We Owls sometimes wonder. We can’t tell the difference between good and bad people when we look at you. We can only tell when good people smile and wave at us, or mean people throw rocks our way. This problem of knowing good from bad is common to us all. The difficulty we all have is discernment. We find a point of view we like and stick with it. Like super glue holding us to an anchor, we won’t let go even as we sink. We fling slogans at our rivals like eggs in a hash-house. No one gets any eggs, but plenty of hot hatred remains splattered on the walls. Angers burn, friendships sizzle. Lots of heat, but no light comes about when we’re mad at each other, don’t listen, and don’t want to.
Then a bright spark comes along and says, “Get past the sloganeering. Get to the root of the problem. Talk to each other.” Oh yeah, right, you think? How can I dialogue with evil incarnate? Owls have long known; you can dialogue with anyone if you think. We observe a lot, and that pensive silence causes us to think a lot, too.
First, define the problem. Try any problem, the harder the better, to see if it can be done. abortion Instead of asking if you are for or against, ask why. Why might someone choose abortion? Both sides can ask this non-judgmental question. You begin by seeking common ground, not setting up no-man’s land between trenches for endless conflict.
Why would someone seek an abortion? Anyone can ask this question; it is non-judgmental, and the various responses can explain where answers may be found. The answers might surprise you. If you ask why someone seeks an abortion, and honestly listen to the answers, perhaps a road to resolution may be found.
Or how about this issue. gun control? For or against? No, don’t start by asking this question. That’s just like a referee announcing to those ringside at a boxing match, “In this corner ‘For Gun Control,’ and in that corner, ‘Against.'” Rather, ask why do you want a gun, or not? The answers will find a common point of departure, where solutions can be discussed among people who listen, care about one another, their families, and society.
Secondly, answer any question in concrete, measurable terms. Don’t say, “I support this because God says to.” Trouble comes when the other guy says the same thing. I imagine God won’t be too happy when he meets you at the Pearly Gates. He might ask, “So why did you blame Me for your lack of thinking? I gave you a brain, made clear the law of love, and you didn’t use either. I said ‘Love one another,’ and you wouldn’t even speak to those who disagreed with you.” Maybe we might try, if religious minded or not, asking why our viewpoints differ. We might find that our moral viewpoints differ, but we can find common ground when we learn why they do. My moral point of view might show life begins at conception, yours when a mother’s womb no longer sustains the child, hers when birth occurs. We might find we all hope for a safer, happier world, and could work for it together if we found we had common, basic desires.
No one said freeing the slaves would end the problem of racial prejudice in this country. After the Emancipation Proclamation we still had whole segments of society who despised the former slaves. Some Whites in society blamed the former slaves for their ignorance, lack of ‘civility,’ and alleged shiftlessness; Whites blamed the victim for the crime. These unchallenged assumptions became excuses for treating our fellow, newly liberated Americans horrifically. Setting free those held in bondage was only a start of the solution. Former slaves needed education, and no one wanted to provide it. They needed protection, and they were lynched. They needed the vote, and they were met by Jim Crow. They were “free,” but a new chattel slavery was created through contract-prison labor schemes. The slightest offense by a Black man, real or not, landed him in jail, there to work — for free — for his former bosses. The same with abortion. Why? The birth of a child is a wonderful event. Abandoning this baby afterwards is heartless and cruel. Love of our neighbor must not end after it is easy, and costs us nothing, at the wondrous birth of a child. We must care for children without families to care for them, who are turned loose in a world of paternal addiction and strife, joblessness, and hopelessness. A society which cares for the child after birth, if the mother or family can’t or won’t, is how to show love. This costs. Many, faced with a choice to bring a child into a stone cold, heartless, and cruel world without the hope of support, choose abortion. If they knew there was a society which would welcome their children, help give them proper care, nourishment, and hope, they might not choose abortion.
To know we will now have more children as a result of new abortion guidelines demands a consistent ethic. If we care about lives, then we are obligated to support “unwanted” or impoverished children after their birth. To do so will require government and private institutional assistance, funded child support, and health programs for families or mothers until they can function on their own. If I say no to abortion, I’m not really saying yes to life if I don’t financially support further societal responsibilities for the child once they come into the world. The reason some sought an abortion in the first place was because they felt helpless, alone, and forgotten. These are some aspects of the discussion we should listen to. We need to act like a society, not a swarm of entitled individuals who don’t care for any but “me and mine.”
Life can be a good, happy adventure if we help one another. That’s the kind of life we all want to choose. I’d guess that’s what success looks like.
Lastly, what does success look like? When we can define the answer to this, we know what we are trying to accomplish. Our stating the problem in concrete terms can come to fruition if we know what success looks like when we’ve achieved it. Take was. Wars start because humanity failed in some respect. Greed, self righteousness, racial, and ideological hatreds – even the arrogance of power – cause many wars. It is easy to start a war, very hard to end one. We watch the purgatory of Ukraine because the Russians started it, and now due to their pride don’t know how to stop it. Anyone who honestly stops and seeks root causes of problems can find them. lists. discussion Be honest, and give the benefit of the doubt to those you disagree with and can talk to. Difficulties, be they as tough as abortion, race, and war, can be mellowed, solutions found. When we understand that we are one family of humanity and we belong to one another, we’ll go the extra mile to assure peace prevails while we seek a better way. No matter our beliefs, or faith, we know that we can’t take too much time to make our world safe, healthy, and free from fear. Too many make bad choices when any of these are lacking. We need to be the one who says, “Why are we doing this?”
John William Davis is a retired US Army counterintelligence officer, civil servant and linguist. He was commissioned from Washington University in St. Louis in 1975. He entered counterintelligence and served some 37 years. A linguist, Davis learned foreign languages in each country in which he served. His published works include “Rainy Street Stories: Reflections on Secret Wars, Terrorism and Espionage” and “Around the Corner: Reflections on American Wars, Violence, Terrorism and Hope.”