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Making a clear difference

In this information-saturated world of ours — a world in which there is, in fact, too much information available, with too little of it accurate and complete — many among us find themselves unable to bring the tools to bear that are needed to sort out fact from fiction, to distinguish mere opinion from informed opinion, to wade through complex issues.

As a result, many people crave stark simplicity: people want black-and-white answers to complicated questions; they need to see the world in terms of clearly defined opposites, divisions often tinted with Manichaean moral tones, those divisions outlined with a reductionist’s pen.

Thus, we have television talk shows delivered on behalf of both extremes on the political spectrum. We have radio talk shows with their abrasive, us-versus-them hosts and their “clear” and urgent messages. And we have the Internet, where the average user spends a minute, at the most, plumbing “news” sites for information.

Simplicity. The comfort of the easy answer.

The problem for those seeking this comfort, this ease of comprehension, is that the answers generally fly in the face of reality. With few exceptions, the issues that confront human beings are not simple, on any scale. When human beings debate an issue, and work to determine an agreed-upon action, stark clarity is rarely an option. Human business, even in matters of love, is seldom a matter of constant comfort.

For those who seek certainty, with little or no political blowback and the accompanying chest thumping of ideologues, there are, however, some options. And close to home.

What is certain is the overall local economy continues with its rough sledding as we head to winter. There are people in elected office and the business community attempting to set a course out of the doldrums, but their ideas are still ambiguous, works in progress, subject to debate — nowhere as clear as the problem. What is not up for debate is the fact that many of our neighbors are in a bind. Many have lost homes to foreclosure, with some waiting for the ax to fall. Many have lost jobs or have changed jobs, only to accept fewer hours and less pay. While our official unemployment level is said to be lower than the state average, those here who have felt the sting of joblessness are certain about its effects.

Many of our neighbors are seeking assistance from the Department of Human Services, from local food banks and charitable groups. Many have requested assistance from the traditional holiday relief program, Operation Helping Hand, which just finished giving out Thanksgiving food boxes to 174 families.

That people are in deep water cannot be denied, and anyone who seeks to color the dilemma with ideology, to point fingers for political gain, is doing no one any good.

What is also certain is there are people and mechanisms in this community determined to do what is possible to help neighbors in need.

“It’s time for people to band together and help each other out,” Archuleta County Treasurer Betty Diller says in an article in this edition. “Let’s get together and share our resources.”

Let’s do. You want genuine clarity, simplicity, certainty? You want to do something to help a fellow Pagosan, absent a need to spout political nonsense and spew polarizing muck? Here it is:

Contributions to Operation Helping Hand — food, money, Project Empty Stocking gifts, clothing and used household items and furnishings — can be made through Dec. 15. The Salvation Army is currently conducting its kettle campaign. Contributions to local food banks, e.g. Community United Methodist Church and Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, can be made any time.

This is clear: you can make a difference … in a certain way.

Karl Isberg