Posts Tagged 'ideology'

Deadman’s A-Z Guide to Living: Gray

Gray is usually such an unattractive color.

The safe, uninspiring choice in fashion and design. The gloomy, unwanted harbinger of storms and aging.

It is the definition of blah-ness. An easy metaphor for deep sadness.

But at least in matters of politics and policy, gray happens to be a most beautiful color.

Indeed, gray is the color of the lens through which I view almost everything in this complicated, crazy world of ours. To me, it signifies empathy and thoughtfulness. And when followed, it often leads to necessary compromise, or – at a minimum – mutual understanding.

It is a mystery why people so often see this world in black and white, why they hew to rigid ideologies as if the very idea of keeping an open mind, of seeing multiple sides to key issues is an anathema, a sign of terrible weakness to be avoided at all costs.

Don’t get me wrong: Seeing things in shades of gray doesn’t mean you just straddle the fence and refuse to pick sides. That is hardly helpful and rarely appropriate. No, you still take stances, and you fight for them. And there may be, on rare occasions, controversial issues which you view in black and white – gay rights being one that comes quickly to mind – where compromise isn’t possible. But in general, when you see things in gray, you allow yourself to appreciate the logic that usually exists in the opposing view and you strive for middle ground where most of the workable solutions will be found.

Give me almost any controversial subject on the political landscape today – Abortion? Taxes and deficit reduction? Universal health care? Oil drilling? – and I can likely offer up a very reasonable argument for either side.

Take abortion, for instance. You will find perhaps no issue that polarizes people more than this one, and the intensity on both sides can be rather frightening. But all of the ethical, logistical, moral, medical and political debates concerning abortion are astoundingly complex, and for the life of me, I cannot fathom how pro-life and pro-choice activists refuse to respect and appreciate the other side’s point of view.**

Now I didn’t always disdain ideology; I used to be a pretty hard-core liberal, president of the Young Democrats club in high school, and even within the last five years a co-founder of one of the most liberal blogs on the Web. I still lean left politically, I suppose, especially when it comes to social issues, but in general now believe effective answers don’t often fit into easy slots and that rigid ideology leads people to overly simplistic group-think.

It may seem a bit hypocritical, but if I had the time, skills, and/or motivation, I would love to start a new political organization in this country: The Gray Party. The Grays would stress open-mindedness and freedom of thought. We would consider each issue separately and place great value on scientific data and research in determining policy. We would encourage healthy and respectful debate. We would embrace compromise and seek the middle ground as much as possible. If we even had a platform, it would be fluid and flexible, and party members would be free to take or leave whatever portions of it they wanted, without fear of reprisal. We would nominate the wisest, most qualified people in this country and demand of them only that they use their intelligence and vote their conscience while in office.

Yeah, I know: Totally unrealistic. Apparently, I dream in gray as well.


**Abortion is in fact an issue utterly surrounded by ‘gray’ areas, including a well-known, oft-discussed one surrounding the viability of the fetus, a key factor in the crucial Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision.  The Supreme Court argued that a woman’s right to privacy – and thus her right to do what she wished with her pregnancy – was paramount up until the fetus reached a point of viability outside the womb. Alas, a ‘gray area’ in viability exists between the 21st week of pregnancy (before which no fetus is viable) and the 27th week (after which almost all fetuses are viable). The initial decision pointed to the end of the second trimester (week 28) as the cutoff date, but that has since been repealed as medical advances have moved up viability. But viability will likely always remain an imprecise ‘gray area’, one more reason why the abortion debate is such a complex one that it bewilders my mind when I listen to rabid activists on both sides.

When does life begin? What about personhood? Surely at some point, abortion becomes a form of murder. And should fetal dependency/viability really be the decisive factor regarding abortion’s legality when even after a full-term birth, a baby would quickly die without proper nourishment and care; yet in our society we view infanticide as one of the most horrific crimes imaginable.

On the other hand, the fact is, very few abortions happen after the point of viability, and are then often only done to protect the life of the mother. Even if you insist that life and/or personhood begins at conception, you’d have to admit that an early-stage fetus bears little resemblance to a healthy baby. For the first several weeks, there’s no heartbeat and no separate blood supply. Vital organs are non-existent or barely formed. A great number of fetuses will miscarry during early pregnancy without any intervention. So how is it not preferable that a woman who cannot or doesn’t want to spend all the necessary time, effort, love, money and care into gestating, delivering and raising a happy, healthy baby make the decision to terminate the pregnancy at an early stage.

Personally, I think many (but not all) abortions are selfish, awful events, and greatly admire women who choose to go through an unwanted pregnancy and pursue adoption instead. But I’ve done my share of selfish, awful things in my life, so who I am to judge. And while I believe it’s a million times better to see a pregnancy terminated early than an unwanted baby raised in a hostile, unloving environment, it’s frankly none of my business, or society’s business for that matter, what a woman does with her body. I agree the situation becomes much more complex after fetal viability, and generally have little problem with states’ restrictions on such later-term abortions, as long as the health of the mother isn’t threatened.

In short, it’s complicated. Shades of gray everywhere! And it seems as a nation we’ve stumbled upon a very workable, if fragile, solution, where abortions up to a certain point are legal and must be allowed, while states in more conservative parts of the country have a certain amount of flexibility, through various mechanisms, in restricting the number or type of abortions performed. The situation may not please everyone, and certainly doesn’t please the extremists on both sides, but that’s kind of the point.

Obama Disappoints Again … Health Care Reform Likely to Lose its Public Option

Boy, what a disappointment. According to published reports, the Obama administration is willing to give up a plan to create a government-run health insurance company – the so-called ‘public option’ – in order to get some sort of reform passed. Instead, they are now touting the creation of some kind of cooperative health insurance groups, which would be non-profit and owned by its members.

Now I don’t want to overstate the letdown I feel. If this is the only way some health care reform can get done, then fine. Something needs to be done, and the political realities on the ground are obviously quite tricky when you have a slim majority in Congress and even some of the Blue Dogs Democrats are barking like they don’t want to support anything that could increase our deficit.

And unlike getting pregnant, you can get ‘a little reform’ when it comes to health care. I’ll be relatively pleased if a bill passes that takes active measures to limit cost inflation by reducing waste or fraud or increasing efficiencies in the system and includes regulations forbidding insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions or dropping people when they get sick.

But I wonder how many other compromises will find its way into the legislation before it reaches the President’s desk. Already, DF pointed out a blog post that indicated the administration agreed to some fairly serious concessions to the pharma industry in order to get it to agree to close the Medicare doughnut hole in prescription coverage.

When it comes to this nation’s health care system, the patient is very sick and needs a very strong prescription. A placebo won’t do. If and when this plan finally passes, will it have any teeth in it?

Or will it just be another example in a growing list of measures that Obama has either avoided pursuing or gotten passed only after it was strongly watered down. A stimulus bill was passed, but only after its size had been slashed, and several of the more left-leaning initiatives removed. An effort to end military tribunals was abandoned. Energy reform and cap-and-trade (an interesting idea that will likely do far too little to reduce global warming) linger in legislative limbo. Meanwhile, Obama has been silent on immigration reform, avoids changing don’t-ask-don’t-tell, and decides to fight the release of torture photos.

The area where Obama has had his biggest successes has been in the economic arena, yet many of the initiatives there – such as forcing GM into bankruptcy and doling out hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money to banks and Wall Street institutions – hardly qualify as furthering the liberal agenda.

Why are liberals so friggin afraid of their own ideology? Can you imagine the Bush administration hemming and hawing the way Obama’s team has? They wanted tax cuts, they got it done. They wanted authorization to go to war with Iraq, they got it done. They wanted the Patriot Act passed, they got it done.

Granted, there’s very little on a political level that I want Obama to emulate from the Bush team. As someone who finds strict, unwavering adherence to an ideology a bit disturbing, I like the fact that Obama is open to compromise. Often, many of the most successful initiatives a president will accomplish come by reaching across the aisle in areas not normally associated with their side’s ideology (like Clinton’s welfare reform or Bush’s AIDS relief work).

But look, the folks on the other side had their chance. They messed up, and Americans voted for change. Not just change in process – in how things got done in Washington – but voted for change in policy, too.

Troubling public opinion polls and frequent displays of hostilities at town hall meetings shouldn’t matter much if you think the results of policy change will be successful.

Democrats now control both houses of Congress. There’s no justification for deadlock or watered-down, half-assed measures.

For at least the next three years, the Left has been given the opportunity to lead this country. It’s time they do just that.

July 2016
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