Absolutists on both sides interfere with progress and understanding

Americans have become so polarized that they have pushed themselves into camps, built walls and locked their brains to the point that every issue to them is utterly simple.

You’re an idiot if you get your news from that source. Republicans don’t care about the working class and poor. Democrats want to control you. Bud Light is indoctrinating your children. Everyone at the Capitol on Jan. 6 deserves to be in prison. Mickey Mouse is too woke. Dave Chappelle is a transphobe. Joe Biden runs a crime family. Bill Maher is an Islamophobe.

These are the kinds of things you hear from those who are entrenched in their information silos, where the only opinions they have are formed by going out and looking for validation or nodding along with what some predictable talking head says.

Our politics reflect that more than anything, especially when D.C. is split virtually 50-50 in a two-party system. For years, politicians have oversimplified issues to demonize one side while frightening their base. That side’s a bunch of communists. That side’s a bunch of fascists. Politicians used to be just blowing smoke, but now the halls of Congress actually have lawmakers from extreme, gerrymandered districts who actually believe some of the baloney they spread.

It’s not politically correct to believe that most issues are nuanced, that there is some gray area that should be up for discussion or consideration. Yet, if you so much as insinuate the other side might have a point or two, you are shouted down or canceled.

The latest dust-up in the transgender discussion is between one-time sportscaster Keith Olbermann, an ultra-liberal, and Riley Gaines, a former two-time All-SEC swimmer. She is on a crusade to keep transgender women out of women’s sports. He called her a “transphobe” who “sucked at swimming.”

I don’t know how big of an issue transgender females in sports really is. If you watch Fox News, you might get the impression that you can’t walk down the street these days without tripping over 47 transgender athletes. I suspect the chances are pretty slim that you’ve ever attended a women’s sporting event in which a transgender athlete either competed or won.

But liberals fought hard for women to have equal opportunities to compete in sports, especially at the collegiate level. I don’t know whether transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has an advantage or not. Some say yes, some say no. But liberals can on one hand support people like Lia Thomas while also allowing people to consider issues of fair play. You can consider two different thoughts in your head at the same time. It doesn’t mean you have to support a ban or consider anyone who does to be a transphobe. There is a gray area here.

You can support Caitlyn Jenner for making a decision that was on her mind for most of her life while also worrying that some children may not be ready to make similar decisions or journeys at age 5 or 10. You can support transgender care while also having reservations about taxpayer-funded transitions for prison inmates.

You can support the 2nd Amendment and right to own firearms while still wondering how the Founding Fathers would have felt about folks running around with AR-15s and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

We are facing yet another government shutdown deadline, Oct. 1. Democrats say it’s because the Republicans want to coddle the wealthy and screw the poor. Republicans say it’s because Democrats spend too much and think spending fixes every problem. I suspect the rich could pay a lot more in taxes and take advantage of fewer loopholes — and I suspect throwing money at every problem is not a cure-all and that the more billions you spend, the more billions are wasted.

You can support religious freedom — including the right to not have a religion — and still have concerns about how some sects and branches treat women and gays.

You can hear Oliver Anthony’s hit “Rich Men North of Richmond” and when he sings, “If you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds, taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds,” you can see that as not really understanding who causes our economic problems in this country. But, at the same time, you could consider whether junk food or clearly unhealthy food should be able to be purchased with SNAP benefits. You can loathe most modern country music — as I admittedly do — and still recognize that at least Anthony has some talent and uniqueness.

You can want more parental input in schools, while others may not want your input dictating what their kids can learn. You can not want your children indoctrinated with “woke” idealogy, but you’ve got to realize that you could walk through 99 percent of classrooms in this nation and find that you’ve been scared with a false premise. You can want to defend access to every book in the library while also accepting that other parents might want “controversial” books to be put in a special section.

You can recognize that there is institutional racism and generational prejudice while also believing that not every issue that negatively impacts black people is necessarily racist. You can watch a video of while folks in Montgomery attacking a black fellow just doing his job and also think the guy hitting a woman in the head with the chair was also wrong.

Very few issues are as simple as the absolutists like to make them. We’ve got to leave some room for nuanced discussion or consideration. There’s usually some gray area in the middle of these supposedly black-and-white issues. And, for the love of God, leave a little room for humor in the mix. Every joke about something deemed controversial is not a reason to send in the cancel culture SWAT team. And BOTH sides are pretty active with cancel culture now.

I know. I know. I’m just some straight, over-50 white guy. I’m out of touch. And what kind of lunatic gets news and information from multiple sources and myriad viewpoints?

I don’t know if I’m in the common-sense middle or if there even is such a thing, but it is worth more consideration than cancellation.




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