At different points in my life, I might have been called a Republican. At others, "Democrat" would have been a fair label, as would libertarian. However, I've never joined a party because labels don't define who I am.
The parties today (at least nationally) don't much like the idea of nuance, which is one of many reasons I'm unaffiliated and will likely remain so.
Gwen Faulkenberry, with whom I share much in common, especially in relation to family, wrote in her column Sunday: "A lot of my life's work is to build bridges by helping others see nuance--the gray areas between forced dichotomies like for/against, black/white, and right/wrong--where we can meet on common ground. However, I am writing today to declare a complete lack of nuance on a subject that plagues our state like a river turned to blood.
"I want to be the last person to give up on another Arkansan. But there are those with whom we do not, cannot, and should not find common ground. Some things are not gray."
And Gwen is absolutely correct. To paraphrase a hackneyed yard sign, hate should have no home here.
So many people get lost to their hyperpartisanship and decide that simply opposing something counts as hate (that's not how it works). The sort of hate we're talking about is based on gender, race, sexuality, religion, profession, etc. In that, there is no gray area.
I can't say that I've never hated anyone; I know I have. However, that's based on the actions of the person, not because of things over which they have little or no control.
From Gwen: "This paper recently published two letters to the editor that I find horrifying. Holding them up to the light is like studying an X-ray that reveals cancer growing in the soul of our state. Freedom-loving patriots, and certainly those of us who call ourselves people of faith, must find a way to treat it, so Arkansas can keep growing strong. ... Letters like these should not be censored in Arkansas because a newspaper censors them, but because Arkansans won't put up with trash talk about our people."
There really is no nuance to the hate Gwen spoke about. That forced dichotomy won't allow for it; you're either "fer it" or "agin it," period, and God forbid you stray from the prescribed path.
But in other issues, there is most definitely nuance. For example, one really can be both pro-life and pro-choice. I personally wouldn't have an abortion unless circumstances meant that it was the only choice. My feelings and morals don't mean that someone else can't have that choice. They aren't me, and their decisions are most likely not going to have any effect on me. I don't get to dictate their choices, nor they mine; that's what pro-choice means.
Further, the decision is a personal medical one to be made with the consultation of a doctor. There are good reasons for abortions, including rape and incest (which many of the new laws have no exception for) as well as catastrophic and/or fatal defects in the fetus (that's the actual medical term) or risks to the mother's health.
One of those risks is ectopic pregnancy (an embryo that implants itself outside the uterus), which is not viable. A few years ago in Ohio, a state legislator attempted to put through a bill ordering doctors to re-implant ectopic pregnancies in the uterus, which is not possible; he later admitted he hadn't studied if it could be done.
Maybe if he'd actually talked to a doctor, or read some studies (like the one from American Family Physician that says ectopic pregnancies are a leading cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester), he wouldn't have embarrassed himself.
But abortion is the hottest-button issue out there right now, and to prove their party bona fides, legislators are doing their darnedest to interfere in women's health (uh ... it takes two to tango, sooo ...). It matters not if, say, the mother is a cancer patient who could die if she continues her wanted pregnancy, or if the fetus develops without a brain, or the mother is a victim of rape, or a thousand other reasons. Nor does it matter that only 8 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all cases, according to Pew Research (the report, at pewresearch.org, is a master class on nuance).
To them, there is no gray. The woman is either evil (by getting an abortion) or good (carrying a pregnancy to term, regardless of what happens to the child after that). Yes, there are a vanishingly few women who might use abortion as "birth control." The vast majority do not, and the decision should be theirs because their situations are their own.
They shouldn't have to worry about (mostly male) legislators with no medical knowledge using abortion as a wedge issue.
Abortion is far from the only issue that boasts a lot of gray, but it's the one that's sucking up all the oxygen right now. On it and other issues, we must ask ourselves: Might there be a good reason for the action taken? Does it have any tangible negative effect on others? Does it pose a danger to others?
Maybe most importantly: Is this really any of my business?
Honestly, there's a lot out there that could stand a good letting alone.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.