June 01, 2004


Normally I write my posts completely off the cuff, but I have put a lot of thought into this one. I even made an outline. It is something that has preoccupied me for a few days now.

I have been accused a couple of times recently of being too close-minded and of seeing things only in black and white. No one likes his flaws pointed out, and I am the first one to admit that I am especially bad at taking criticism. Though I may write with fire and brimstone, I'm entirely too sensitive for disagreement and unpleasant situations (in fact, my students' repeated criticism of me was that I was "too nice" and got too personally involved in their success and failure.) If someone suggests I am close-minded, I will agonize over that characterization for days, as I did this weekend.

I recently read Nighthawk's soul-searching and felt the same questions rising inside of me. Should I be more open to listening to those in opposition? Should I periodically re-examine my values to make sure they're still sound? Do I have an obligation to listen patiently to all sides of the argument and withhold judgement?

My poor mother, who is sick as a dog, has listened to me on the phone for the past three days as I've worked through my faults and beliefs. She has been infinitely selfless as I have prattled on about my own issues, and she was there for the eureka moment today when I realized what has been bothering me.

Should we legalize drugs? Maybe. How do I feel about euthanasia? Well, I can see both sides. What about cloning issues? Hmm, that's a tough one. In most of the social issues I can see valid arguments for the pro- and con-; I even contradictably agree with points on both sides. I don't have a black-and-white approach, and I like to hear what others have to say. Even on issues where I do have a stronger opinion -- like the marriage amendment or stem-cell research -- I can easily see the reasons why someone would argue for the other side. I'm up for debate on any of those topics.

However, when it comes to the War on Terrorism, I believe there is a concrete right and wrong. I don't see this war as a "social issue" that can be debated like abortion or captial punishment. I think this war is necessary, just, and beneficial, and I can find overwhelming evidence to support that belief. What I cannot find is a rational reason why we should not fight this war. I just can't find it. The reasons I have heard from the other side all seem to ignore the evidence I see as plain as my nose and instead focus on butstills.

The butstill. My friend and I were discussing that last night. Someone told her the war was a mistake and gave the example of a (heartbreaking) story he had heard about the death of an Iraqi child. In response, she told him stories of new prosthetic hands and grateful Iraqi bloggers. She asked if he thought those things were a mistake. His response: "No. But still..."

There's always a butstill. Rarely is it followed by anything else. Most of the opposition I've heard to this war is first a denunciation of President Bush and then a butstill. I've seen the anti-war arguments torn to shreds twice recently, first by the lead singer of Iced Earth and secondly today by Marek Edelman. To me, this war makes perfect sense; I am having a hard time seeing this as anything but a black-and-white issue.

I've done a lot of thinking about whether I'm close-minded. The conclusion I came to was that there are some times when being open-minded means being wishy-washy. There are some times when standing firmly for something you believe to be irrefutable is entirely appropriate. I think Den Beste was right when he said, "there are some kinds of situations where the answer is simple, and in such cases if someone still tries to find a more complex nuanced answer it shows that he has no backbone."

So I'll remain close-minded about the War, but if anyone wants to debate me on euthanasia, I'm all for it.


Tammi also writes about thinking in black and white.

Posted by Sarah at June 1, 2004 10:17 PM

I don't usually get called close minded, but I hear opinionated way too often! I can totally relate to being able to see both sides of things too easily.

And yes, the war on terror is different. People just don't seem to really get just how much terrorist want all of us dead. And, really, how it would be rather easy in this day of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to achieve that. Only by bringing more of the world into freedom and democracy can we hope to get all the help we need to stop those few terrorists.

Honestly, I think it's just too complicated for some (maybe most) people to get the bigger picture. We're so spoiled in this country we really can't imagine life in places like Iran and Iraq.

Anyway, I'm rambling too much in your comments.
Don't ever worry about being close minded! It's closed to keep stupid stuff out :-)

Posted by: Beth at June 1, 2004 11:17 PM

Sarah mentioned MY blog!!! Now I'm in the BIG Leagues. :)

I am very libertarian in general, but conservative on social issues. So, I'm willing to debate some of those issues.

But I agree with the war on terror in general. I believe that we are accomplishing good things in Iraq and Afghanistan. I certainly don't believe the conspiracy theories. I see the horrendous things happening in Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, and other countries where Islamist forces are imposing fascist regimes, oppressing their own people as well as any outsiders.

Just before the invasion of Iraq, I read some excellent articles by an Assyrian Christian minister. He was initially strongly against the US doing anything about Iraq, until he went to Baghdad and visited some relatives. After he learned how much the Assyrian Christians had been praying for decades for the US to come and rescue them, after he saw the horrendous abuses, he came back and wrote how grateful he was that the US would even consider helping the people of that country.

I don't think I am close-minded about the war, but I certainly do have very strong opinions about it.

Posted by: NightHawk at June 2, 2004 12:03 AM

I've been called stubborn, opinionated, closeminded and several other things. There are though, some things that are true, black and white and very important. The war on terror is one of those things.
(Did you notice how I managed to not say but up there?)
I'm afraid you are suffering from too much time to think, too much time alone. Don't doubt yourself, and now that you've had your eureka moment just luxuriate in your knowledge that on some things you are just RIGHT.

Posted by: Ruth H at June 2, 2004 03:52 AM

That self-doubt is precisely what the anti-war crowd wants to engender. They know their minds can't be changed, but yours can. And they will do everything they can to make you doubt your own beliefs.

In all things.

Posted by: Mike at June 2, 2004 04:02 AM

Well said.

Posted by: John at June 2, 2004 05:25 AM

Sarah, we don't disagree on the war on terror being necessary, but whether invading Iraq was a collosal wrong turn in the war on terror. Afghanistan festers, the Muslim world pushed further to radicalism, our Army stretched dangerously thin, and our national finances mortgaged to the hilt. But if Iraq becoms the Muslim Switzerland, and the rest of the Muslim world follows it to democracy, it will have been worth it. Time will tell.

Posted by: Don at June 2, 2004 03:34 PM

As usual, very well said. Thanks.

Posted by: Parkway Rest Stop at June 3, 2004 08:30 AM