Did I Hear That Right?

A grey area. An imprecise piece of intellectual real estate where contradictory answers to the same question may be absolutely correct. Like the shoreline defined differently, depending on the tide, morality’s grey area follows the ebb and flow of philosophical righteousness. But grey areas may hide clear lines of what is perceived as right and wrong. I will try to explain my thinking.

For more than a decade in the early twentieth century, the official morals of the United States prohibited the making, sale, and transportation of alcohol. At the time, alcohol was, to some, unequivocally immoral. Simultaneously, moonshiners and their lawbreaking brethren deemed it perfectly legitimate. Today, another grey area enmeshes the abortion debate. When Roe vs. Wade was overturned by the conservative Supreme Court, the decision legitimized for opponents of abortion their moral position on the practice. But Roe vs. Wade did precisely the same thing for believers in a woman’s right to control her own body. The abortion debate, a long-simmering argument supported by infallible arguments on both sides, is a grey area of moral righteousness because the sharp black and white lines of moral versus immoral invariably merge into a grey field when viewed from different perspectives. Alcohol remains awash in that grey field, too, despite its legality; some people still see it as fundamentally as a vice, while others think of it as an enjoyable recreational beverage.

Marijuana is another grey area. Access to guns is another. Regulations governing the use of guns is another. Prostitution is another, though debate about its legitimacy or morality is limited in scope. There are dozens more. The solutions to sorting out grey areas? None that will be guaranteed to stick. The problem with grey areas is that they will exist just as long as political and social and philosophical spectra exist. Left wing. Right wing. Libertarian. Communist. Capitalist. Religious. Atheist. And on and on and on.

Last night, when mi novia and I were visiting with friends, the topic of political environments in various locations arose. We talked about places where the governing institutions are largely Democratic; we agreed such places are “friendlier” to people like us than is Arkansas, for instance. As I think about where one might find a solidly liberal, progressive majority, it occurs to me that progressive ideas (something I generally find appealing) float on a grey area that could just as easily host conservative mindsets. Arkansas, in fact, was in the past a reliably Democratic-voting state. But Democratic concepts mixed with Republican concepts over time, adding more black than white to the grey area. Depending on one’s perspectives, the clear line beneath that grey area is either this or that, but not neither. Or both.


I was told yesterday that I have moderately severe hearing loss in both ears. The loss of hearing, according to the audiologist, would be especially noticeable with regard to certain higher-pitched sounds, like women’s and children’s voices. The idea of being deaf to noisy children is not half bad; but I want to know what women are saying about me, at least those who are within earshot. I will test a hearing aid in a week or so. I am not sure I have lost enough hearing to warrant using  a hearing aid…or, more importantly, to warrant the expense of a hearing aid. They are obscenely expensive. If I have to have hearing aids at some point, I do not want the Lamborghini-priced model, nor do I want the Mitsubishi Mirage version. I think I’d be more inclined to go with a mid-range Lexis. Or a Studebaker.


It’s late. When I woke at 4:30, I was not ready to get up. But when I woke again and saw that it was almost 7, I cursed at my lazy self for having gone back to sleep when I should have arisen. My thoughts are not clear when I get too much sleep. Or too little. And sometimes when I get just the right amount.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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