Editorial Notebook

Right, wrong, dark, light

People always seem to enjoy defending their beliefs against others when they believe they know right from wrong. It’s human nature, many say, to defend one’s opinions and mindsets. And yet, that very statement—knowing right from wrong—displays the naïveté that a great deal of the populace shows. It gives false witness to the fact that there are only two possible outcomes—either you are correct, or you are not. There is no middle ground in that statement, and that can often be a very dangerous thought process.

History and fiction have shown—time and time again—the struggle of dark against light, evil against compassion and kindness, and greed and jealousy against love and friendship. Very few people though, are avatars of solely one of these traits. The human being is a complex and varied thing and the psyche more so; as such, it is rare for people and their actions to completely remain within one camp or another. History is written by the victors, so they say, and as such, the victors are usually portrayed in a positive light with the losing party made into the “evil” one. The dirty laundry of the losing party is aired out for the world to see while the winning nation or faction is considered without that influence. All this makes it difficult to understand that both sides, while possibly working for the benefit all, are inherently human.

In a perfect world, perhaps everything would be black and white, things would be separated into light and dark, and good and evil would balance each other like the yin and yang that they are. The middle though, between the two extremes, is where most people and things lie. People, who have, for so long, adhered to the black-and-white mentality, are unfortunately unable to view the world in shades of grey, and this can cause confusion. It bursts the comfortable bubble of rooting for the good guys and detesting the baddies; and yet, the in-between-ness rears its head constantly.

Nowhere else is the mentality of absolutes as evident as in American politics. The stubborn adherence to doctrine without being able to see the moderate positions available, creates a dynamic that does not allow for proper discussion and compromise of topics. The recent government shutdown is an example of this perversion of what was once a proper system—the House’s continued refusal to allow legislation that it had already passed to go into effect has caused the furlough—or unpaid work—of over 1.8 million federal employees. Neither party is free from this grandstanding; in fact, the very existence of a two-party system is evidence of the black and white mentality many hold.

The conflicts in the Middle East, especially those in Syria and Egypt, shows a side of the world that often confuses many—the lack of a faction to throw one’s support behind, or someone to call the “good guys.” In Egypt, one of the sides had oppressed the people as a dictator for decades, while the other contains the support of an anti-US group. Both sides of the conflict in Syria have committed atrocities, ranging from killing hundreds of innocent civilians to the use of chemical weapons. Even so, a third faction may be forming from Islamic rebels who are dissatisfied with the policies of both Assad’s regime and the Free Syrian Army.

There are many examples that show the lack of flexible thinking, from the confusion over the Rwandan genocide to the lack of acknowledgement of the possibility that the United States may have committed unsavory acts against other nations. It is often considered anti-American by many to question the morality of the government of the United States, despite the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths that have occurred due to its policies.

Many readers may find these thoughts to be disturbing. Even so, the American people, and by extension, people from around the world, must all be able to think clearly and understand the complexity and nuanced behavior that many events and groups follow. Reality may be dark and frightening, but only through the truth can we find the light that can lead us into a bright future.