Some people simply do not do nuance. Everything is black and white, plain and simple, clear cut. There is nothing to be read between the lines, the substance of an argument or the context of an answer. They seem to hear what they want to hear, or what they don’t want to hear, regardless of the varying shades in expression.

I was reminded of this today by the senate committee’s meeting with Secretary of Defense designate Robert Gates. When Sen. Carl Levin asked Gates if we were winning the war in Iraq he answered, “No, sir.” When this answer was spun out by the critics of the president by 5 p.m. today it sounded as if Gates was an avowed enemy of Bush’s recent policies and positive comments on Iraq. If you think about this it is pretty stupid to make such an assumption since Bush put Gates forward for confirmation and clearly trusts him. What followed Levin’s question, and Gates’ response, was a whole series of other issues and comments that quite clearly reflected more deeply upon the way to rightly understand short answer. The press, and some senators, seem to have closed their ears to everything else Gates said in this testimony. They so much want to find new ways to oppose Bush they cannot listen to what even his friends are really saying any longer.

What strikes me here is the complete inability of so many in our culture to factor any kind of nuance into what people say and how they actually say it. By nuance I refer to “shades of meaning, feeling, opinion or color.” If esteemed senators can not, or do not, do nuance anymore what is to become of our larger culture?

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  1. A. B. Caneday December 6, 2006 at 7:31 am

    Indeed, nuance is lost on most people today. All things seem to be viewed as black or white. An all or nothing mentality seems to dominate.
    Another element that seems to dominate public discourse is hyperbole. Everybody exaggerates everything.

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