Life is complex.

During the legal struggles over baby Charlie, I heard an English conservative journalist condemn American conservative journalists. She said that our conservative press was totally ignoring the facts of the case and just using the most superficial elements as an occasion to lash out against socialized medicine. Well excuse me, when you care more about your position than about how you treat evidence and inference, that is what happens. I'll bet on many other issues that were not as close to her, the British journalist operated in exactly the same way.

Life is complex. To make sense of an issue, you have to look at a lot of evidence and closely monitor your ladder of inference. Here's another example. I have always been an admirer of Robert E. Lee. He had a tough choice to make, whether to stay with his country or stay true to his state. He decided differently than I would, but he lived in different time than I. Other than fighting for the wrong side, he was a great general, a great leader, and a great and compassionate man.

But the alt right has taken away all that complexity. You cannot support the man anymore because he is  no longer a man, he is a symbol of white supremacy. We cannot look at the complex issues of the Civil War and wrestle with the best way to learn the lessons it has to teach us. Anything less than total destruction of all things Confederate is a victory for hate and intolerance.

And I am guilty, too. Swept along by the prevailing approach of all-or-nothing and my opposition to gender-based violence and sexual assault and harassment, I stopped even telling Bill Cosby jokes or reciting the Cosby routines I learned by heart as a teenager. But yesterday, when I heard of the death of Dick Gregory, I remembered something Gregory said at a Bill Cosby tribute before the allegations of sexual misconduct came out. Gregory said, "Before Bill Cosby, I was 'black comedian Dick Gregory.' After Bill Cosby I was 'comedian Dick Gregory.'" He wasn't all bad.

Life is complex.


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