Opinion: Overcoming political dichotomies

When one sees only in black and white, they will bring the world noth­ing but red. Harsh political and ideo­logical dichotomies create strife. Be­cause of this, those outdated dichotomies need to be retired in favor of more nuanced views. The world is complicated, regardless of whether or not we attempt to simplify it. Rather than performing the work of sorting out moral quandaries on a case-by-case basis, people tend to oversim­plify and place moral and political issues into boxes.

American politics is permeated with assumptions of the existence and regu­larity of mutual exclusivity. If a citizen is in favor of protecting against incite­ment, they are automatically opposed to the freedom of speech. If someone argues for increased protection for ba­sic human living through the imple­mentation or enhancement of social welfare programs, they are labeled communists. On the other hand, when people discuss the inherent dehuman­ization present in many forms which social welfare programs are carried out, they are automatically decried as cruel and uncompassionate. These unyield­ing perspectives are what keep elections from bringing about positive, dynam­ic change. Once the beliefs and values on opposing sides of an issue are treat­ed as mutually exclusive, discourse transforms into combat, and any hopes of real change quickly dissipate.

Issues of free speech and social pro­grams are not simple, nor are solutions easily come by. Nevertheless, they are treated as single answer problems which could be solved if the other side were not so stubborn and self-serving. By dealing in these moral absolutes, rather than positive progress, greater schisms are formed in our political realm. The intricacies implicit within free speech alone should be enough to make anyone pause. There is no fine line between free speech and incite­ment or hate speech. Things are never that simple. By pretending there is, in fact, some readily discernable distinc­tion, politicians lock each other into endless controversy and dispute.

Oversimplifications result in a fog which prevents rational, measured dis­course. When condemnation becomes absolutely one-dimensional, and is divorced from its context, it produces nothing beneficial whatsoever. Issues of foreign relations and political con­flicts remain strained as politicians continue to simplify complex disputes. One example of oversimplification in modern conflicts is the Israel-Palestine conflict. International discourse sur­rounding this issue seems to hover around positions of radical polarity. There is little to no middle ground, and neither side tends to evaluate the con­flict in its full context. Without under­standing the history of European im­perialism and the conflicting legal agreements — the Sykes-Picot Agree­ment and the Balfour Declaration — the current tensions make very little sense. The former promised modern-day Israel and Palestine to Arabs, while the latter promised it to Jews. Beyond this, even ignoring more ancient con­texts, clashes between Israel and Pal­estine are in no way one-sided. Israel has been subjected to incessant terror attacks and violence from Palestine for decades. On the other hand, Palestine has been occupied and marginalized. Israel has been robbed of its security, and Palestine has had its dignity snatched away.

Politics shouldn’t be reduced to mere dichotomies. Politics represents the fundamental messiness of life. As a result, it will always remain conten­tious, and won’t have solutions which perfectly solve all of life’s problems. Instead of attempting to turn away and deny the reality of life’s messiness, we must embrace it and confront issues with a more nuanced approach.


Lucas Waggoner

Lucas is a PPE major in University of Washington Tacoma, and he is graduating with a Bachelor's in philosophy. His primary interests are philosophy, politics, and law. He is currently working as a teacher at a secondary school while preparing to attend law school immediately following graduation.