Two Paintbrushes

More thoughts on our current political crisis:

If you have ever painted with a brush, regardless of what you were painting–a wall, a house, a watercolor, a model car–you know that there are different widths of paintbrushes, and that choosing the right width for the job is really important.

The paintbrush that is appropriate for painting a wall will do a terrible job when you want to add stripes to the side of a model car, and vise versa.

The difference between paintbrush widths illustrates a problem we have with talking about politics today.  We use narrow brushes to talk about the people who agree with us, the people who are on “our side”.  And we use broad brushes to talk about the people on the “other side”.  

Both sides in the current political debate are fond of sweeping negative generalizations about the other side.  And both are capable of, and indeed delight in, great nuance when it comes to the behaviors of their own side.

  • One sides says “All cops are racists!”
  • The other side says, “No, it’s only a few, really just one or two. And all the others are justified, if those people would have (or wouldn’t have) …”


  • One side says, “Democrats are evil! All they want is free abortion for everyone, and for all the statues to be torn down and school children to be taught to hate America, etc., etc.”
  • The other side says, “Thirty-five percent of Democrats are pro-life, including most black evangelicals.  And the group that wants to tear down statues is very small, most of the protesters are peaceful, etc., etc.”

(This is really a type of fundamental attribution error, where we assume the best of ourselves [and people who agree with us] and the worst of others, especially when they disagree with us.  That’s not the exact definition, but it’s close enough.)

  • How many police officers in our country are sadists, racists, abusive psychopaths?  The number is very, very small.
  • How many of the people who have protested the murder of George Floyd over the past month were America-hating Maoists who want to destroy our nation’s history?  About the same percentage of the whole number of protesters as the number of racist, sadistic, psychopathic cops.

Would it shock you to know that more than one-third of Democrats are pro-life? 

Would it shock you to know that at least one-third of Republicans AREN’T pro-life? 

Would it shock you to know that many Christians are going to vote for Donald Trump?

Would it shock you to know that many Christians are gong to vote for Joe Biden?

If those things would shock you, you aren’t listening.  

In our divided, graceless, hyperpartisan atmosphere, WE NEED TO STOP USING BROAD BRUSHES WHEN WE PAINT THE PEOPLE WE DISAGREE WITH.  Stop making sweeping pronouncements about groups of people being evil or demonic or racist or hate-filled.

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