Years ago, NFL running back Ray Rice hit his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, knocked her out, and drug her out of the elevator in which the altercation happened. Rice and Palmer were each highly intoxicated at the time. After celebrity media outlet TMZ released a video of the violent incident, Rice was released from the Baltimore Ravens and subsequently indicted on a charge of third-degree aggravated assault.
Said incident was serious, emotional, and prompting-of-immediate reaction. It was hard to watch that video. How people responded (and continue to respond) seemed dependent on their proximity of view.
From the viewpoint of some — especially those who have personally witnessed the horrors of domestic violence — Rice should be incarcerated for years. From the viewpoint of some others — maybe those whose focus is on football, and solely winning or losing — it was no big deal. And from still others — those who saw that Rice and Palmer married six weeks later — and continue to speak out against domestic violence — they see the experience as awful, hard, but yet a poignant story of redemption and reconciliation.
My point is: the proximity of a person’s vantage point matters. Proximity affects perspective.
Last week, the House of Representatives repealed Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act/whatever-is-politically-correct-to-call-it. For some — especially those whose premiums have gone down or who are troubled by the mere existence of the Trump administration — it was an awful, shameful thing. For others — whose premiums have skyrocketed or who have lost their desired coverage or doctor — it was to be celebrated. And yet, still from others — who realize that this has become a partisan debate, instead of realizing that neither ACA or a “repeal/replace” campaign mantra is totally good or effective and simply, the American healthcare system needs to be fixed — the reaction was mixed. As a wise friend said, “Healthcare needs fixing — doesn’t matter if it’s the ACA or not. But if both sides of Congress are not willing to sit down and work together to fix these things, nothing will change.”
On healthcare, too, our perspective is typically based upon where we sit… what we see… and how we — and those we love and do life with — are affected. The challenge is that multiple, valid perspectives exist.
Let’s try one more.
With all the plates spinning in the Intramuralist’s daily routine (house on the market, graduating senior, a few increased days of single parenting, etc.), I have become the new favorite customer at my local kennel (… at least I keep telling them I’m their new favorite…). Yesterday when I dropped off my animals, I had to step aside, waiting for a young man to exit with his pit bull.
As the man and his dog walked out, the dog asserted himself, attempted to lead, and attempted to go farther and faster than his owner desired. Immediately, the human involved here yelled at the pit bull; he was mad. “Stop it! You know better! Cut it out! NOW!” The man was more than a little agitated.
From my close perspective, it seemed like that man was being a little harsh on the dog. It’s a kennel; there’s lots of other animals there; it’s easy to be distracted. But I quickly recognized there existed other perspectives that from my vantage point, I had no way of seeing… I had no way of knowing this pup’s past record of behavior… I had no way of knowing how this pit bull best responds to direction… and I had no way of knowing what else was affecting the dog owner’s day, which would in turn affect how he communicated with his dog — and with everyone else.
My point is that even though I was the closest to the man — and even though I had a pretty good vantage point — a vantage point which served as the basis for my opinion — there were still aspects I was incapable of seeing — aspects that might provide the basis for other, different, and yes, valid perspectives.
Can we recognize that multiple, valid perspectives may exist?
Can we acknowledge that most of the time, we are incapable of seeing all?
Or are we simply too stuck in thinking what we perceive is the only possible perspective?