People are either black and white or they see shades of gray in the world. I live in rural America which tends to be black and white, yes or no, right or wrong. No exceptions. I am usually some shade of gray. Rarely is anything black and white with me.
Most people will say that there are certain things we can all agree are black and white. Murder, for example, is wrong. Sounds like a simple enough black and white statement. Unless of course you are a right wing republican or a liberal democrat….or anyone in between. Abortion, up to carrying a baby to term, is murder. Capital punishment is murder. Shooting and killing an intruder in your house before they murder your family is murder. Murdering the enemy in times of war is murder. If you intentionally killed someone, it’s murder. If you’re really as black and white as you think you are, then none of these things are ok. Most people I know think that at least one of these things is justifiable. I do. That justification is the gray area. Here in the US, we have justifiable homicide. It’s still murder. We gave it a different name so that we can retain our black and white viewpoint and our moral high ground. We decided as a society that murder is ok under certain circumstances. It’s all murder. Nearly everything has some exception or shade of gray. It’s the inability to see and/or acknowledge the gray that is partly to blame for tearing our country apart. We are all so determined that our own viewpoint is correct and moral. We forget the person we are arguing with usually feels the same way about their viewpoint. We have to agree as a society to acceptable compromises in order to make laws we will enforce, follow, and enable us to live the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (Yes, I do see the irony of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness after discussing the justifications our society has for murder.) We have to see and agree on some gray areas and compromises in order to continue to reap the benefits of our diverse nation. We have to come together and genuinely listen instead of being politically correct, stifling free speech and opposing viewpoints, and allowing ourselves to live in echo chambers.
Compromise and seeing shades of gray are also about acknowledging everyone has that line where their willingness to compromise ends. Even people who see mostly gray, have a line. When we hit that line, all bets are off. Redirect the conversation and give a little someplace else so everyone can walk away from the table with something. It’s called negotiating. We have forgotten how to negotiate and debate. When we are watching or reading about politics on whatever media source we choose, we forget there are negotiations in play. Usually if you’re a good negotiator, you start with asking for a whole lot more than you expect to walk away with. This gives you wiggle room for compromise without crossing your line. The areas you will negotiate are shades of gray. If you approach people and conversations with an open mind and listen, you will quickly discover that most people have a lot of gray areas whether they know it or not. Even people who are primarily black and white have areas of gray. They are able to negotiate and often compromise for the betterment of our society if they want to do so. We have to get past the anger and hate directed at opposing viewpoints. We have to get past me and consider we. It will end our country if we can’t relearn these basic skills.