1’s and 0’s


Truth has many shades. It’s not a matter of black and white, but gray.
Although many, we are one, so in the final analysis could it be that we are fighting a war that can’t be won?

These words, uttered by the iconic voice of Morgan Freeman in the rap song “Bombs Away” (language warning for the kids out there), identify an optimistic-yet-realistic outlook on the tragedies and events that have been hitting headlines lately. Brexit, Dallas, Religion, Baton Rouge, Sudan, Hillary Clinton’s missing emails and Donald Trump’s missing political experience — no matter where we look we can find an issue that has enormous groups of people at odds in such a manner you might believe the fate of the universe depended upon its outcome. If you watch the news it seems like every corner of the world has an “If you’re not with us you’re against us” mentality. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t so simple.

The world is not black or white. It is not this or that. Our stances on issues political and otherwise are not derived from a simple switch that is either “on” or “off” — I would know. I have a degree and work in the field of computer science; it is perhaps one of the only disciplines in our world which truly operates in black and white. Everything within modern computing exists in a world where any given bit of data is either a “zero” or a “one.” Everything. It’s all composed of nothing but individual ones and zeros. Even the most complex systems are constructed of a binary alphabet consisting of two letters, or in this case numbers. When you look at a computer program, a digital television broadcast, or the digits on your watch, you might not see the ones and zeros even though they are there. But why do we insist on putting ones and zeros on aspects of life that are not binary?

When tragedy strikes we can be pressured to respond in ways which exacerbate problems, even if the solution feels satisfying in the moment. We attempt teaching this to children at an early age. When we tell little Billy he can’t have any ice cream unless he says “please,” he will either throw a temper tantrum or he will say the magic word. This is a landmark moment of maturity for the child. When he realizes that the future of the world does not fall upon him getting that ice cream the instant he wants it, he is able to step back and analyze his situation more clearly. He is able to make an intelligent choice that allows him to compromise. He gets his ice cream and his guardian gets him to practice some good manners. In that moment it is no longer little Billy against the world.

This is where we stand right now. A nation, more than 200 years old, has a society yet in its infancy. Whether or not this society matures will largely depend on its ability to break this addiction of creating dichotomies where they do not exist. When a citizen is wrongfully murdered by a police officer, must our response be us versus them? When a presidential candidate lays out a strategy, must the reaction be blind approval or disapproval based on our party affiliations? Is it not possible that the solution for an issue like gun violence lies in neither arming babies as they’re born nor melting down all our guns into participation trophies?

I say the answer is yes. The answer is not either black or white. It’s somewhere in the gray. As long as we continue polarizing ourselves into camps of either “this” or “that” we’re not likely to spot the problem accurately…and if we can’t spot the problem, how can we ever hope to fix it?


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