Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ambiguity

An old and dear friend of mine is now very conservative. Once he was a strong supporter of civil rights for African-Americans and with his wife adopted a black child and brought her into their home. A strong supporter of LGBT rights, he gave money to support that movement. We lost close touch for many years. We saw each other from time to time for lunch. We began to be in touch more when email became more popular and we grew adept in communicating that way. I was quite shocked that he had voted for the Bushes and Republicans since before Reagan. I didn’t think much of it since my brother also voted for Reagan and I assume Republican ever since those days and we get along fine but don’t talk much about politics.

But I noticed my old friend, let’s call him Liam, has become shrill. Obama will ruin the country. Health Care Reform will ruin the economy. All Muslims are bent on ruining democracy. This trend has become more noticeable as Liam seems out to try to convince me to change my positions on issues and to get my support for his view of things. On the issue of the Muslim take-over there is a touch of hysteria and paranoia.

He has a lot of support for this kind of thinking. Right-wing talk shows, the Tea Party Movement and apocalyptic, end of the world fears, abound in the United States. Liam may be fired by that support and now conventional thinking. But I do wonder if there is something of a more psychological anxiety in him. However, I am not his therapist. He has not asked me for help and I cannot diagnose him.

Thinking about this change in Liam, I also wonder if he, like many people, has a hard time with ambiguity, the ability to hold comfortably two divergent views at the same time. I think that ability is a definition of a mature person.

Fully developed, authentic persons look clearly at what they believe, hold to that belief and are understanding and sympathetic to other people’s quite divergent points of view.

Many people whole-heartedly support the right of Isreal to exist. They just as strongly hold the view that the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians is unjust and cruel.

One can fully support President Obama’s presidency and be completely against his policies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One can be a full-fledged people oriented Democrat and understand and disagree with the Republican business and economic centered point of view.

This doesn’t mean that one doesn’t take a strong stand on issues. Taking a strong stand does not mean dishonoring or holding in contempt the views of others. There are times when one must take a stand and make sure that those who disagree are not hurting others.

In a strike against a Coal Mine company, one can understand the need of workers for more pay and more safety. The owners have to earn enough money to run the company. Seeing both sides does not prevent one from taking a position. One must judge who is being hurt most? Where is injustice? Which is the weaker party in the weakest position? I tend to be on the side of the weaker and the underdog. But I can see and disagree with others who take the other side.

As a strong advocate for civil rights for all in the 1960s, I could see that many of my fellow Episcopalians were hurt by my taking a strong stand for blacks, gays and lesbians. I had to decide which side I was on. The minorities would be hurt if I did not support them. My middle class white co-religionists would be hurt if I supported the minorities. It was not a hard choice really. As a follower of Jesus, I chose the side of the weak the poor and the outcast.

My friend Liam supported the minorities in the 60s and maybe he still does. But I hope he can appreciate and understand the other side of issues and the people that support those issues. Life would be easier if the world was good or bad, black or white, right or wrong. But it isn’t. We are presented a world with shades of gray.

That is another way of seeing the world of moral, ethical and political choice as ambiguous.

RWC

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