The Need for Nuance
Posted on January 13, 2014

One of the things most missing in the clamor that we call "the voice of the people" is our lack of nuance. I don't know if it is the result of the immediacy of things, of the need to be first with whatever is being trumpeted or a laziness that wishes to investigate no further than the headline, but the voices we hear fail to offer anything but the extremes.

I cannot tell you what brought this to my mind. Perhaps it is the "polar vortex" which will have receded by the time you read this, but which has thrown the weathermen into total frenzy. Rarely have they had anything as dramatic to proclaim to us listeners. "Breaking all records", "never before recorded", "unprecedented" -- the superlatives have been so extreme that I cannot imagine what will happen when we return to good old winter as most of us have known it.

The same lack of nuance is seen elsewhere. Unless something breaks records or offers startling results, it is not worth recording. The poor Knicks are an example. Playing basketball for weeks in a kind of freefall they had publicity that was rarely theirs in a more normal season of some wins and some losses.

This all crossed my mind when I read a column by Gabrielle Giffords, the courageous ex-congress member from Arizona who has become an often ignored voice in the gun control debate. She and her husband are both gun owners, yet as she struggles to overcome the effects of also being a gun victim, their rational voices go unheard in the clamor raised by the NRA.

In the piece I read she speaks of the dreams that were shattered by the gunplay that changed her life, but also of the quiet struggle she undergoes daily to rehab the paralyzed parts of her body. Movingly, she notes that, after three years, she finally has some slight movement in her right arm. She can now send it signals and get a response.

There's a nuance there. It is not full restoration. It is some movement. Gifford speaks of her resolve to apply that same determination to the gun control issue despite the screaming voices of opposition.

She represents a nuance. I thought about her words and then about the use of light and shadow in the art of the great masters. I was encouraged. Our goals are not either/or, but perhaps just smaller steps in the right direction. Let's aim for the nuanced responses rather than the headline-making extremes.


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