Are there only two sides to a situation?
Heads and tails? Democrats and Republicans? Pro-war or Pro-peace? Anti-war and anti-peace? Conservative and liberal?
As Americans, we have seen ourselves throughout much of history from only one side. We have seen how we have prospered, overcome obstacles and won wars. And the problems we often ignore, like losing wars and the views from other countries. For many people around the world there are many more sides to their situations.
Our political parties have been instigators of this tit-for-tat mentality. Republicans use their propaganda machine to promote what they define as “patriotism.” Democrats have used the other grain of “fair government.” These divisions are so highly maintained as “truth,” that the American public believes it really only has only two options. Rather than seeing the gray in many situations, we see only black and white.
But the human race itself is much more complex. There are many different cultures, with different viewpoints and religions. My point here is that assuming that everything falls into only two categories limits the possibilities. This is one of the ideas that created the United Nations. Rather than having NATO and the Warsaw Pact that divided the West from the East during the Cold War, it was the UN that attempted to give voice to all directions around the world.
However, the general American viewpoint has stayed within the two-frame mentality. In the international context it has come down to one side being right, the American side. No one else need apply.
In his documentary “Bowling for Columbine,” Michael Moore explored the question of why the United States is so violent versus other countries like Canada that have similar consumer culture and legalized weapons. He looked at the international actions of the United States government to the actions of two young white men in Littleton. He was able to pull laughter from the audience and the next minute anger and the next minute tears. He showed that the question is more complex than many of the answers that have become so monotonous.
Perhaps it is the either/or, the tit-for-tat, the two party answers that have created this violent and divided American culture. It is the ability of the press to show only one side of the story, and the public to agree to it, that shows that Americans have become socialized to expect only two answers to a question.
It is the American side and the American propaganda that has made even international problems a two-sided issue once again. It is the same mentality that still divides us from the rest of the world. Within the United States two divides us again. We are either supporters or opposers. And I expect that many that oppose the war will be targeted as anti-American is future elections – just check out the Coloradoan and the local elections going on right now.
It is ironic, however, that it has been those that have seen the complexity of human nature that has really made an impact on society. This country was founded on dissent. Our own Constitution guaranteed many voices.
Ask yourself how you make your choices. Do you have only two options? For me any decision I make is complex. I may want Hussein out, but I do not want to see an increase in the hate of Muslims for me as American. I may believe that guns should be illegal, but I cannot ignore the danger in society. I may be a woman, but I live in a world where gender is more complex than being a man or woman.
In a situation there is not just a coin. It is not the heads or tails or rich or poor. It is the complexity of life that we have to acknowledge and infuse into our dialogue. We don’t have to bowl alone and believe there are only two options.
We have the choice to open up the dialogue. We have the ability as human beings and Americans to analyze, bowl, explore, and change.