Thursday, February 7, 2013

Black & White Thinking

It has occurred to me recently that an alarming number of grownups engage in a very dangerous method of forming opinions that is essentially boiling all issues down to black or white.

President Obama is either all good or all bad, gay marriage is either all good or all bad, gun control is either all good or all bad, abortion is all good or all bad, illegal immigration is all good or all bad.

The people that decide President Obama is all bad will go to any length to perpetuate character assassination, including but not limited to, repeating purposefully incorrect information. While I admit, I did not vote for Obama in either election, I certainly do no not think that he's an Al-Qaeda plant sent to destroy our freedom, take away our guns, and convert America from a democratic republic to a communist state. And frankly, it's frightening that there are people who literally think this.

It's certainly not conservative, religious people that are guilty of this. President George W. Bush received the exact, same treatment from the left during his presidency.

Difficult and controversial issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, separation of church and state, etc. are very complex subjects with a lot of strings attached and certainly a lot of potential consequences.  Therefore to label any of these subjects as all good or all bad is foolish.

My opinions on these matters not withstanding, I prefer a rational approach to making decisions. I recognize there will be some good and some bad, but I need to support the stance in which the good outweighs the bad, even when it's counter-intuitive to my emotional preference. This is not always an easy approach but I do believe it is the best approach.

One example that comes to mind immediately is welfare. Nothing annoys me more than to be in a grocery line behind someone buying filet mignon with government-issued food stamps while texting on their iPhones. I can afford neither filet mignon or an iPhone. I hate freeloaders and abusers. However, this is not a black and white issue. People like that make me want to do away with government assistance programs.  However, some child somewhere will suffer and starve if government aid did not exist. While one can make the argument that it is likely that the child's parents are worthless, drug abusers and that is why the child would starve, that may or may not be true but it's irrelevant. The fact remains that a child somewhere will suffer without government aid and my conscience could not handle knowing I supported abolishing these programs.

The conservative right would have you believe that 99 out of 100 families on welfare are drug-abusing freeloaders. Even if that were true, and it is absolutely not, to have even one deserving family suffer would be unconscionable.

It has become apparent to me that the people who are the most guilty of black and white thinking are people who have been indoctrinated. I certainly concede that one can be indoctrinated with anything; religion, political views, racism, sexism, atheism, and so on.  However, it is evident that the most fervently religious are the ones who are guilty of the most extreme cases of black and white thinking.

Black and white thinking often boils complex issues down to two (false) choices. One of the most popular ones in recent history was President Bush's declaration, "You are either with us (meaning you support our invasion of Iraq) or you are with the terrorists."  Here President Bush gives the false illusion that there are only 2 choices, one support an invasion of Iraq or two you are a terrorist. Pick one.  This is an extremely dangerous method of both thinking and presenting options.

Adults should be capable of weighing all of the information and inspecting complex issues. An honest, rational approach is to be preferred to reducing the matter to all good or all bad.  There is a lot of gray area in life, a black and white assessment of everything does a disservice to humanity and to one's critical thinking skills.

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