Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


“It’s not all binary.”

That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard all day. Or longer.

It was said by one of the other speakers at the Innovation Expo in Napa Valley where I was also a presenter today.

His point: Not everything is yes or no; black or white; Democrat or Republican. Most things — most answers — most choices — lie along a spectrum. Yes sometimes; no other times; sometimes, something in the middle.

The worst thing going on in the country is the binary camps. It’s like we’re all caught in the middle of the Coke vs. Pepsi war we saw twenty years ago, and 7-Up is nowhere to be seen.

It leads to something like this:

I have a friend who is a solid, thoughtful, caring person who also voted for Trump. (As did many of my other friends — and relatives — around the country.) In addition to a lot of other community service this friend does, he’s also part of the ski patrol — you know, those guys who rescue you when you’ve had a bad mishap on the slopes. He’s a life saver. Last month I saw this friend at an event and he was pretty sore because one of his closest friends — a friend whose life, he said, he’d once held in his hands — unfriended him on Facebook because of their differing political views.

That’s pretty bad. I wish it hadn’t happened.

For the record, as you’ve gleaned, I loathe Donald Trump. And it’s not a recent thing — I’ve detested him for 35 years, for reasons that were made abundantly clear throughout last year’s presidential campaign. But people vote for the people they vote for for a variety of reasons, and sometimes that reason is because they’re voting for some of a candidate’s issues (and not others), and sometimes that reason is because they don’t like the other choice, and so they settle. (I didn’t like the person I ultimately felt forced to vote for either.) But I’m doing my best not to lose any friends (or relatives!) because they voted for the other candidate. Even though my fear is that this particular president is a threat to the republic.

Earlier today, in a break between sessions, I got caught up in a Facebook exchange with a friend who lives in Kansas. One of her friends was responding to my friend’s outrage about Kellyanne Conway sitting on her bare feet on a couch in the White House. The exchange got silly in a nasty way, and then this person I don’t know called me out as a “liberal,” which I take it meant pejoratively, and here was my response:

“A couple of misunderstandings on your part that perhaps I can help with. And I’m going to share them with care and respect, because I can see you’re a friend of Jodi’s, and I have to tell you, I love Jodi, and also because I’m doing my best to have respectful conversations with people online. First, the easy part: when you say ‘the liberals lost…’ you are assuming that I’m a liberal. You shouldn’t assume. I’m a common-sense centrist. When I look at what Republicans theoretically represented at one point, most of that would have fit me just fine. Secondly, ‘liberals’ — whomever they are — are not upset because they ‘lost.’ They are upset because they a) don’t like what Trump REPRESENTS (that seems to be: misogyny; racism; authoritarianism; disrespect for the judiciary; mocking the handicapped; and boy could I go on); and b) they are concerned that the election was STOLEN because of Russian interference; and c) they are concerned that Trump is IN THE POCKET of the Russians. So it’s not about losing an ELECTION — we’ve all lost elections — it’s about LOSING THE COUNTRY. That’s why, no matter one’s political inclinations, EVERYONE should seek a full investigation of Russian influence. Because, as Americans, we should all wish for the good of the nation. I wish you a good night.”

Also, in the thread, I agreed with this person that Bill Clinton had disgraced that very same room, the Oval Office, in his dealings with Monica Lewinsky. And, I’ll add, he lied about it under oath.

Not a binary response, for a Democrat.

In the binary-response world, I’d have to stick up for “my” people no matter what, and this other person would have to stick up for his people no matter what.

That’s what we have to get away from.

Because most things in life aren’t binary.

And because facts should matter.

When I was a boy, I kept all the food served to me at dinner nicely isolated in separate areas on my plate, so nothing would touch. I didn’t want the sauce or runnings from one thing seeping into something else. My mother teased me about this once, and I said, “Do you like ketchup?” She assured me that she did. So I said, “Well, you don’t want it in your coffee, do you?” Of course not. So, see: sometimes, in some circumstances, she likes ketchup — but she doesn’t like it in other places.

We all live along a spectrum of choices. At times, even life and death aren’t binary. Medical professionals sometimes debate whether people in certain circumstances on life support are still “alive” or “dead.” As those of us who remember the Terri Schiavo case recall.

Not everything is binary.

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