June 01, 2004
I have been accused a couple of times recently of being too close-minded and of seeing things only in black and white. No one likes his flaws pointed out, and I am the first one to admit that I am especially bad at taking criticism. Though I may write with fire and brimstone, I'm entirely too sensitive for disagreement and unpleasant situations (in fact, my students' repeated criticism of me was that I was "too nice" and got too personally involved in their success and failure.) If someone suggests I am close-minded, I will agonize over that characterization for days, as I did this weekend.
I recently read Nighthawk's soul-searching and felt the same questions rising inside of me. Should I be more open to listening to those in opposition? Should I periodically re-examine my values to make sure they're still sound? Do I have an obligation to listen patiently to all sides of the argument and withhold judgement?
My poor mother, who is sick as a dog, has listened to me on the phone for the past three days as I've worked through my faults and beliefs. She has been infinitely selfless as I have prattled on about my own issues, and she was there for the eureka moment today when I realized what has been bothering me.
Should we legalize drugs? Maybe. How do I feel about euthanasia? Well, I can see both sides. What about cloning issues? Hmm, that's a tough one. In most of the social issues I can see valid arguments for the pro- and con-; I even contradictably agree with points on both sides. I don't have a black-and-white approach, and I like to hear what others have to say. Even on issues where I do have a stronger opinion -- like the marriage amendment or stem-cell research -- I can easily see the reasons why someone would argue for the other side. I'm up for debate on any of those topics.
However, when it comes to the War on Terrorism, I believe there is a concrete right and wrong. I don't see this war as a "social issue" that can be debated like abortion or captial punishment. I think this war is necessary, just, and beneficial, and I can find overwhelming evidence to support that belief. What I cannot find is a rational reason why we should not fight this war. I just can't find it. The reasons I have heard from the other side all seem to ignore the evidence I see as plain as my nose and instead focus on butstills.
The butstill. My friend and I were discussing that last night. Someone told her the war was a mistake and gave the example of a (heartbreaking) story he had heard about the death of an Iraqi child. In response, she told him stories of new prosthetic hands and grateful Iraqi bloggers. She asked if he thought those things were a mistake. His response: "No. But still..."
There's always a butstill. Rarely is it followed by anything else. Most of the opposition I've heard to this war is first a denunciation of President Bush and then a butstill. I've seen the anti-war arguments torn to shreds twice recently, first by the lead singer of Iced Earth and secondly today by Marek Edelman. To me, this war makes perfect sense; I am having a hard time seeing this as anything but a black-and-white issue.
I've done a lot of thinking about whether I'm close-minded. The conclusion I came to was that there are some times when being open-minded means being wishy-washy. There are some times when standing firmly for something you believe to be irrefutable is entirely appropriate. I think Den Beste was right when he said, "there are some kinds of situations where the answer is simple, and in such cases if someone still tries to find a more complex nuanced answer it shows that he has no backbone."
So I'll remain close-minded about the War, but if anyone wants to debate me on euthanasia, I'm all for it.
MORE TO GROK:
Tammi also writes about thinking in black and white.
Posted by: Beth at June 01, 2004 06:17 PM (ojDxg)
Posted by: NightHawk at June 01, 2004 07:03 PM (O3INn)
Posted by: Ruth H at June 01, 2004 10:52 PM (rQmkp)
Posted by: Mike at June 01, 2004 11:02 PM (idjl+)
Posted by: John at June 02, 2004 12:25 AM (crTpS)
Posted by: Don at June 02, 2004 10:34 AM (oTgvM)
Posted by: Parkway Rest Stop at June 03, 2004 03:30 AM (BjDAE)
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