The United States of Both/And

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

A friend recently shared some internet wisdom, credited to "author unknown," and introduced it with the simple comment: "Don't hear this point of view much, but I think it has great merit." I agree.

As our country prepares to celebrate its 242nd birthday, here is author-unknown's list which suggests a pathway to make the United States of America united again:

For all of you who aren't sure,

It is possible to be gay and Christian.

It's also possible to believe in God and science.

It is possible to be pro-choice and anti-abortion.

It is equally possible to be a feminist and love and respect men.

It's possible to have privilege and be discriminated against.

It is possible to be poor and have a rich life.

It is possible to believe in sensible gun control legislation and still believe in one's right to defend one's self, family, and property.

It's possible to be anti-war and pro-military.

It is possible to love thy neighbor and despise his actions.

It is possible to advocate Black Lives Matter and still be pro-police.

It is possible to be Muslim and also suffer at the hands of terrorists.

It is possible to be a non-American fighting for the American dream.

It is possible to be different and the same.

We are all walking contradictions of what "normal" looks like.

Let humanity and love win.


For those of us currently dwelling in the Divided States of America — and that would be all of us — this list describes what is known as a "both/and" approach to life, as opposed to the currently more dominant "either/or" approach.

The issues we disagree about are exacerbated by the either/or approach. Either you're for us or you're against us. The wider the divide, the less goodwill we feel toward those who disagree with us. "Us against Them" has become a toxic disease. To cure the "against," we need to expand the concept of "us" and reduce the notion of "them." 

Both/and people are inclusive whereas either/or people are exclusive. The more inclusive we are, the healthier. The either/ors focus on how we're more different than alike. Both/ands highlight how we're more alike than different. 

But even our alikeness can be different. We all love our country, for instance, but we love it in such different ways that it doesn't look like love to the other side.

Here are a few more items I would add to author-unknown's list:


It is possible to love your country and to criticize it.

It's also possible to love your country and not criticize it.

It's possible to be an NRA member and support sensible gun regulation.

It is possible to be a man and also a feminist.

It is possible to be a White Sox fan and root for the Cubs. (And vice versa)

It is possible to be tolerant and also be intolerant of intolerance.

It's possible to be conservative and wrong and to be liberal and correct. (And vice versa)

It is possible to have strong convictions and occasionally change your mind.

It's possible to be progressive and sometimes conservative. (And vice versa).

It is possible to be a Republican and vote for a Democrat when our country is in trouble.

It's also possible to be a Democrat and vote for a Republican when it's best for our country.

It's possible to believe in government and advocate for making it more effective.

It is possible to be a loyal Catholic and support women's ordination.

It is possible to be pro-family and hold a non-traditional view of what family means.

It is possible to proudly sing the National Anthem and support those who take a knee.

It's possible to be an environmentalist and support economic development.

It's also possible to be rich and support narrowing the gap between rich and poor.

It is possible to be concerned about immigration and still demand humanitarian treatment for all immigrants.

Most of us are not just one or the other and we resent being pegged that way. It just feeds the divide. Define others as you wish to be defined yourself.

We're not either/or. 

We're both/and.

Someday maybe we'll become the United States of Both/And.


Reader Comments

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 8th, 2018 6:16 PM

"It is possible to be a Republican and vote for a Democrat when our country is in trouble." It is also possible to be a Democrat and vote for the Republican when it is best for our country." Trouble and best, interesting variation wordage of two statements.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: June 28th, 2018 3:51 PM

Parabellum?"Latin for "prepare for war," from the phrase, Si vis pacem, para bellum, meaning "If you want peace, prepare for war" Just thought this was relevant!

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