Editorial: The fallacy that every issue has two sides
How do we bridge the gaps that divide the country, the gulf that separates you from, say, the cousin who seems to see the world from an altered state?
Easier said than done, and we will not engage in wishful thinking that there is a simple formula to resolve it. The world is more complex than that and the factors that lead to our polarization are too.
In fact, that's our point today. Complexity.
First, let's get rid of this notion that there are two sides to every question, two sides to every argument.
There aren't. In some cases, there is only one side. You cannot have an argument with someone who contends the sky is orange when you know it to be blue.
Likewise, we would maintain, there is no point in considering arguments that the 2020 election was stolen when there is no plausible evidence that it was.
What to do in a case like that? We wish we had a good answer, but we do know this: To listen to a preposterous claim suggests that it is worth listening to -- in other words, it lends it credibility -- so that certainly would not be constructive.
The only practical response to a claim like that, it seems to us, is to cut it off with the litany of evidence that repudiates it.
But the one-side example is, thankfully, an exception to most disagreements. The reality is that most arguments have multiple sides. Not just one or two, but many. Complexity. Most issues are gray, but we so often tend to try to make them black and white.
Take almost any issue, and there are multiple aspects to it. Immigration certainly has them. Welfare. Foreign policy. Government spending. Tax policy. You name it.
These are complex issues with complex implications and complex solutions.
The same is true of people. There is no single definition of, say, a Republican, no single definition of a Democrat. No more than all women are alike or all men.
Does everyone living in the suburbs have the same background or perspective or lifestyle? Does everyone living in the country? Or in the city? We're all a lot more complex than that.
When we start putting labels on people, when we start viewing positions on issues as simply right or simply wrong, we make it much easier to demonize and deify. It becomes much easier to see one side as evil and one side as pure.
But people and issues are a lot more complex than that. All have flaws; all have virtues. Do you know anyone personally who isn't a combination?
Beyond that, when we turn issues into two-sided arguments, we lose the opportunity to learn, to understand where the other person is coming from, to find common ground.
Let's get rid of the labels.
And if you want to get along with that distant cousin, start by reminding yourself that the gulf between you is more complex than it seems.