IN BETWEEN BLACK and WHITE ARE NOT SHADES of GRAY but COLORS
The presidential election is on the cutting edge of a significant shift in our countries view of internal and external reality. As a practicing psychoanalyst I view reality through the prism of developmental psychology. Much of what charactrizes mental health (or mental illness) is associated with alternative styles of thinking.
These two styles of thinking are black/white - either/or - dichotomous thinking contrasted with complex thinking in colors. Not meaning to be insulting - adolescent thinking is generally black/ white. Mature or adult thinking is complex.
A graphic illustration of these contrasting stles of thinking may be inferred from an article in todays' New York Times called BEYOND ELECTION DAY - by Bob Herbert.
"... The U.S. is ... a country in which blissful ignorance is celebrated, and intellectual excellence (the key to 21st century advancement) is not just given short shrift, but is rediculed. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are cultural icons. The average American watches television a mind-numbing 4 1/2 hours a day.
At the same time, our public school system is plagued with some of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world. Math and science? Forget about it. Too tough for these TV watchers, or too boring, or whatever.
"When I compare our high schools with what I see when I'm traveling abroad," said Bill Gates, "I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow."
The point here is that we approach the end of the first decadde of the 21st century, the United States is in deep, deep trouble. Yetinstead of looking for creative 21st -century solutions to these enormous problems, too many of our so called leaders are behaving like clowns, or worse - spouting garbage in the public sphere that harkens back to the 1940s and 50s.
Thoughtful, well -educated men and women are denounced as elites, and thus the enemies of ordinary Americans. Attempts to restore a semblance of fiscal sanity to a government that has been looted with an efficiency that would have been envied by the mob, are derided as subversive - the work of socialists, Marxists, Communits [and Liberals.]
... Americans have to decide if they want a countrythat tolerates this kind of debased, backward behavior. Or if they want a country that aspires to true greatness - a country that stands for more than the mere rhetoric of equality, opportunity and justice.
That decision will require more than casting a vote in one presidential election. It will require a great deal of reflective thought and hard work by a committed citizenry. The great promise of America hinges on a government that works, openly and honestly, for the borad interests of the American people, as opposed to the narrow benefit of the favored, wealthy few."
Black/white thinking over simplies internal and external reality by assuming that for any issue there exist absolute answers. The problem is that opposing sides believe they are the spokesmen for the abolute answer of the issue of the moment. I am absolutely right, means the other side is absolutely wrong. Such absolutist either/or thinking characterizes the typical 15 year old adolescent. Such adolescent thinking dominates our countries' leadership.
Thinking which views internal and external reality as complex, multi-dimensional is characterized not by either/ or but and taking into account insights by all sides of an issue. In stead of myseide is absolutely right and your side is absolutely wrong (either/or) the formula for decision making becomes my side and your side have value. Let's mix together the best of both or all. Such thinking is characterized by those who are respectful of the complexity of reality hence respectful of alternative points of view. Such relective thinking is characterized by those individuals referred to as adult, objective, experienced, balanced integrated, mature.
If, as I expect, Obama become our leader it will signal a significant shift from adolescent to mature thinking. If I am right then 'reaching across the aisle " will be less a rhetorical flourish than a vital, enriching, necessary shift in attitudes - a win win for every American citizen.