Monday, January 22, 2007

Assault & Social Politics

An incident happened today at work that made me think. In the middle of my class, one of the kids had a disagreement with another adult in the class. Within about two minutes it went from the kid asking to go use the restroom to the kid literally attacking the adult, tackling her on top of two other students. Thirty minutes later, five other adults finally got the kid to let go of the adult's hair and escorted her out of the room. As I drove home, I reflected on what had happened. Two themes kept recurring:
  1. Personal responsibility. What a poorly behaved kid! She needs to learn how to control those emotions! There is no excuse for that kind of behavior!
  2. Empathy. How sad! What combination of horrible events could have happened in that kid's life to prompt such reactions to things? What could have happened to make someone so fragile that a denied trip to the bathroom is enough to break him/her?
I think there's some truth in each of these ways of looking at an event like this one.

As I continued to let my mind wander about these things, my thoughts shifted to politics. Don't these two views typify the conflict between conservatives and liberals in politics? While conservatives typically emphasize the personal responsibility line of thought, liberals tend to view societal issues empathetically. That's why, when talking about the poor and disadvantaged, conservatives tend to encourage them to pick themselves up by their boot straps while liberals typically look for problems within society that explain why these individuals are disadvantaged.

Maybe that's why they can't ever agree. Because, like my experience at work today, the truth upon which social policy should be based is not found in either viewpoint alone. To borrow from Rich Atchley, this is a both/and issue, not an either/or one.

Truth is often found in the joining of ideas rather than in their division. The failure of modern politics to realize this is a big part of why I find myself increasingly jaded about modern politics.
That reminds me, I got my DVDs of Rick Atchley's "The Both/And Church" in the mail today! I look forward to viewing them again. If anyone wants to borrow them, let me know.


Scott said...

Great thoughts.

Dana said...

I have those same thoughts everyday! I think I have your student's siblings in my class! It is a cross between wanting to pull your hair out and just grabbing them in the biggest bear hug you can muster. Talk about torn!