Forum: Nuanced thinking is helpful, when applied to all issues

Our problem isn’t in recognizing an issue’s complexity but in seeing the bias in our own ‘movie’s script.’

Dan Hazen

Dan Hazen

By Dan Hazen / Herald Forum

A recent Adam Zyglis political cartoon (published Nov. 17 in The Herald) showed the words, “Calling for Israel to stop killing civilians — without being antisemitic,” was illustrated by a thread going through the eye of a needle; the metaphor being: nuanced thinking is required about the war in Israel. I agree.

What surprises me is the selectivity with which nuanced thinking is employed. Not to “bury the lede,” as they say, I’ll make my point: We demand nuanced thinking when we are under scrutiny but reject it when scrutinizing others.

My children have never been beaten, dragged away by the hair, and held hostage under threat of beheading, so I’m reluctant to be too judgmental about the Israeli response, but I think it’s possible to insist that Israel cease fire without being considered an antisemite. It may not be realistic or wise, but that doesn’t make someone a racist for suggesting it. A generous interpretation of Mr. Zyglis’ motive suggests that he’s simply concerned by the deaths of innocent people and the destruction of communities on each side.

Hard for a reasonable person to argue with that. Oh, but we will. The mere fact that such a cartoon was produced spotlights the fact that we will jump down the throat of anyone we have judged guilty of some ideological sin.

For example, is it possible to employ nuanced thinking about parents who wish to limit their children’s exposure to certain content? Is it possible to insist that race, gender and sexuality be left to families to teach without being labeled racist or “transphobic”?

The irony is that, after an admittedly brief review of some of Zyglis’ other work, one panel stood out. It was the image of an elephant (Republicans) styling the hair of several dim-faced, white children into the shape of words like “hate” and “bigotry” with a sign above which read, “Groomer.” It seems Zyglis’ nuanced thinking does not extend to this issue. Why? I suspect it has to do with how he (like all of us) tends to see himself: special. He engages in nuanced thought, but it may not occur to him that others do as well.

We 21st century westerners are the stars of our own movies. The other 8 billion people are just extras, crew and supporting cast. So, it rarely occurs to us that the guy on the other side of the argument might not be the villain or the plucky-comic-relief in our movie, but instead, might be the star of his own, filled with hardship, complexity and … nuance. To do so would be to move the plot line away from me and point the camera elsewhere. Literally unthinkable.

Another example: Is it possible for me to insist that there are systems that favor men and light-skinned people; systems that consolidate wealth for a few and lead to climate change, without being labeled a Marxist? Well, not if I’m just and extra in your MAGA-produced movie. I would now be cast as “Lib-Tard #4” and I better stick to the script.

But what if I also insist that most diversity, equity and inclusion tax reforms and carbon-trade schemes being deployed are equally unjust, ineffective and making things worse? Suddenly, I’m wearing a Nazi uniform in all “WOKE Studios” productions. What are you going to do with me now?

Fred Rogers’ mother told him to “look for the helpers,” advice he passed along to the children who watched “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Well, helpers are capable of nuanced thought. They are also rare, and so tend to “shine out the clearer.” You will find them where you least expect. Follow that light.

Dan Hazen is the community pastor at Allen Creek Community Church in Marysville.

Herald Forum

The Herald Forum invites community members to submit essays on topics of importance and interest to them. Essays typically are between 400 and 600 words in length, although exceptions for longer pieces can be made. To submit essays or for more information about the Herald Forum, write Herald Opinion editor Jon Bauer at or call him at 425-339-3466.

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