Always Look for Option C
In a polarized, this or that, A or B world, take a look around
America: Love It or Leave It.
So proclaims the bumper sticker in front of me in traffic. And where in years long past — when my patriotism wasn’t much more complicated than a thumped chest — this message would have elicited an amen from me, now it incites a range of emotion.
All of it negative.
Because the vehicle owner has decided that in the exercise of patriotic fervor, there is no C. There is the A of accepting the United States as is where is, giving her a pass for everything from stubborn scar to oozing cancer, and the B of self-deportation. It ignores so much.
It ignores everything.
Imagine if the colonists had taken this advice coming from the loyalists.
Imagine if abolitionists had taken this advice from the rest of the country.
Imagine if women had taken this advice when they didn’t have the vote.
Imagine if the civil rights leaders had taken this advice from sneering white officials.
There is, of course, an Option C the sticker fails to mention.
Celebration of the laudable principles of the Union while identifying and addressing its undeniable ills.
While this is an obvious example, there will be a lot of instances of this dynamic in your life. Someone imploring you to take sides, to adopt a digital stance in a spectral world. They’ll want you to pitch camp with them at the fringes, the outskirts, to adopt a war footing against the other camp on the other side filled with all the others.
Don’t fall for the trap. Don’t let them put blinders on you. Take a look around your periphery and look for Option C.
It almost always exists.
The principle which has thoroughly permeated our politics is quickly saturating everything else: Tribalism. With us or with them. Accept and endorse it all or get out. Take care that you don’t fall for it.
Find the middle, and find your place within it.
You see, the problem with purity tests is that we humans aren’t pure. We’re not possessed of purity in anything. None of us are purely good or evil. Mother Teresa reserved billions of donated dollars for the sake of finding value in the suffering of the poor. Hitler loved his dog and was inconsolable when she died.
Similarly, it’s pretty unlikely that you can be characterized as a “good person” or a “bad person.” You’re a person who makes good and bad decisions, good and bad choices, has good and bad days. You’re simply tasked, in that state of being, with the responsibility of doing the best you can, with what you have, where you are. Whatever else you might be doing, that’s your job today.
And part of that job is to see the world for what it is. Complicated. Messy. Not able to fit into neat categories, much less just two of them. So head on a swivel, friend.
Look for C.