Or purple as it were.
In our divided American society, and without fake compromise, how do I dive into the grey?
How do I help reveal that reality is not binary?
How do I facilitate conversations with people I know and care about, with whom I can no longer discuss some of the most important issues of our time, because they have aligned with extremity?
The only way I know, is to jump into the grey.
When I talk about grey, I'm talking about the grey areas of life, where the answer requires careful consideration, where blanket policy does not work and where you, the thinker, have to think it out.
I may have written this before, but I think one of the most UNhelfpul things I have experienced in our society is how "black and white" "right and wrong" "good vs. evil" continually is replayed ad-literal-nauseum. This is completely unhelpful in navigating every day grey.
Here's a light example of the grey I'm talking about. Truth vs. lies. Easy to tell the difference isn't it? Between the truth and a lie? The common morality tale of lying is that it's obvious, the liar gets just desserts and learns a lesson by way of repercussions from the outside world.
I personally find this kind of tale at best covers the MOST BASIC information about the reality of lying.
What I would find more helpful, is a full picture. What are all of the reasons that make a person lie? What is the pressure that a person may feel to lie? What are the different kind of lies? What does it feel like when you are the recipient of a lie and how does that differ from the truth (so you can more easily spot it next time).
For example, for many years, I thought a manipulative person would be very easy to spot. Their lies would be so extravagant. They would be their own ":tell" or perhaps they might be a "fast talker" an older term that described someone who was really trying to push you and wouldn't let you get a word in edgewise.
But a truly manipulative person can do just that, portray what's false as truth, so easily, that it is as believable as the truth. The only notable difference is either a feeling of confusion, that there is some kind of disconnect between what you are hearing and what you are feeling in your stomach, or a feeling of divulgence, that they are aware that they are telling you something you greedily want to hear. Confusion or your own awareness of your own sense of greed or anger is the signifier, and the differential between someone telling the actual truth and someone appearing (and doing an immaculate job of appearing) to tell the truth.
Discussion of these micro-tonality seems vital to our evolution and yet missing in public discourse. Public discourse feels limited to crude basics.
Let's dive deeper! There is clearly an unwillingness in our society as a whole to accept that sexuality is not binary. And the root cause of the division seems to fall in 3 categories: religious belief based in perception of scripture, lack of real exposure and connection to humans, and fear. I had the good fortune of studying Latin for four years of high school under now Pastor Lisa Strauss of Buda UMC in Buda, TX, who has studied ancient scripture and now leads what is a self-described "purple" (i.e. not red or blue) church in Texas. I asked Lisa for specific examples of Bible scripture, and she directed me to this article, from which I pulled this text:
"Genesis 19 and Leviticus
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is well known. This is where the terms "sodomite" and "sodomy" originate, and it has long been associated with biblical condemnation of male homosexual sex. It is, however, actually about gang-rape. In this story, the men of Sodom seek to rape two visitors (who are actually angels). Their host, Lot, defends them and offers them protection in his house, but offers his virgin daughters to be raped in their place. It is a deeply problematic and complex story that warrants an article of its own, but what is clear is that sexual violence and rape is harshly condemned, and so God destroys the town with sulphur and fire. Despite the linguistic history of the word "sodomite", Genesis 19 has nothing to say about homosexuality or mutually consenting adults of the same gender expressing their desire and love.
Two of the laws of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) seem more pertinent. They call a man lying with another man instead of his wife an "abomination". We should note first that the imagined scenario is a married man committing adultery with another male. It is not describing what we would understand to be a sexual orientation. We might also note the inherent sexism here: women apparently don't have the same desire or their sexuality is deemed too insignificant to be worthy of comment.
Again, we need some context. Yes, this verse clearly condemns adulterous homosexual sex in calling it an "abomination" (to'ebah), but here are all the other things also called an "abomination" in the Bible:
Egyptians eating with Hebrews;
having an image of another god in your house;
sacrificing your child to the god Molech;
having sex with your wife when she is menstruating;
taking your wife's sister as a second wife; and
Banned likewise is wearing mixed-fabric clothing, interbreeding animals of different species, tattoos, mocking the blind by putting obstacles in their way, and trimming your beard.
As you can see, there is quite an assortment of ancient laws, some of which seem to make good sense (such as no child sacrifice) and others of which the majority of Christians no longer keep (such as eating pork and wearing a wool-silk blend)."
To my call for more awareness of the full picture --- Why isn't this analysis more broadly known? Why do we only hear spatters of lines that support exclusion and fear?
In addition to more information, it seems like the only way to combat irrational fear of other people is to build connections to actual people who are different than the fearful person. But how do you get people who don't believe in equal rights to read the ten years of love, care and strife of Team Shimmy to understand how limited rights play out in real lives? Could a person possibly read the chronicle of this family and not recognize there are two loving parents supporting a sick (and wonderful!) child? From one of their early posts:
"I asked for 2 weeks off the day he [their newborn son] went into the ICU as we tried to determine if he would live or die. When it became clear he was hanging on but really sick and still unstable, I asked to work part time for about a week. At the end of that week, I met with my boss to discuss options, including dropping to part time for a few months and/or working remotely for a day or two a week. No dice. Not only no dice, but I was told that if I dropped to part time, there was no guarantee that I could have my job back...During that conversation, my boss ACTUALLY said to me, "I think coming back to work full time would be great for you. A few good wins under your belt at work will really help your spirits". My newborn was in the ICU with a life threatening disease and I was being advised to lean in at work. By the director of a women's health center focused on supporting new mothers and their newborns. I almost laughed in her face.
Shortly after that meeting my boss set up a meeting with HR. I was really looking forward to the meeting, naively assuming that it was called so that we could talk about possible options to help me support my family AND continue to do good work for them. Thank god I had lawyered up by that point because it was a nightmare.
The HR rep started the meeting by saying, "I didn't think it was legal for you to use the Family Medical Leave Act for the time you've already taken off [when Simon got sick] because you were just providing emotional support [to Laura] but I did some research and it turns out that it's okay". I was so in a state of shock from everything that was happening that my lawyer had to point out the insane homophobia in that statement (ie, Laura is the real parent, you are just some person helping her out in the hospital, instead of me being a full parent there to be with my son while he was critically ill). It only went down from there and ended up with me being presented with document saying I was on probation, despite my stellar performance review 6 months prior."
How can we make caring people more visible so that people can stop being afraid of difference?
And when it comes to what seems to be the third factor, fear? I think that's one people can only look in the mirror to solve. How is it possible not to ask yourself what you are afraid of and why? How is it possible to be so afraid of another human being?
Of course I know, how I've been afraid of people before, points 1 2 and 3 helped me out of that mindframe. Information and actual connection to people is transformative.
OK. It's midnight. I have to admit, I almost scrapped this post. It seems unfinished, partial, underdone, but there it is. Half-baked.