Monday, April 19, 2010


We all need to reduce events, people, beliefs, and so forth into "types" that can be either embraced or rejected. This seems so fundamental to our nature that we humans must be hard-wired in this way. Perhaps it is an extension of our evolution as a species that our brain is able to piece together random assortments of information and make sense of the world. We need to quickly sort, categorize, and rationalize the flood of visual, auditory, olfactory etc stimuli to create a manageable coherent picture for ourselves.

For example, adults can read a paragraph of words written with all the vowels removed and still come away with 90+% comprehension of the content. Our minds are good at 'filling in the blanks' to surmise missing data in order to arrive at an efficient conclusion of meaning or purpose.

This skill set, a brilliant product of our evolution, has the downside of getting in the way of our relationships with each other and especially, on a larger scale, in impeding our politics. Our limitations lead us to categorize one another as "either"/"or". Nations are seen as either good or evil---you are either for us or against us, in W's old pre-Iraq war formulation. Our political leaders are either liberal (i.e., ultra-liberal socialist) or conservative (i.e., right wing ideologues). Either we prosecute a full-scale global no-holds-barred war on terrorism, or we surrender.

These false choices are enunciated on network and cable news shows every day---and the relentless type-ing and pigeonholing in which we indulge ourselves results in the media and perhaps most of us unable to characterize--and therefore cope--with people and positions that don't fit the mold. In fact, you're seen as weird and suspect if you can't be assigned a category and consequently either embraced or dismissed. Our minds want to 'fill in the blanks'---if you're a liberal, you must of course believe in this and that and the other.

Republican leaders don't have this problem. As their worlds and definitions of what conservative Republicanism is become narrower and narrower, they evolve the political virtue of feeding our natural instincts toward 'us' vs. 'them'. Yes, we know Where They Stand---and for the last 30 years this has been the gold standard of political leadership.


BobOnARoll's ideal political world is not without passion, deeply held beliefs, and convictions. These qualities animate us and occasionally lead to greatness. But, in the current climate, we need less demonizing of people and positions we disagree with. And this applies to my fellow progressives, too. Here's a for instance from my friends in the LGBT community, whose primary public pronouncements in reaction to Obama's decision to remove restrictions against hospital visitation rights for same-sex domestic partners, was, basically, well, OK, but it's still not as good as what straight couples are entitled to.....

Have expressed many disappointments and disagreements with Obama on this blog and elsewhere, but he's a leader whose style works for me. He's a 'both/and' president: neither liberal nor conservative, neither a warrior nor a pacifist, neither pro or anti abortion. Yep, folks, it IS all relative in a complex world, is it not? Wish we had more like him.....


  1. I was actually SHOCKED with Obama's decision to remove restrictions against hospital visitation rights for same-sex domestic partners!!! I mean come on already!!! I thought that restriction had been removed years ago. It felt like I was in a time warp.