Is there room for a difference?
By Joseph Ellis
“If people really thought about it they would see that I am right.”
There is a prevalent idea that if people thought about something logically, used just a little common sense, they would come to the same conclusions we hold. After all, we like to think of problems, issues, and beliefs in terms of elementary math: there is only one right answer. The sky is blue, the earth rotates around the sun, and fairy tales aren’t true. Conservatives and Liberals often make these arguments about each other, but we apply these kinds of arguments to many aspects of society.
This, however, is flawed thinking much of the time. Even in math there are problems that remain unsolved, and problems we don’t yet know exist; and in science, there are competing theories that try to explain the same phenomenon. This is often the case for social problems as well. Try as we may, there isn’t necessarily a right choice when it comes to politics, government, beliefs, and action. We like to think history and/or common sense supports our position, but history is often ambiguous and the complexities make contemporary application difficult; and common sense, well agreement on what that is still proves elusive.
Nevertheless, the temptation is to assume our beliefs are correct, and, thus, our positions are the logical choice and no one should ever think otherwise. While it would be nice, this simply is not true; and just because someone is conservative or liberal, pro-choice or pro-life, republican or democrate, religious or agnostic, does not make our opinions right and another’s wrong. It simply means we disagree.