“Maybe there’s a God above, but all I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya. It’s not a cry you can hear at night, it’s not somebody who has seen the light, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!”
Leonard Cohen bemoaned the bitterness of love. Or at least that’s how crooners and Hallelujah devotees (with broken hearts) interpret his Biblical-laden lyrics. To hear Cohen, himself, however, define his ballad-tome, it is something a little different. It is about the conflict between things that can be “reconciled but not where we live.”
In a radio interview Cohen said, “This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that is what I mean by Hallelujah.”
That fits nicely into my own view of a duality that exists in our individual core. Our struggle with our own personal division creates stories, songs, poems, plays, and proverbs to give the inner conflict counsel. Often we summarize our internal separation with a dismissive, “There are two sides to every story” and we wrap our fight with a nice ribbon to get us off the hook when we reach loggerheads.
Its kind of like saying, “We’ll agree to disagree” when we argue in a marriage. But, I’ve noticed that often when couples adopt that sensible compromise to diffuse marital discord, someone has already filed.
Are there two sides? It certainly doesn’t appear in our political discourse that the “two sides” believe that there actually are “two sides.” It seems that solutions and policy directions are one way only and can give no quarter to the other because views are often less about being correct than they are about making it clear that the other side is consistently wrong.
What the phrase means is that there are valid reasons for holding opposing views. What that means is that we must demand that our disagreements are researched with an appreciation for the plausibility of the other. What can be discovered is that there is an ethical path even for diametrically opposing views.
For example, take the ultimate disparity in ethical philosophy that is called “war.” Certainly, there is a strong moral position behind wanting to end any war as it is rooted in the inarguable position that war inevitably ends lives and lives are what we cherish. But, on the other side of that ethical fulcrum is the view that war can be justified to save lives; the eradication of those who would take lives will, in fact, save more.
While there was pacifist (and isolationist) opposition to entering the European theater to fight the Nazis in 1941, it was diminished by the roar of nationalism that followed the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. Saving Europe, and ultimately ourselves, from a global fascist revolution was now morally justifiable.
That was also the justification used to end World War II when the atomic (and then hydrogen) bomb was dropped on civilian-populated cities in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were lost when that nuclear gauntlet was thrown down, but it ended the war.
You can choose whatever side of that ethical debate that you want and feel morally secure, but there is no question that it can be debated.
What it comes down to are “valid” reasons for our views; reasons that have justifications created from analysis, that bear historical relevance, and contain insight and vision. Specifically it means that a good argument must contain premises from which the conclusion may logically be derived. Yet from where I sit I see the stalemate that keeps us from “transcending the duality” in today’s political divide as the result of one side being solely devoted to destroying the objectives and policy of the other without respect for critical thinking.
I don’t gain favor from those who generally disagree with me by using Paul Krugman as a resource, but this article conveys an even handedness regarding the disconnect that I speak of: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/opinion/krugman-the-ignorance-caucus.html?_r=0
While that “other” side (the left to abrogate any misunderstanding) has, within its core philosophical directive, a commitment to discovery in order to find more relevant and useful solutions, that obligation creates disharmony in order to gain perspective. It also gives the side that does not require such validation all the justification it needs to cement it’s resolve to obstruct.
But…there are two sides to every story, right? You can decide which side of the story is yours.