Everything should be made as simple as possible … but not simpler.
Simple style is like white light. It is complex, but its complexity is not obvious.
All political movements are like this — we are in the right, everyone else is in the wrong. The people on our own side who disagree with us are heretics, and they start becoming enemies. With it comes an absolute conviction of your own moral superiority. There’s oversimplification in everything, and a terror of flexibility.
One of the great detriments to our society is our tendency to over-simplify… well… everything. It’s an understandable tendency, as simplicity is nice and easy. When there’s a clear-cut right and wrong, you can be sure about something, and it feels good to be sure about something.
Simple is not always wrong, of course. Some things are quite simple, and on those issues there tends to be very little diversity of opinion. For instance, on the subject of murder, you would be hard pressed to find many who would consider it a moral good. But, when you loosen it up a bit, diversity of opinion, and thereby complexity, will become manifest. What about, not murder, but killing in self-defense? In defense of others? In war? As punishment for murder? There are many arguments for and against each of these. Even with simple beginnings, complexity will arise.
In the current American political arena, I see the oversimplification of ideas on a nigh constant basis. Presently, I mostly see it on the left, but, to be sure, the right has done so in the past, they will likely do so in the future, and there is probably some issue on which they are doing so now.
The most prominent example of political simplification that I can think of is the issue of illegal immigration, specifically as it relates to Donald Trump. Ask a leftist why Trump wants to build a wall, and their answer should be obvious to you by now…. “Well, because he is a racist, of course.” Ah, the height of oversimplification.
Now, I can’t prove that Trump isn’t a racist, though I would assert the burden of proof is on the person claiming that he is, but even if he were, this argument is a bit of a non sequitur. There is no doubt that America has an immigration problem, and it needs to be resolved. Will building a wall solve our immigration problem? No. That would be an oversimplification. But (and I’m not saying I think the wall is practical or will be effective), perhaps it is a place to start.
Here is the complexity. We have many, many laws related to immigration, and these laws are being broken every day. In many cases, they are being broken by people who are otherwise obeying the law, and that probably most of us would consider to be “good people” if we were to come to know them personally. However, a law that is unenforced effectively might as well not even be there. Borders are only meaningful if they are enforced. Well why should we have a border? There’s a lot of social safety nets in our country that people could come and take advantage of without ever paying into the system. It may sound humanitarian to help them, but it wouldn’t take long for the whole of the system to collapse under the weight of it. You can’t divorce people from their beliefs and culture, and a concentrated flood of a group of people from one location to another would necessarily alter the culture of the destination. That’s not to say that there is no argument to do away with borders. Philosophically, I would agree that they are meaningless, just imaginary lines, and that people should be free to live where they choose. But perhaps this is an idea whose time has not yet come.
Further complicating the issue, there are those who decide to be willfully obtuse, and say things like “people are not illegal” when someone comments on what should be done about illegal immigrants. Of course people are not illegal, but no one is saying that, and you don’t really think they are, you’re just trying to be clever. “Illegal immigrant” is obviously shorthand for “Person who entered the country without following immigration laws.” Such a person is by definition a criminal.
Now, there are certainly circumstances under which a person who came here illegally perhaps should be allowed to stay, but probably in the vast majority of circumstances, they should not. By the way, I mean this in terms of “going forward”, I think that we have ignored the issue for such a long time that anyone who is here now and is an otherwise law-abiding person should be allowed to stay, if for no other reason than that it would be impossible to deport that many people. There are also of course an abundance of complexities as many have had children here, and have well-established lives here.
Do you see how it isn’t anywhere near so simple as “people are against immigration because they are racist”? Hell, it’s not even as simple as “people are against immigration”. Most everyone thinks that people should be allowed to immigrate here, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be done with no regard for law. Anyone making these arguments that we are a country of immigrants is making the wrong argument. No one disagrees with the words they are saying, but they do clearly disagree with what the person means to say. If you want to abolish borders so that anyone can enter with no controls of any kind, well then, you should be making the argument to abolish borders, not to allow immigration.
These same principles can be applied to refugees and the “muslim ban”, and to things like gun control, healthcare, economics, and nigh any issue you can think of. If the issue seems simple and without nuance to you, perhaps you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what those on the other side(s) of the issue really believe.
This extends beyond politics and culture and into religion and philosophy as well… but this is already quite long… I’ll save that for another time.