Black and White

I think that I am starting to accept something about myself. I have a hard time seeing the world in "black and white" terms. And I think that is a good thing. In the past, when I have found myself holding what appear to be contradictory views, I have questioned my true feelings...if I feel strongly about X, how can I also feel strongly about Y? But I am realizing that I am a complex being which means that often I can not boil my views down to a neat and tidy checklist...I believe x, y and z and I don't believe a, b, and c. Life is too messy for that.

For example, I have very strong libertarian leanings in some areas (home education being one). I do not want the state dictating to me what I can and can not teach my child. Yet, I also have no problem with federal programs such as WIC that help struggling families. Recently in an online discussion about Michelle Obama's advocacy for making affordable, quality day care available to everyone, the point was made to me that we can not look at whether a program is "good" or whether it would help families...we can only look at whether or not it is a role the government should be playing (the idea being that Michelle was asking the government to subsidize her choice to work.)

I guess that the problem I have with that is that it reduces the issue to a black and white academic exercise. Neat and tidy.  No fuss, no muss. Make this determination and move on. Yet the answers affect real people and their lives...which means that it is not so tidy.  And that is something that I have a hard time getting beyond. The individual person is my stumbling block.

I volunteered for 7 years with The Naomi Project, a mentoring group for at-risk moms. I saw first hand what positive effects government programs such as WIC and state health clinics had on many of these women's lives. I also saw the struggles they often had to find quality, affordable day care. I can not divorce their personal stories from this debate. Working and needing day care usually was not a "choice" for them. The children also have no choice...should they be punished by not having a safe place to be cared for while their mother is at work?

Now I am not totally convinced that the government is the best one for fixing these is often too big, has too much bureaucracy and too much waste. Yet often it is the only option that many folks have. And every once in awhile it does something right (like WIC).

I recently saw an interesting interview with Penn Jillette (from Penn and Teller fame, who I believe is a libertarian). He made the argument (paraphrasing from memory) that having government take on this role actually leads to less personal involvement by people who care. Because welfare has become a role of the government, fewer individuals are working on solving the problem. That if you take government out of this role, groups of individuals would be come forward to take its place and these groups would be more likely to be better run because the people would be personally involved. And if you look at Katrina, it was the local groups and churches that had the biggest impact, not FEMA, so maybe he has a point. It is an interesting concept. One that I have been pondering since I heard it.

I will say that I am more swayed by Penn's argument than I have been by the argument of some conservatives who tend to just push for more personal accountability or responsibility without acknowleding the personal hurdles many of these people have. At least Teller seems to acknowledge that help can and should be given if needed. He just has a problem with the government being the one to give it.

I think that boiling everything down to a black and white issue is what drives me crazy about politics. It does not take into account our human-ness. Nor recognize that two different people can look at the same set of facts and draw completely different conclusions. There must be a right way to think and a wrong way to think and if you do not agree with my way of thinking then you must be wrong...or a sheeple...or naive...or stupid.

Humans are complex by nature. I have yet to really find anyone who can be put completely in one box or another. Jeff would argue that the "liberal" box (and maybe even the "bleeding heart" liberal box) fits me pretty well...but then I am homeschooler, so does it? I am a feminist...who stays home with her children. I am a homeschooler...who supports public education (as long as those who want to can opt out). I could go on.

This turned a bit more rambly than I had planned. I guess all I really want to say is that you may find contradictory views expressed here. And that is ok. Because I am a work in progress and I prefer to work in shades of gray rather than black and white. Because when you get down to the individual level, nothing is black and white. There is always a reason people hold the views that they do even if you do not agree with them.

I just finished re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird and so I will close with a great quote from Atticus:

"First of all if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

 Things are never as black and white as we may think (or want).