Stitching Solutions

When it comes to community and societal solutions to problems, there's an impulse to find the Answer™. There's a notion that, if only we can find the right fix to the problem, it will go away, permanently. The other side (and, frankly, it doesn't matter what side) doesn't have actual solutions -- they have "band-aids," tiny, meaningless fixes that aren't going to cause real change. 

We need to re-examine the nature of small solutions. Instead of looking at them as band-aids, maybe they're more like stitches. In a large wound, you may need ten or twenty or a hundred stitches. Each one doesn't do much, but they do, in their own small way, bring healing to the gaping problem, contributing a tiny bit of wholeness. Sometimes they're continuous, and sometimes they are completely separate from each other. What's important is that each stitch is working on the same wound, whether it's holding the corners or the one right smack-dab in the middle. 

 Maybe there isn't one answer to our big problems, beyond that they need to be solved. Maybe some solutions will be more efficient than others. That doesn't mean that the smaller solutions aren't contributing to solving the problem. They're stitches, bringing the wound a little closer together. Instead of looking at proposals that would only fix 5% of the problem as (in themselves) problematic, it might be useful to see that solution as one stitch in twenty toward wholeness. 

A second, smaller note: laws are rarely temporary. Band-aids fall off when they are no longer needed. Stitches are either removed or absorbed by the body (depending on their nature). This analogy is harmful, then, for another reason: it pretends that permanent (or potentially permanent) changes are temporary when they aren't. That's just silly, and patronizing. Actual band-aid solutions are things like candlelight vigils, little events that keep the wound safe during its most dangerous part. And guess what? Band-aids and gauze (what I lovingly call a grown-up band-aid) are important too. There's nothing wrong with doing things to keep infection out, or the perception of possible infection (for example, no one realistically argues that the United States should have kept the airspace open in the hours following 9/11). But band-aids aren't laws, policies, school rules, etc. Those are stitches. 

I'm not saying all suggestions are of equal merit, or that every proposed small solution would do anything at all. What I am saying is that, when you truly believe your (or your party's) solution would solve more of the problem, ask: is it guaranteed to fix all of it? Is it practically applicable as a blanket or would it have to be applied differently in different situations, based on societal factors in that area (race, economics, existing policies, the prevalence of the aforementioned problem, etc.)? And ask: is it possible that the small solution someone else is proposing might also be helpful in fixing this problem? And embrace the stitch-solutions, even if they aren't yours. We're all part of this country. There's a reason societies are described as fabrics. Vote in ways that honor the tear in front of you and help restore it, but when someone else brings in a different kind of stitch, give it a shot. Who knows? Maybe the charity required to entertain different perspectives, the humility required to try different solutions, and the hope required to bother are also needed. And we will not be certain unless we try. 


Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash