Two different Maine Voices writers converge on our culture’s need to exercise the qualities of humility and respect for complexity.

Either/or labels (e.g., left and right, red and blue, pro-choice and pro-life, etc.) only make it easier to escape from difficult ethical struggles on issues both national and personal.

Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is comprehensive in presenting its broad spectrum of health care services for women and families (“Maine Voices: Planned Parenthood offers many services that most people support,” Jan. 22).

She appreciates the bipartisanship that has kept abortion safe and legal in Maine. Ms. Clegg is nonjudgmental in her tone, compassionate in her respect for the distress that often attends women’s personal decision-making and forthright in asserting that issues can be difficult and “may not fit neatly in a particular category.” In a sense, she calls for humility. And she honors life’s ambiguity and complexity.

Sylvia Kraemer, in her column about education (“Maine Voices: Liberal arts education can pay off over the long haul,” Jan. 24), affirms liberal arts studies, and in quoting a Reagan-era study on excellence in education, she supports the very values Ms. Clegg encourages.

From the 1981 study, Ms. Kraemer, a Portland author, quotes: “For our country to function, citizens must be able to reach some common understandings on complex issues, often on short notice and on the basis of conflicting or incomplete evidence.”


The author says that working together “requires a well-furnished imagination” and “empathy for the many different ‘others’ with whom we will need to cooperate.”

Labels like “liberal” and “conservative,” and offensive substitutes for them, can divide us into enemy camps, foster oversimplification and stimulate self-righteousness.

May we instead bring integrity, empathy and respect to the table of moral discourse.

As for labels? I suggest a flat-out moratorium on their use.

The Rev. Alfred M. Niese


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