Michael Williams is a licensed psychotherapist, a Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years' experience. A specialist in quickly improving important relationships, he is also an expert in helping clients to quickly overcome problems with anxious, depressed or irritable moods.

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