You will either love or hate this one

Not every decision has to be binary.

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Support doesn’t have to be binary


Binary: something made of two things or parts

Binary decisions are part of human life. In fact, they are required all the time. Will I marry this person — yes or no? Will I eat at this restaurant — yes or no? Will I buy a new home — yes or no? Will I vote for this candidate — yes or no?

With that being said, binary decisions are usually a small subset of a larger set of decisions that we have previously made. For instance, am I finically stable enough to get married, do I really want to spend the rest of my life with one person, let alone this person, can I tolerate his/her family, do we have a common core set of beliefs, do we both want kids, etc…

However, in modern society, we seem to act as if everything is a binary decision. Wait, did I just falsely create a binary choice? Move along!

Let me give an example. Is it true that parts of the media misrepresent what Trump says? Yes. Was the same thing true of Obama? Yes. Do the ones who misrepresent President Trump/Obama do it because they are trying to destroy the President’s agenda? This is not a yes or no. There is a spectrum. Let’s examine that.

If you are a lifelong democrat or republican, then it is very likely that you do not trust the candidate of the other party. In fact, you probably assume that they are either incompetent, liars, crooks, baby-seal stealers, or something like that. When you hear their comments you are prone to view everything through that lens. Furthermore, because you view their political ideals as wrong/misguided/dangerous, you are more than likely to be concerned that when the other candidate is in office, they will do harm by just talking about the issues they espouse. It is possible you are concerned that they are actively lying to persuade people in your camp so that they will come over to their side. Also, you might be right!

Campaign slogans

When Obama said “Change We Need,” or Trump said “Make America Great Again,” are those the same thing? The first infers that something is wrong and we need to change it. The second, is saying that America used to be great, but now it’s not. Both are appealing to the fact that something is wrong with our country and this candidate is here to fix it. Neither says when we went off the rails, or what was the exact cause. It is implied the former administration is at fault, at the least. What is the change we need or when were we great? That is in the eye of the voter.

Let’s take a look at the candidate’s campaign slogans that ran against Obama and Trump.

John McCain - “Country First;” “The Original Maverick;” “Best Prepared to Lead from Day One;” “Courageous Service, Experienced Leadership, Bold Solutions;” “A leader we can believe in;” “Reform • Prosperity • Peace.”

Hillary Clinton - “Stronger together;” “I’m with her;” “Fighting for us;” “Love trumps hate.”

These statements in a vacuum are fine. In general, they do not really articulate anything of substance. However, as you read through these, I imagine they will cause some emotional stirring. Why is that? Well, might it be in part because you are projecting what you believe the candidate was actually trying to say? Does anyone really disagree that a country is not “stronger together?” No, unless the other candidate is saying it.

You can't have your cake and eat it…but that is what I want

What about other issues? If you are for opening up the economy, does that mean you want people to die? If you want to keep the economy closed down, do you want people to lose jobs, cars, and houses?

Want: to feel a need or a desire for; wish for

I injected the word want for a reason. It is not the most glamorous word in the dictionary, but it is one we use very often.

Here is how we should think about it. I, Ryan, want the economy to be open fully. I want people to be able to decide if they should go to work or not. I want us to prevent as many deaths as possible. I want us to make sure we protect our civil liberties. I want all our readers to be able to provide for their families. I want us to not ruin our economy. I also want us to not needlessly expose the elderly. I want to go on, but I hope you get the point.

If you think about the practical implications of all of my “wants” it will not take long to realize that some are in direct conflict with others. For instance, I want to protect civil liberties and prevent as many deaths as possible. To prevent the most deaths, maybe we should cede some/all of our liberties to the government.

Now what? I could make a binary choice. Liberties vs. most deaths. Cede all of your liberties or ensure many, many deaths. However, to do so would not be a wise choice. I have to acknowledge that it is possible to give up liberties to prevent deaths now, but that might lead to more death in the future. I also have to acknowledge that it might appear that allowing the lockdowns to continue might not prevent more death. Remember, flattening the curve never promised fewer deaths. I also have to acknowledge that there might be ways to prevent more deaths, but the government, in their best efforts, might do something that causes more deaths and I have lost my liberties as well.

