Both Sides Now

I’ve looked at love from both sides now, from win and lose and still somehow … it’s loves illusions I recall.  I really don’t know love at all – Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now

both sidesThis post isn’t about music … or about amazing songwriters (a category in which Joni Mitchell is, in my opinion, near the top).  It is about having an informed opinion in this sound-bite, get-your-information-on-Facebook and sound-off-on-Twitter world in which we find ourselves.  But Both Sides Now is a perfect title for this post … and if I’m going to borrow from Joni, I thought it was only fair to pay homage to one of her loveliest lyrics.  But it also gives me an opportunity to make a point on opinions.  No matter how much I opine on Joni’s prowess as a singer-songwriter, if you don’t like her sometimes warbley singing style or quirky phrasing, you’re not going to like her as a performer.   I get that and you get that.  We just say, We like different things.

I’ve been following the reactions to the recent ruling by the Supreme Court in favor of Hobby Lobby and two other closely-held companies.  The reaction ofhobby news media outlets is predictable.  It is, in my opinion, an indictment of our media that I know what each outlet will say on the topic before I go to their website.  Fox news will say it’s a triumph for religious freedom … CNN will say it’s a blow against women’s rights.  Long ago, I realized if I wanted the Fair and Balanced view Fox News promises, I needed to read several news sources … or look to a site like Real Clear Politics which publishes views from Both Sides.  Unfortunately, the reaction on Facebook and Twitter has been just as predictable and I find it much more depressing that as individuals, we seem to have given up on seeing Both Sides of an issue.  If you are my age, I suspect at some point during your education, you were required to debate a subject from a point of view with which you disagreed.  The object of the lesson, of course, wasn’t to change your mind but to teach you critical thinking, a lesson that seems to have been lost, at least based on what I see on social media.  No one is saying, We like different things.

We are each born with a trait known as confirmation bias, a tendency to look for evidence that supports what we believe to be true, or, to put it another way, evidence in support of our opinions.  Whether this was a dubious gift from the Creator or an odd product of evolution, it means that we need to go against our basic instincts to have an informed opinion.  I can see that not paying for birth control pills while paying for Viagra is a small move away from the right of a woman to choose, just as outlawing AK-47s is a small move toward outlawing guns entirely.  But it’s a very small move since it only involves insurance provided by several companies.  I also see religious (and non-religious) freedom as one of the cornerstones of this country, and chafe at the thought of laws that require one to violate their own beliefs.  In spite of seeing Both Sides of the subject, I have an opinion … I’m just less inclined to go on a Crusade on its behalf.   I believe in capital punishment but the contradiction of killing someone for the crime of killing someone isn’t lost on me.  No one ever said, Freedom is Easy (Well, Janis Joplin said, Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, but look how she ended up).  There are issues in which all is opinion … Joni Mitchell’s singing, for example.  Then there are facts … if you jump off a fifty story building, you will die, regardless of your opinion.  But for most things, there are facts and opinions.  Overcoming our confirmation bias by looking at facts that soften our opinions makes us better people and better citizens.  Don’t be afraid, people. Look at Both Sides Now.

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2 Comments on “Both Sides Now”

  1. jenihill Says:

    Agree completely with your words today!

  2. territerri Says:

    You make a good point – to be as correctly informed as possible before forming an opinion. It is definitely hard work to be well informed these days. Places like Facebook and Twitter blur all the lines!


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