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Forget the silly book by the same title. The color gray is the tint of truth.

Jim Kempton. File photo
Jim Kempton. File photo

By Jim Kempton

My father once told me, “It was much easier when I was a kid. The good guys wore white hats. The bad guys wore black hats. Then one day guys started wearing grey hats. I’ve been confused ever since.”

It would be so simple if the world was black or white. But in reality it is all shades of gray. We are all guaranteed the freedom of speech, but not to run ads in magazines for hit men to kill our enemies. We have the right to bear arms, but we can’t post artillery in our yards. We have the right to drive, but not at 100 mph.

Unyielding black-and-white positions leave little room for compromise. It is true that not being able to drive 100 mph is a clear restriction of our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of zero-to-60 in three seconds. But we don’t lose our right to own an automobile. We are free to practice any religion, yet not allowed to marry nine wives or blow up the Oklahoma Federal Building or the World Trade Center because of those beliefs.

Yet to hear pro-choice proponents, one would think restricting some late term abortions is the same as overturning Roe vs. Wade. To hear some pro-gun supporters, one would think limiting automatic magazines to less than 100 rounds was the same as rescinding the Second Amendment.

How many bullets should be allowed in a weapon’s magazine? What is the latest date an abortion should take place? How fast is a safe speed? Is a fatality a justifiable homicide, manslaughter, wrongful death, accident, second or first degree murder? The answers are not black and white.

The great moralist Andre Gide’s once wrote, “The color of truth is grey.”

Those who truly care about the complex issues of human kind know we must persistently grapple with a hazy shade of hazel. That is why we continue to debate, to argue cases in court, to do research, read scriptures, conduct studies, appeal verdicts, pass laws, repel laws and even defy laws.

It is through the advocacy and deliberation process, through new discoveries in science, philosophy and spirituality that we move forward with our understanding of life and law. These are the richer, deeper, more nuanced shades of gray. We should not think of them as somehow lesser than black or white. We should see them for their myriad distinctions: platinum, charcoal, smoke, birch, oyster, granite, mauve, chestnut, tweed, tin, lilac, fog, pewter, concrete, silver, peppercorn, gun metal, pearl, slate, herringbone, storm cloud, ash, flannel or silver.

If we appreciate these variations in the natural world, is it not reasonable to look to the same variety when observing the problems we face in our social conflicts?

Jim Kempton has always been fascinated with penguins, loves pre-1954 TV shows and considers salt and pepper the most essential of spices.

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