Saturday, February 05, 2005

Black-and-White Thinking

Who would have thought that Bono (U2) and Jesse Helms would be contributors to the same book (The Awake Project, Uniting Against the African AIDS Crisis) and that they would be arguing the same case. There is a way of thought---black-and-white thinking---that puts people in a neat little box. One is either on the right side or not, in this type of mind. Liberals think conervatives are greedy, non-caring capitalists who love to rape the earth, and conservatives think liberals are immoral, paternalistic socialists who love to control the masses. In my experience, many on each side swallow the stereotypes and usually seriously misunderstand each other. Why? They can't get out of the rut of black-and-white thinking.

From what I can tell, Bono is a Bible-honoring believer in Christ. Unfortunately he doesn't fit the evangelical mold (with their speak-dress-sing-look-behave-like-us mentality) so is normally dismissed as a spiritual voice. Jesse Helms said he was ashamed he had not done more for the world's AIDS pandemic and then argued for more funds for projects. I was surpised to read that. I had put him in a box. I needed to relearn that life is often not black or white, but shades of gray.

When people criticize President Bush, for example, because of his supposed unjust policies, they usually overlook important facts. For example, he was the first president to commit $50 billion to combat AIDS internationally (and was a contributor to that book along with Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela), had the most ethnically diverse cabinet in history his first term, and implemeted a foreign policy that has freed millions of women and men from some of the most repressive totalitarian regimes the world has seen. On the last achievment, one may disagree with the means, but they shouldn't allow black-or-whtie thinking from clouding the obviously just results.

There is a place for calling a spade a spade. There are fundamental and structural evils in the world and just and good princples. But people are complex. It shouldn't take an AIDS crisis to see where we all have common ground.

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