In 1939, famed lyricist Jack Russell penned what would become a classic American standard for singer Frank Sinatra. In it, Russell demands that if his lover won’t “yield” to him entirely, then he has no interest in continuing the relationship. For him, it is “all or nothing at all.” It seems that brinksmanship is a long-utilized methodology to crush nuance and compromise: “Give me what I want, right now, and without reservation, or get out.”
American politics is no stranger to an all-or-nothing game of chicken. Elected officials and pundits squawk about the dire consequences of leaving any room for another point of view. Crush the opposition. Demonize them. Litigate! Do it now! Yet, paradoxically, they wax poetic about simpler times when folks would “reach across the aisle” to get work done. It seems to matter much who is being expected to make the concessions.
Standards are material, and some things rightly cannot be accommodated. But, as we mature into fully formed humans, it becomes clearer that things are not so clear. Our fervent assumptions regarding our own infallibility wane, and we learn that sometimes, the perspectives of others are worthy and deserving of consideration.
Love and politics are prone to hyperbole and one-sidedness, and social media has exacerbated the affliction. We have come to increasingly live our lives protected from the perspectives of others. Whether we may learn, or even come to agree, is not relevant. We obsess over sameness. Our laws must be identical to those in other states. Our leaders must say what we demand (even if they don’t really mean it). Plus, our friends and family better give us 100 percent of what we want – or else!
Are we so sure that’s what we need? Even if so, who gave us the right to demand it?