Don’t Lose Your Balance

Bill Tune

People share many similarities and differences. While the physical and cultural differences are
fairly obvious, some of the emotional and intellectual differences are more difficult to explain, especially among people with similar backgrounds and experiences. One’s worldview can be greatly influenced by upbringing and environment, but sometimes it seems that people’s brains are wired differently from birth. How else can radical philosophical differences between people of similar backgrounds and a common situation be explained? Children tend to adopt the political leanings of their parents, but this is not always the case. A classic example of this was humorously displayed in the 80’s sitcom “Family Ties” where Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) played the ultra-conservative son of liberal parents (played by Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross). Any good TV series has to have an element of conflict and this show frequently centered on the political differences between Alex and his parents.

A key element in understanding the difference is how one’s brain is wired to perceive the world. The two predominant ways of thinking have been labeled as “black-white” and “grey” thinking. Neither is right or wrong and each has advantages as well as disadvantages, but it helps explain how people who coexist in the same environment can perceive it so differently. Google “black and white thinking” and you will find many articles. [e.g.,]

Black and white thinking is dualistic, focusing on either-or; good-bad; right-wrong; friend-foe; all or nothing; etc. The black and white thinkers want answers, or more specifically, they want THE answer. These people are good decision makers, but they overlook nuance.

“Grey” thinkers tend to take a broader, non-dualistic approach to problem solving. They wrestle with the dichotomy and contradictions found in complex circumstances. This can be more effective in a nuanced world, but it can lead to indecision.

In high school I was assigned a persuasive essay. I duly noted the merits of “my” side, but I also acknowledged the positive points of the other. My teacher made this comment: “Billy, at some point you have to pick a side!” Yes, I’m a grey thinker.

Here are some examples of complex problems that cannot be solved simplistically.

Our society today is more influenced by emotion than reality. We act more often in reaction to fear than fact. Social media has allowed emotions to be manipulated more so than at any time in history. We instinctively believe the Facebook memes that reinforce our beliefs while quickly discounting others without researching the facts.

The illusion of safety is a very effective motivator. Some people equate their personal safety with their right to own guns. The threat of losing that right has sold many a gun, even when the threat was not legitimate. Any gun control proposal is perceived as a threat. Should everyone own a gun, or should they be completely banned? All or none? We need a balanced approach to this complex problem.

Similarly, national security has been equated with military spending. However, wasteful spending in the military is well documented so why don’t we work for more efficient use of the military budget? There are many examples of multi-million-dollar projects approved by congress that are unwanted by the military but benefit manufacturers in key congressional districts. We need a balanced approach to funding the military and meeting the other needs of the nation.

Some argue for a solid wall along the entire US/Mexico border to solve our immigration problem. Others point out that there are cheaper and more efficient technological solutions. Many contend that immigration reform should be the primary focus. The interests of America are best served if our legislators can find a balance between the wall and open borders.

One of the most divisive and emotionally charged issues today is abortion. Antiabortionists view the act as murder, pure and simple. Proponents of a woman’s right to choose view it as a tragic, but sometimes necessary procedure that should be safe and legal. Of course, the root problem here is not the termination of life but unwanted pregnancies. Deal with the latter issue and the first one becomes irrelevant. This is another complex issue to which oversimplification has done much damage.

America functions best with two viable political parties. Without compromise this country could never have been created, and yet, today “compromise” is a dirty word equated with failure. All or none. Sad. Some conservatives try to paint all progressives as “baby-killing communists” while the progressives accuse conservatives of caring about only the white rich elites. The C’s call the P’s “libtards” while the P’s reply with, “the conservaturds shouldn’t call us names!” The survival of this nation depends on finding some kind of balance in the current political nightmare. We don’t all have to agree, but we have to learn to work together.

So, is the true patriot the one waving a flag while singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” or the protester fighting against injustice? Must we equate love of country with absence of criticism? I love my denomination, but it’s not perfect. I love my church, but it’s not perfect. I love my alma mater, but it’s not perfect. I love my son, but he’s not perfect. I love my wife, but I’m not perfect.

This country desperately needs a balance between those who think it can do no wrong and those who want to tear it down and start over. I love my country, but it’s not perfect.

We may perceive our country differently, but the survival of our democracy depends on us finding a balance between the extremes. An “all or nothing” approach could lead to nothing for everybody.


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