i had a tough one today.
a client came in with a paper in which they read different articles and picked one to agree with, and argued why that viewpoint was legitimate and the others weren't. so this client came in with articles about torture of terrorism suspects. before i read through their paper, they made it very clear that they were concerned with their personal viewpoint coming across in the paper. so keeping an open mind, i dove in...to find some really awful stuff. regardless of what their opinion was on the subject, i have a strong personal opinion on the subject as well, and i found what they had to say offensive. they basically picked the most extreme article of the three which stated that torture should be completely legal in the questioning of terrorism suspects. there were specifics in the paper that referred to torture being necessary on people even possibly connected to terrorism, regardless of solid proof of their guilt being available or not. the argument was that these people might be holding valuable information that will save many many american lives, and if it turns out that they were in fact innocent, then the outcome is better than the possibility of american lives being lost. while they have a right to have this opinion, by all means, this made me kind of sick.
the worst part was there were instances where their sentence structure and the content were very closely connected. to be completely honest with you, i half-assed this one, because i just didn't want to look at it anymore. i was afraid of telling this kid exactly why his viewpoint wasn't legitimate, not based on my opinion, but based on the fact that his arguments weren't stable. he also made clear very early in his paper that he would not refer to any of the events that were discussed in the articles. i think perhaps he should have; torture is not a subject to be taken so lightly, and maybe if he had taken the time to think about some of the things occuring, his viewpoint wouldn't have been so extremely in favor of it. the absolute worst part was where he mentioned that it is so important to torture suspects to get the information quickly, that the government should create an online system that allowed a judge of whether the suspect should be tortured or not to immediately give a decision, "to eliminate unnecessary paperwork".
i was worried about this one mostly because the line between my personal opinion and the structure of the arguments was starting to blur. so i focused on the other things he needed help with, which was reducing the length of his paragraphs (some were more than a page long). i told him he could split up paragraphs when a new train of thought is introduced, even if he is still writing on the same subject, and i also told him that paragraphs don't need to be at a certain length; some paragraphs are two sentences long and some are much longer, just based on the content and how he wanted to present it. immediately after, he went through his paragraphs and found where they looked like they would be an appropriate length. at that point, i was REALLY done with this. i knew that i would eventually come across a paper with a strong viewpoint different than my own, but i didn't realize that sometimes the argument and the opinions are very closely related, and you can't question one without questioning the other.
i hated it. i'm glad it's over.