Both Sides, Now

by Peter Saint-Andre


You hear it all the time: "this is a topic that both sides can agree on" ... "both sides are to blame for this mess" ... "she is one of those rare people who appeals to both sides" ... and so on.


The first mistake we make is in thinking that there are only two perspectives, two outlooks, two worldviews, two groups.

For example, recently while visiting some relatives of mine in Canada I glanced at a book by Canadian journalist Stephen Marche entitled The Next Civil War, which seems to be based on the assumption that there are two sides arrayed against each other ready to go to war (!) over the future of America.


This kind of simplistic sensationalism makes good copy and no doubt sells books, but it's false to the much more complicated realities of life. Even in the relatively benighted realm of politics (which I attempt to studiously avoid), folks like the Pew Research Center (see their political typology report) recognize that there are more than two affiliations in America. For myself, I count economic conservatives, social conservatives, populists, centrists, liberals, progressives, Greens, socialists, libertarians, and probably a few others. (For a deep analysis of the four founding cultures in America, read Albion's Seed by historian David Hackett Fischer.)

To go even further, looking at the world in terms of isms is itself a simplification, because when you start talking about particular issues (say, strategies to address homelessness or proposed zoning changes in your locality) things can get nuanced rather quickly and it's not necessarily easy to predict where actual people will come down on such issues.

Recall the old joke: "There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't." You can be part of the solution by going beyond binary and recognizing that there are multiple perspectives out there, not just two.

P.S. Musically attuned readers will have already recognized that the title of this post refers to the great Joni Mitchell song "Both Sides, Now" (which was featured in last year's delightfully predictable yet heartwarming movie CODA).

(Cross-posted at


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal