Recently in Wake County, a republican majority was elected on a plank of wanting to eliminate the bussing programs that helped ensure diverse student populations. This post will not be about that subject. Instead, it's going to be about a discussion I've been following on a local atheist meetup board where the bussing policy is being hotly debated.
Most people probably assume atheists are usually liberal democrats. After all, we are the targets of venom and scorn from the religious right republicans. But, in practice, I find that the atheists I know inhabit a fairly broad political spectrum. While you don't find social conservatives among them, you do find fiscal conservatives and hard core libertarians who oppose most liberal policies. So, while an actual republican among atheists is a rare thing, about half of the atheists taking a position on bussing are supporting republican goals to eliminate it, while the other half is jumping in to make the case that bussing is good for everyone.
Again, this post isn't about the pros and cons of bussing. Instead, reading the thread, it became pretty obvious to me that both sides were absolutely right. Both sides, as befits atheists, are being logical. Both sides are bringing facts to the table. In a simple world, one side would be right and one side would be wrong. But, we happen to live in a world in which two completely contradictory positions can be right.
Bussing probably does help some children, and probably does harm others. Environmental regulations no doubt do some good while having other, unintended harmful consequences. A war might save some lives at the expense of others. Not going to war might save some lives and twenty years down the road lead to nightmarish consequences.
James Carville, democratic strategist, wrote a book called "We're Right, They're Wrong." You can put these words into the mouths of almost any prominent political pundit. It would seem that, in a world of logic and facts, you could arrive at a single truth. Legal abortion is good for the world, or bad for it. A heavily armed populace is a good thing, or a bad thing. Social safety nets like Medicare help the world, or they harm it.
Our politics are binary. On/off. Black/white. Right/Left. Good/evil.
Reality is so much more complicated. Observing the debate on bussing, I'm left with a feeling of despair that the world is ever going to solve it's problems. If there is no clear right or wrong to move toward, must we forever squabble and move about randomly?
But, of course, perhaps all I need to feel better is to adopt the right metaphor. You need these truthful, real, opposing forces to accomplish things in the world. You have a left hand and a right hand. If you are going to pick up a heavy rock, they will cooperate by acting in opposition to one another to clamp down on the rock so it can be lifted. Maybe that's how the world's rocks eventually get moved as well.