American Dichotomies

Whether we’re dealing with congressional politics, religious diversity, or moral issues, it seems we end up in a morass so sludge-filled with sodden thinking that we make no progress. We slog along with phrases like “reach across the aisle,” or “your truth is not my truth,” or the always contextless  “judge not that you be not judged.” No clear, fact-based, well-documented dichotomy allowed. You remember the media pounding on Bush 43 for his famous, “You are either with us or you’re against us.” That kind of clarity is now considered idiocy.

The left is assaulting the simplicity of essential dichotomies. These irreconcilable differences -- good versus evil, man versus woman, truth versus lie, love versus hate, justice versus partiality, citizen versus alien, Democrat versus Republican -- are binary arrangements as essential to the function of human society as 1s and 0s are to the operation of your computer.

The reason for this attack is easy to discern. Go back to the precepts celebrated by the Frankfurt School in the 20s and 30s. This “school” – an academic coterie aimed at figuring out how to apply the “lofty” ideas of Marx and Engels –- recognized from the get-go that clear, rational, informed thinking was enemy #1.

If an idea is so rotten it can only bear bad fruit, the only way to sell it is to convince the buyer that putrefaction isn’t decay, that poison isn’t toxic, that stealing isn’t crime. Blur the edges of reality, call into doubt all foundational concepts, and their ramparts of strong logic and overwhelming evidence will collapse.

Why would anyone want to make society collapse? To gain control. It’s easier to steal a car that’s out of gas and missing a driver than it is to grab one whooshing down the freeway. It’s true that humans have a fairly high chaos tolerance (look at the LA freeways) but we have our limits and if things get too nutty, too packed with pandemonium, too dangerous, historically we’ve always opted for tyranny over turmoil.

This mushing of polar opposites into one unpalatable, indigestible whole keeps outrage at bay, stymies discussion, and freezes all resistance. Like Han Solo frozen solid by Jabba the Hut, the average, unindoctrinated person feels incapable not only of action, but of even thinking about the confusion. Intuitively we know that wrong is the opposite of right, but the diehard progressive simply shuts the doors of his eyes and ears and smiles condescendingly. How quaint that we think in “false dichotomies.” How parochial to assume that a person must be either a man or a woman. How cute that we see murder as absolutely wrong, or genocide as absolutely evil, or abortion as the gruesome death of a defenseless innocent. How antiquated and unsophisticated to pay any attention to the Bill of Rights. How charming to expect our borders to function as borders. How picturesque of us to view marriage in such limited ways. How simple of you to want clarity.

Our society, now largely controlled by the progressive mentality, pulls up its skirts and tiptoes past all age-old, fundamental contrasts, because they serve as measuring sticks, as ways to catch them lying, as ways to forcefully argue against them. And no wonder; the temptation to deal with reality this way is as old as Eden.

Ever since the beginning of the human race we have been faced with black and white choices: eat of the tree or don’t, worship God the way He demands, or don’t, kill your brother, or don’t. There has never been a neutral; we can go forward or backward, but if we shift into neutral, we can go nowhere. 

And that is what happened in our schools. Allan Bloom in his book The Closing of the American Mind discusses the fact that when we try to accept all points of view, legitimatize all cultures, we steal from our young people not only their natural tendency for outrage, but all interest as well. If it’s not wrong that the Eskimos put their elderly out on an ice flow to drift away and freeze to death, then why is it interesting? Why should we care?

If moral judgments can be made about a culture, then our input is needed and the reason to learn is obvious. If those judgments don’t exist, then other viewpoints are just other and don’t involve us at all. In this way curiosity can be dampened and children taught not to think or discern moral disparities. Muddle, muddle, muddle. No thought, no outrage, no outrage, no action.

But isn’t Baltimore being torn apart by rioting black people? Didn’t Ferguson erupt last fall? Seems there’s plenty of outrage -– yes, but it is phony, orchestrated mindless fury, not based on fact, not based on a firm moral foundation. The rioters are not interested in what actually happened in these incidences; they don’t want legal justice to prevail. They behave and speak like programmed robots that can be wound up and sent in to a town to wreak havoc. A true outrage would not vandalize the very people on whose behalf one is demonstrating. These people know nothing and think nothing and have no moral boundaries. Nothing for them is either right or wrong. The only dichotomy they recognize is black verses white, and that, more than any other, is a false dichotomy, one that needs destruction.

The demolition of the man/woman dichotomy is also a disaster. Why the push for transgender bathrooms? Why does Facebook list over 50 choices for gender on its profile page? Why the push for same-sex marriage? It’s all to blur another line. We can’t think, we can’t even speak clearly, since our language is geared to a man-woman dichotomy, without recognizing that difference.

Let’s say you are at a party and you see a couple dancing romantically. This couple is made up of a woman who used to be a man and another man you know to be gay. How are we supposed to understand such a relationship? The two dance for a spell and then another person taps in and now there are three of them dancing. The third seems to be androgynous. Muddle muddle. And, for the progressive, this is a two-for; he can destroy that age-old male/female distinction and kill the family as well. Can you imagine that threesome raising children?

Family is the first us-verses-them dichotomy; it is the most important defense mechanism man has. As the buffalo herds would form “fairy rings” around the calves when they felt threatened, so the family protects its young and therefore protects the entire human race from extinction. As families die out around the world, so does procreation, and when we quit reproducing, well...

The same effect happens with the smudging of our borders. The nation is also a unit of self-defense -- if one country grows out of line, then other nations – determined by clear borders -- can whipsaw them back into place. If European borders had been indistinct when Hitler began rumbling his tanks through Poland how would anyone have stopped him?  In the case of our southern border, the destruction of it has not only created hopeless social and financial chaos, but will serve to bolster the sagging U.S. birthrate and do so with fools who will vote progressive. Talk about twofers.

We aren’t even supposed to see a dichotomy between Christianity and Islam even though one teaches grace and redemption and the other carnage and slavery. Our president refuses, in spite of the evidence, to admit the evil that is Islam, preferring to further muddy the waters by castigating Christians.

How are we to pull out of this swampy thinking? How will we return to the clarity of our cultural dichotomies? Those of us who still see distinctions must speak, write, rattle cages; we must fight. After all, you are either for freedom or against it. 

Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. She teaches writing, logic, and literature. She can be contacted at

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