Looking Past the Panes

It may seem that I am oblivious to the election and its slow progress, but the opposite is true; I watch the updates continually. People’s thoughts do not always duplicate their speech. I don’t get involved with political posts, as I see little point. I do discuss the elections with my students, who take great interest in what is happening.

Some people are dismayed and bewildered by the lack of a Biden landslide. I voted for Biden but am not at all surprised by the closeness of the race. The problem is not that half the country has cast a vote for hate (and the other half, implicitly, for love). Hate exists, in different forms, on the right and the left. Yes, Trump spews a lot of hateful words, which in turn incite and abet some extremist groups, but many who vote for him are not extremist, white supremacist, or anything of the sort. They simply distrust liberals and believe a Republican will do more for the economy.

I have always voted Democrat. But looking back, I am embarrassed that I took part (even quietly) in the derision that was heaped on any Republican candidate or president. At the time, I thought Reagan was awful, George W. Bush was awful–and now, compared to Trump, they seem decent and principled. I now have no use for deploring the other side except when the specifics demand it. In no way do I consider my own views impeccable. I am long done with scoffing at those who disagree with me.

Most of us, if we look hard enough, find issues we are ambivalent about. Abortion? I am neither an opponent nor a supporter. I would not want an abortion. If, in my youth, I had become pregnant by accident, I would have wanted to have the baby, except maybe in an extreme situation where my own life was threatened. But I do not feel that I have the knowledge or authority to deny a safe abortion to others, given that abortions will occur no matter what. I do believe that there should be stronger alternatives to and deterrents of abortion: education, contraception, a more accessible adoption system, stronger support for mothers. Abortion should not be treated as something you can “always” do. But if a woman is going to have one, better for her to have it safely and legally (and as early as possible in the pregnancy).

Ambivalence is often regarded as a weakness, but it is not. Here in Hungary I find that my students see things from more than one side. Many of them dislike debates (which are part of the school-leaving language exam, and therefore required), because it seems artificial to them to take one side or the other. To me, this is encouraging. For the sake of rhetoric and clarity, it is good to learn how to argue a position and respond to counterarguments. But for the sake of life, it helps to say, at times, “You are right.” Not all the time. But when it is true, yes.

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