On Being a Zoo Animal

When I started law school, I expected to get into all kinds of contentious debates. I do hold, after all, pretty extreme views. I agree with Catholicism’s teachings on… well… everything – abortion, birth control, marriage, etc., etc., etc. I always suspected that I would become a source of controversy. I never suspected I would become a zoo animal. 

The dominant voices of law school, and of higher education in general, can be surprisingly homogenous. They are the voices of the educated liberal/progressive upper-middle class. They tend to share a pervasive orthodoxy: support of same-sex marriage; a commitment to reproductive rights (i.e. the right to birth control); an avoidance of the philosophical issues surrounding legal abortion; a suspicion of, and sometimes resentment towards, the wealthy class; and a relegation of religious practice to private worship and personal opinion. This is the world that this pro-“traditional” marriage, anti-birth control, prolife, Catholic chose to enter into for three years.

I love this world. And I’ve even been able to present my crazy views in a productive way, by accepting a simple fact: for the most part, my views are just weird and unreasonable. Now, I don’t think that they are actually unreasonable. I believe that my views are the most reasonable views, and this is why I hold them. However, I can’t assume that others share the underlying principles that my views require. Thus, I’ve found it helpful to present my views in ways that show I recognize how unreasonable they sound.

One key way to do this is to separate my views from myself. I frequently volunteer to play the devil’s advocate in my courses, and I sometimes start my arguments with statements like, “Well, I guess I’ll play the devil’s advocate.” I do this with an eye roll and a bit of sarcasm that gets a laugh out of my peers.

When you hold unreasonable and weird views (and views that are considered offensive), it can be extremely helpful to carry a bit of wit. Getting a laugh eases the tension and helps people to feel more comfortable. You don’t only win an argument by getting your opponents to cower in terror. You can also win by getting them to open up to you.

And this is the key to being the funny guy with unreasonable and weird views – you get to be a zoo animal. You rhetorically put your weird views in a safe cage, where people feel comfortable coming up to them, poking them a bit, maybe taking a few pictures. And if they’re really interested, they might throw some food into the cage and see what happens.

Ultimately, you do need to have good arguments. And you need to have answers. But don’t just throw arguments onto others, like a lion devouring his prey. Wait until the onlookers poke you a bit, and then show your arguments like you’re a monkey doing a funny trick for them. If you’re a lion, they’ll either flee from you or try to kill you. If you’re a monkey, they’ll feed you to get you to do tricks.

Then, one of your peers might say to you, like one of my peers recently said to me, “Yeah, you do hold weird views. But you make them sound so reasonable.”

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2 Comments

  1. It’s dehumanising to force a whole group of people to not be allowd to participate in the institution (state,reliious, or otherwise social) of marriage. Just because men and women can more fuly symbolise the love between God and the Church by their potential for fruitfulnes? Because it is’t a “erfect” family? Do you really think we should forse your idea of perfect, or even good enough onto other people’s families? We aren’t talking about abuse or neglect-just two hairy chests or two (or more) bosoms. Arguably the most (benign and) joyous thing we have in this short life is the bonds of family. Again the argument is simple-itJs Dehumanising to deny that to someone based on superstitious beliefs about what you think god wants. Well I believe that if God realy is all knowing and all good he would support devotional sacrificial and fruitful love, and oppose state enforced rules about sex between consenting adults. As for abortion, I believe in the sanctity of life but I also believe a mother is (potentialy) sacrificing so much and is so afraid, that having that baby is a HEROIC act, and heroism can’t happen without choice. Just like crucifixion was a choice for Our Lord. How can you force a poor young girl to be as brave as God IS. Catholics so often focus on the wounds we give God, and forget his willingness to suffer them out of His Mercy. In my opinion. I couldn’t love a God that was less compassionate than me. I’m not a Calvinist. Finally, we poor folks don’t hate wealth, or want the state to own all productive property,and I certainly don’t envy anyone for being able to own more things than I do. I do envy their vacations a little.I admit it. Sometimes my friends envy my ability to keep one car running at all times. A large part of that ability is just luck. I happened to be savy enough to make my way in the world. By the way, when my friends husband was in danger of losing his job because his car broke down, I gave them my beater so they wouldn’t lose their only source of income. Just gave it away, because it did them more good than it did me. That’s what we poor leftists do for eachother. We aren’t lasy, greedy or stupid. We want a voice, we want to contribute to making the world a better place, and we understand that there is an oligarchical class that has al of the power, that to them, profits mean more than people, and that they will try to justify themselves any way they can. I don’t hate the wealthy, I hate the system that rewarded them for being wretched community members.

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