Difficult times: Today’s blog was very difficult to write. I always want to write something uplifting, but I faced the following:
- I sit in semi-isolation, amid political, social and economic turmoil.
- Two named storms are headed our way.
- When I taught at Illinois State University, we had a ministry with students. One of those students died years ago. We were close to him but most others were not. Last week the first of the well-known students, Ron McAlister died in a plane crash in Illinois.
- Another well-known couple, Scoot and Wendy Crandall, had a grandchild born under difficult circumstances. The child is facing a limiting life.
- Friends are facing debilitating back issues, cancer, COVID, loss of a parent and more.
- Our son Scott is facing knee surgery.
- In addition, I made a serious mistake this week. I broke my vow and read some of the comments written after an article on the Kenosha shooting and riots that followed. I was totally depressed by the depravity of so many people. I renew my vow to never read the comments!!
The list of woes and fears is long, but nothing compared to how thankful I am to be alive. As I have said in previous blogs, every day I have a choice – focus on the problems or choose love, joy and peace. Some days are more just more difficult than others.
My stroke is a reminder how each day is a blessing and my list of things to be thankful for is much, much longer than my concerns. I hope all of you are focused on our blessings and are finding love, joy and peace in your lives no matter how difficult your day may be.
Failing Paradigm: The work for social progress stumbles along in the belief that an us versus them paradigm will succeed. Unfortunately, what I continue to see is both sides fanning the flames of unrest. Among the many examples I observed this week was the following:
On the Left at Iowa State University, Professor Cloe Clark would not allow students to question her stance on abortion, Black Lives Matter and other social issues. Students would be dismissed from the class if they did.
On the Right, a Facebook posting asked for anyone saying negative things about Trump, to be condemned in Jesus name.
I decry both views. Both sides argued for suppression of speech that disagrees with their viewpoint. With both sides entrenched in the “us versus them” model, neither side advances an understanding of freedom of speech issues.
My point is — if we view incidents as us versus them, we will never make the progress we want to make in social change. Each side will find fault with the other side and use it as fuel for further division.
I have the sincere belief we need a model the begins with “WE”, and not “us vs them.” Our fight is with human nature in all of us. We should become aware that humans always make mistakes, have ignorance, and in some cases are evil. We must believe we are in this fight together.
I continue to believe the best hope for attacking the problem of human nature is our Judeo-Christian faith. God, not a particular system, is our best hope for peace. Science helps, good intentions help, but the ultimate need is for reconciliation through a faith that values love, joy, peacemaking, generosity, and tolerance. Unfortunately, even some faiths pit “us against them.” I repeat what I have said before — us against them will be the end of us if we do not learn to think we.
False Dichotomy: Previously I quoted from an excellent article on AL.com about the types of ignorant thinking we can expect to see in the election. The first I presented was ad hominem – attack the person, avoid the issue.
I continue to observe ad hominem thinking on both sides of the political spectrum: “She is just a Trump surrogate.” “He is another liberal socialist.” With some variations, those are two of the most frequent ad hominem statements I have observed. Both ignorant, both remind me of junior high school—and I did not enjoy junior high. Unfortunately, both add to the divisions in an “us versus them” model.
Today I want to present a second problem given in the article. The thinking is called a false dichotomy. In the author’s words it is simplistically presenting a complex situation as if there are only two choices.
His excellent example was—after the 9-11 terror attack, some political leaders said: “If you are not with us, you’re with the terrorists.” But that is not correct I could be against the terrorists but disagree with the approach to fighting them.
We certainly see false dichotomy on the Left. Some spokespersons for the Black Lives Matter movement make it clear – if you do not support them you are on the other side. Just today a woman was berated for not raising her fist in support of BLM. Reasonable people understand I can be for social justice without supporting all aspects of a particular movement.
False dichotomies also appear on the Right. I know people who believe you either support everything about the Trump presidency or you are supporting liberalism.
Sad thinking by both sides but more evidence of the divisions developed in the “us vs. them” paradigm.
Part of the problem is too many people believe in simple answers and keep electing people who propose simple answers rather than those who realize and accept complexities.
We face difficult times. Keep the faith. Find joy in what we have.
Be safe out there,