Closing Argument


I do not have a closing argument. I saw Mulk two weeks ago and I enjoyed it a lot. It was a nuanced and subtle depiction/analysis of the relationship between religion and terrorism and our perception of the same. What I liked most was that it comes across as a soft handed approach to deliver a message. There are no explosive or aggressive tactics to bring forth a powerful message. One of my favorite scenes is the closing argument delivered by Tapsee Pannu in the end. With that argument she ties the entire story together; she talks about the philosophy of ‘them and us’- that is, when we come to identify with a certain faith/ideology/group of people, we create a mental divide between us and rest of the world (them). No matter how fragile she seems at times during the proceedings, it is impressive how beautifully that argument culminates the series of arguments that we see in the second half and how strongly her argument hits home, you know that you’ve seen this ‘them and us’ unfold before, you know that you’ve done this at some point.

I was reminded of ‘The Good Wife‘. I was reminded of all the episodes where the lawyers prepare an approach to defend their client. The proceedings last for days, the approach sees multiple shifts and ultimately it all comes down to that closing argument where the lawyers highlight the strength of their case, challenge the opposing counsel and milk the sympathy of the jury in their favor. You don’t win with a feeble closing argument.

If you look closely, your family arguments have a closing argument too, that final set of words meant to deliver a turbulent blow and suspend the dialogue. However unlike legal dramas, these closing statements may not be coherent, they just have to bear a strong impact to intimidate the other person. In my opinion, there are a set of classic closing arguments, that I always hear in family arguments. No matter what the subject of the argument be, it always ends in:

  • I am going to stop talking to you completely.
  • If you pursue this any further, our relationship will cease to exist for me.
  • I am going to leave this house.
  • I swear I am not going to do xyz – insert subject of the matter- irrespective of how much you coax me.
  • How many years do I have left now.

Like I said earlier they may not be coherent at all but they have a emotional impact and they all emphasize how vehemently one feels for their side of the argument that they did not shy away from articulating these statements (read, threats). It is like check mate because how do you argue against these statements. You might be tempted to repeat the statement thrown at you but you will only lose ground on doing so because there will be no authenticity to what you say and that will only translate to a lack of conviction.

I am not much of an arguer when I am home. It is not that I am not prone to anger but I do not vocalize it rather I bottle it. I find arguments unsettling and investing energy in fighting that is going to unsettle you rather than the opponent is a futile act. Also, I never win. In the few arguments that I have participated in, nobody takes me seriously because (a) I do not relentlessly pursue my case, I give in mid way and (b) I do not have a closing argument to gain an upper hand.

If I consider arguments 1 to 3 listed above, I can never use them. I am too timid to issue such threats because firstly I do not say such things casually out of spite, anger or irritation. People who argue often tend to say such things because they believe their words will have no value as soon as their anger fizzes out. Secondly no one will believe me if I say any of this because they know I am too much of an emotional fool to act on them. They know that I am too weak for detachment and hence they will not be intimidated. Of course I can bluff, I can try feigning sternness when I say these things. But I am not a good at bluffing either, I do not even bluff in a game of bluff. That is how hopeless I am.

I will be a complete failure at argument number 4 also because it is extremely easy to make me do something- send me on a guilt trip. In fact you do not even have to intervene, I will volunteer myself into guilt. Chances are that in the middle of the argument, I might already be feeling guilty for saying something harsh. After that I will start my mental pep talk to arrive at a compromise. It is in fact comical when I say that I am not doing that particular thing while I have already begun working at that thing even before the last word is out of my mouth.

Using argument number 5 is completely out of question because I believe it is manipulative to use aging in your favor. I can never be comfortable using that one. And then I am 25, average life expectancy rate does not make it an effective argument against my parents.

Since I am not a good arguer, I am the spectator and the mediator in my home – the Hermoine to the arguing Harry and Ron. You have to choose a role in the house and I opted (or imagined in my head) to be the mediator. However like I told you before, I find arguments unsettling and the distaste just keeps growing with time. Over the years I have been asked that if I find the mediation to be so exhausting then why do I engage at all, why not give up on it. Even I have been┬ácontemplating on the same lines lately, however the answer hit me last night. At the end of an argument, everyone knows where they stand, which door they are headed towards and what are they going to do then. But I know nothing. In the end they will all head in different directions and I will remain sitting where I am. I am scared that if I do not try, will I have anyone or anything left in the name of family at all.

The image has been sourced from Flickr and licensed here.