In my younger years I was blissfully unaware of many of the contentions in the world. Conflicts and disagreements, especially on a global scale, were things that just did not seem to have any impact on me, my family, or my country. Sure, it was sad to hear about wars on the news, but they were happening so far away!

My friends were, of course, the same innocent age. Whatever bickering was going on was generally over the sharing of toys, or whether to play my way or their way. Generally, there was no need to take sides or have an opinion about things. Alas, no more …

The world we live in today is full of opinions. Everyone seems to think they have the right to have one. Whether a person is educated on a specific topic or not, be sure an opinion will be provided. If you are lucky, there will be “facts” to back it up. In any case, refusal to accept refuting evidence is virtually guaranteed.

“I think the idea you just presented is absolutely ridiculous, and I abhor it!!”
“Dude! You were not even in the room while I presented it …”

I shall willingly admit that I sometimes am guilty of having a strong opinion. Do not take me wrong. I am not saying there is anything wrong with having an opinion or being passionate about something. Quite the opposite.

As individuals, we need to be willing to take sides. We need to stand for what we know is right, and not be afraid to fight for it. But we also need to educate ourselves, or else be willing to admit when we are in the wrong.

Louis Herrey, author of the A Good Life blog, is a Swedish celebrity following the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest win with his brothers. In fact, he is more than just a Swedish celebrity; he is well-known all over Europe. Like me, Louis also happens to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is never easy to be famous and at the same time a member of an often misunderstood religious faith. Even before the Eurovision Song Contest win, the Herrey brothers had to take a lot of heat over their religious views, sometimes being mocked by media for the clean lifestyle promoted by said Church. Somehow their musical and artistic talent was overshadowed by their LDS faith, as if it is somehow impossible to combine the two.

Although Louis’ active musical career has since ended, he is still standing up for what he knows is right, still taking heat over defending his faith and views associated with it. In a newspaper column nearly a year ago, Louis expressed his feelings about families and the place of family in society. He chiefly did so in response to UN’s International Family Day on May 15th. In the article, which was published in several Swedish newspapers, Louis highlighted the need to celebrate and promote families. “During a time when various lifestyles are being promoted, and actually celebrated, we must not forget to also celebrate the family”, he writes.

The purpose of the article was not to condone anyone who has chosen a different lifestyle, nor was it meant to serve as a forum to promote the religious views that he values. Instead, the article was written out of disappointment; disappointment in politicians and media who would not, even for a single day, dare talk about the importance of a mother and a father who raise their children with love. “They are so concerned with making politically correct statements and selling issues of their newspaper that they do not dare stand up for the family — the pillar of society.”

Naturally, much of what Louis wrote in this article was taken completely out of context by a few individuals who decidied to turn what originally was meant as an ode to family into a debate about religion. In the end, Louis wrote a lengthy article on his blog, explaining exactly his stance on the issue, and why he had written the initial article in the first place. (Adversary Exposed when Faith is Defended, automatically translated from the original Swedish article.)

Louis’ experience really highlights the problem of our binary society. Why does everything have to be so black and white? Just because you disagree with some views held by an individual does not mean that you should not give another view held by that same individual a fair comparison.

I am annoyed to no end by people with a binary mindset!

“Most terrorists are muslims. Therefore, all muslims are terrorists.”

For the record, terrorism is condemned in Islam. Just because someone professes to belong to a certain group of people does not automatically make him a member thereof. Further, the behavior of an individual does not say anything about the behavior of other members of the group to which he belongs.

Society and media promotes extremist and minority thinking. What about the rights of the many? What about all the gray zones?

Our world is such a melting pot. People come from all walks of life; different cultures, different political systems, different backgrounds …

Why are we so afraid of the unknown, of things that are “different”? Why do we so easily slap a label of rejection on something we do not understand, and then hold fast to that view when refuting evidence is presented?

Binary thinking — upholding that something is either right or wrong, never a little bit of one here and a little bit of the other there — is slowly breaking down society. Individuals standing up for families are labeled as haters of homosexuals. Those lauding one view are called out as rejectors of another.

Why can we not be more accepting of views differing from those of our own, simply agree to disagree? Why do you always have to be better than me, when my statement was not meant to raise myself above you?

We cannot allow ourselves to give in to a binary mindset of everything being black and white. It is not that simple. We must all strive to be more forgiving, more accepting, more inviting in our personal views.

There is nothing wrong with being passionate about what you believe is right. By all means, go for it! Whether what you stand for is right or wrong, stand for something! Better to be hot or cold than to be luke warm. But do not brush off opposing views without giving them a fair chance.

How do you react to stereotyping? What can we do to counter generalizations?

“There are 10 kinds of people; those who understand binary, and those who don’t.”