“The people of Fairfax have diluted views.”

I’m continuing here with sentences from that Virginia child-custody case I wrote on yesterday. The father lived in a small town in Virginia; the mother lived in Fairfax. Some students considered that the residents of Fairfax might be more tolerant of “difference” than the people of a small town, but the author of this sentence was not one of them.

The Virginia Supreme Court had decided that the child should live with her health-impaired mother instead of with her homosexual father, and students who argued in support of that ruling suggested that a girl should be raised by her mother (hence yesterday’s post about “feminine qualities”), or that if the child were in a position to help take care of her mother she would be less obsessed with worry about her, or that in a city no one would care about the sexual orientation of the father of one little girl, or that in a small town she was bound to be subjected to hurtful ridicule and rejection; there were also several essays arguing that since homosexual acts were criminalized in Virginia the father was by definition an habitual criminal who could be arrested at any moment, and so if the child lived with him she would either “learn” that one didn’t have to obey the law or live in fear that her father could be snatched away by the police at any moment.

Students who argued against the ruling suggested that the father was clearly the more caring parent, the mother’s lung cancer might recur in her only lung and the child would be without a guardian, the father’s relationship with his partner would be a positive example of loving commitment, the father’s love would outweigh any social rejection she might experience, the courts should not encourage the child to judge her father….

Anyway. What did the writer quoted as today’s title have in mind? In the context of the various arguments made on this case, he MIGHT have meant “diluted,” in a way: The child is less likely to be teased about her father in Fairfax, a city in the greater D.C. area, because the population is more diverse and more likely to be tolerant of “difference.” Their views, rather than being a single-flavor concentrate, are “diluted,” less strong, less homogenous (if this term is not confusing here). It would be an odd use of the word, but not a ridiculous one, and not inappropriate—if the writer had been making that point.

But the writer was not making that point. He was suggesting that the prejudices expressed in the Virginia law could not be escaped even in the cities. The people of Fairfax are probably no LESS “diluted” than the people in the small town; they might be even MORE diluted, because unlike some hypothetical provincial types they would be likely to condemn the mother too, for exposing her child to “second-hand smoke” and suggesting that medical advice is irrelevant.

Of course you knew from the beginning that my student meant “deluded,” not “diluted.” He was recommending that the child stay with her father, because at least in that small town she will expect persecution. If everyone in Virginia has deluded views, she’s safest where she knows what she’s dealing with.

I’m glad my student didn’t side with prejudice, stereotype, and societal inequality, but saw these concepts as deluded. I wish he had said “deluded.”

I have to confess, though, that I like “diluted views” in a general sense: in a society that has become socially uncomfortable with conflict (although heaven knows our public discourse has been almost nothing-but since the wackos went on the attack in 2008), I can’t say that, lacking clairvoyance, I know exactly what people’s views actually are; but I do know that the writing I see is definitely diluted—watered down so as to be unobjectionable, and thus watered down so as to be not worth putting on paper, as far as I’m concerned. The clear, the forthright, the explicit, the honest: these we have been encouraged (even in the academy) to shy away from. Like soup, like sauce, like booze, like paint, views can be diluted to the point of purposelessness.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

3 responses to ““The people of Fairfax have diluted views.”

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