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My roommate and I are very different personalities. She is hard-edged and absolutistic about what she perceives, what she believes to be right, and it becomes an emotional issue not amenable to rational discussion.

I'm the kind of person to see many sides of an issue. There are very few absolute rights and wrongs, in my view, and even when there is an absolute wrong (child abuse, for instance, in our most recent discussion), there are circumstances surrounding it which should be brought to light. The whole truth should be known, not as mitigating events, but as fact leading to a more complete understanding.

That drives her right up a wall, since she thinks I am arguing on behalf of the wrongdoer. I'm not. I'm saying that there are always more things, more facets than first appear, and if you're going to condemn someone or some practice, you need to look at the big picture.

Furthermore, one of our most basic principles is that someone is innocent, until proven guilty. She is absolutely sure that an event took place as reported in the news media and she will brook no discussion. I am privately convinced that in fact the event did take place as described, but the rights of everyone must be honored until the court of law prescribes punishment, and all the facts be known, as best as we can know them.

If, as it happens so often, the wrongdoer escapes punishment, there's not much we can do about it, except to try to prevent further occurrences.

So she and I butt heads all the time. She issues an absolute condemnation, and I say, look at the big picture. There may be more to this than meets the eye. And even if you're right, we don't do lynchings. We process the alleged perpetrator through the legal system.

She just cannot deal with my approach. She is hard-edged, condemnatory, emotional and shrill. Totally convinced of her rightness in the matter.

Maybe she thinks she isn't being heard. I'm going to try to agree with her, reflect back what she is saying and see if that helps her to calm down enough to hear me. Or I'm just going to shut up and nod.

Her father, a friend of mine, is much the same. Like father, like daughter. But with such good hearts, much is forgiven.

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