The Case For Ambivalence


“To be, or, not to be, that is the question” mutters Hamlet, the Dark Prince of Denmark.

Shakespeare’s most well known protagonist had some issues to deal with. He did not, however, just jump right into action. We would have had a much shorter play had he done so! No, instead Hamlet rather thoroughly weighed his options.

In modern times, in our country, there seems to be no room for such ambivalence. No, you must be decisively on one side or the other on major issues. More than ever before the right is far right and the left is far left.

Minority Leader of the Senate from Kentucky Mitch McConnell declared, “ The single most important thing that we can achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president.”

President Barack Obama once said, “But I don’t want the fellows who created this mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up this mess.”

Bang the drum slowly for the lost art of compromise. If Darwinian evolution is still occurring future humans will be born without ears because no one is listening anymore. Everything is output nothing is input.

News medias have morphed into propaganda machines which would make the Russian newspaper Pravda seem like a bastion of fair journalism. The acolytes on both sides watch the anointed reinforce their own prejudices 24/7.

Where, oh where, is the soft space for discourse? What happened to “give and take”? Ideologues only “give” instructions and “take” no prisoners. Quiet contemplation has been trumped by hourly soundbites.

We have some truly serious issues facing these United States:

Gun violence vs. gun ownership rights.
Foreign wars vs. isolationism.
Terrorists threats vs. privacy issues.
Economic injustices vs. free markets.
Immigration vs. protectionism.
Most of these issues have leading spokespeople, be they politicians, or media mavens, who loudly, and ceaselessly, tout their positions. On the right you have; O’Reilly, Hannity, Coulter, Cruz. Perry…et al. On the left; Matthews, Reid, Sharpton, Kerry and so on. They are all so very, very certain of their creed that if all were huddled in a room together and told they could not leave before they reached some compromise position they’d all expire in that room from old age.

No one of prominence, in a position of power, is allowed to be ambivalent. To be uncertain is to be weak. A politician who says he need to consider ideas from the other side is castigated. The term “wishy-washy’ is bandied about. “Where are his principals?” former colleagues moan as they distance themselves from someone who wants to take time to deliberately ponder options.

Even as a great nation we’ve rushed into some awful messes in the past four decades; Viet Nam, gasoline shortages, banking and financial institution scandals, deep recessions and Middle East quagmires. Pull the covers back far enough on these, and other, tragic missteps and you’ll discover some were caused by mainly conservative policies and others by mostly liberal thinking. Yet, today there is no room for the middle ground. Rather, we live through sequesters, government shutdowns and doomsday deadlines caused by intransigent polarity of opinions.

I can offer few solutions to this man made dilemma. I do offer some advise. Heed, do not mock, politicians and pundits who take a more cautious, deliberate approach. Allow yourself some ambivalence, some uncertainty. Curiosity dies when rigidity prevails.

I firmly believe the lack of purposeful sharing of ideas is greatly hindering our nation.

But, I could be wrong.

– End –

Jim Raftus is a retired marketing executive who lives in Cumberland.
Contact @

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