For me, it’s is not a binary choice. Neither are the stories below.

Cattle Climate Agreement

“If you care about the working poor, about racial justice, and about climate change, you have to stop eating animals.” Um. wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

Does this gem come to us via Infowars? No, even Alex couldn’t swing such a crazy idea….

Okay, that’s an overstatement. Where does this wisdom come to us from? How about The New York Times? Gasp. We should give credit where it is due. The New York Times piece does make sure it points out that cows, if they made up a nation, “would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.” Odd, isn’t it. Instead of the Paris Agreement, maybe we should have had the Cattle Climate Accord. I doubt we would find that many people to see the extinction, or at least the mass slaughtering, of the cows around the world.

I do care about the working poor, racial justice, and climate change. It just so happens that just like “Change We Need”, I don’t think the author and I would agree upon the best way accomplish these goals. When we add the readers to the mix, we are surely going to have a lot of opinions on how best to accomplish these things all while claiming each of us does care.

Mail-in Voting

“Citizens should have the option to choose voting by letter carrier versus voting with disease carriers,” Biery said.

No, I don’t want someone, especially, the most vulnerable to get the coronavirus because they are out voting in November. I also don’t want to see the country go through months of court cases because we rushed a new practice in place that will allow both sides to claim voter fraud. It’s not like catching a virus while voting wasn’t a possibility before this election. Maybe we should focus on getting the results right, rather than muddying the waters in what might be a tight election. Maybe we should extend voting to more than one day. Maybe we should do a lot of things. Maybe.

All spikes aren’t created equal.

Headline - “ Coronavirus is spiking disproportionately in counties that voted for Trump in 2016

I’m not going to do a deep dive into the numbers here, but let me frame it this way. According to Time, Trump won 2,649 counties to Hillary Clinton’s 503. I’ll make one simple point. If you look at the population density of those counties, it is clear that Trump won a ton of rural areas. Rural areas have lower populations and population densities. For instance, Trump won the county I currently live in. Our county has 23 COVID-19 cases with a population of just over 61,000. If our county goes from 23 cases to 33 cases, then we would see a “spike” of 43%. Maybe the numbers are spiking, maybe they are not, but an increase in 11 cases in New York City will not really register. In Hood County, it would be a spike. Just make sure you when you hear of spikes in rural areas, you actually look at the numbers.

Which brings us to this:

Sometimes there are only two options. A lot of times there are not. If fact, most of the time there is not. When Joe Biden says, "If you have a problem figuring out if you are for me or for Trump, you ain't Black" I think that is a stupid thing to say. I also imagine if Trump were to say that the media would lose their collective minds. When Trump says that he will, “override the governors” I think that is a dangerous thing for the President to say. I think if Biden said it, Fox News would lose its mind.

As for Biden, I don’t want any ethnic group being told they should vote for any party to show they are of said ethnic group. That’s nonsense.

As for Trump, it’s not that I do not want people to be able to attend their places of worship, it is because I do not want the government, at any level, involving itself in the question of who can attend a place of worship.

For Biden to make a claim about someone's skin color based upon their vote is stupid. For the President to claim he can determine that people can go to worship, infers that he may also think he can determine when they can’t go.

Here’s hoping that we realize that we can be critical of both candidates when they do wrong, and praise them when they do good. Here’s hoping that we realize that every major decision is not always a binary one. Here’s hoping we don’t put our blind faith in either party and their candidate. When we read the news, let’s put our thinking caps on and think through the issues, and not just react to them.

Oh yeah, the media. I didn’t forget about them, I just hope you now see that they frame arguments as if there are only two choices…Yes or No…Right or Wrong…Black or White…Don’t let them fool you. You deserve better.

I would love to hear you comments on this! Please shoot me an email!


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