Where did the gray area go?

There used to be a day—at least it seems that way to me—when the world was not so black and white. It wasn’t us vs. them. Republicans vs. Democrats. Religious vs. atheist. When people could have differences and be OK with that. Maybe this is nostalgia on my part. Maybe it’s my naïveté. Maybe it’s my rosy view of the past.

Today things seem black and white. There is no discussion. No exploration of different sides of an issue. No compromise. (The dreaded C word has replaced the dreaded L word of the 1980s. Compromise is now worse than Liberalism, it seems.) No reaching across the isle. Gone are the days of Tip O’Neil.

Yet it seems that Americans want it this way. We keep electing officials that represent our rigid views. Will defend them to the death. Not flip-flop on issues. God, not flip-flop! That horrors of horrors CANNOT be done. Ever. For any reason.

When did discussing an issue, reflecting on it, and changing one’s mind based on new information that one receives become the wrong way to live? Isn’t that the best indication of someone’s character? That they are big enough, comfortable enough, secure enough to discuss issues with someone from the other side. That they listen to them—really listen—and if they realize that their presuppositions were incorrect or they had incomplete information, they change their minds?

Rigidity is not a characteristic I look for in another—whether it is a partner, a friend, an elected official. Flexibility is. Listening. Reflecting.

I am not sure how we came to be a black and white nation or why we prefer to be on either side, but we have abandoned the messy world of uncertain grays for stark black and white. Although I like certainty as much as the next guy, give me the murky, muddy middle. Life is messy and seldom so simple to be black and white.


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