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Why 1 Plus 1 Doesn’t Always Equal 2

I have a friend named Randy who was a theoretical mathematician. Randy did the kind of math that made your eyes cross and your brain cramp! One day I was talking to him about his work and he attempted to explain to me how math works by stating, “1 plus 1 doesn’t always equal 2″.  That got my attention. I’m no math genius, but even I knew that 1 plus 1 equaled 2. Randy elaborated, “In mathematics, we are in the habit of rounding up or down to simplify the problem.” Randy then went on to use π (Pi) as an example. What is commonly shortened to 3.14 is actually an infinite repeating decimal pattern (Chao Lu of China holds the World Record for reciting π to 67,890 digits from memory!). So in the same vein, what we call 1 plus 1, may in actuality be, 1.00001 plus 1.0000000001, which in pure mathematical terms doesn’t equal 2.

Illegal immigration isn’t something that is as black and white as we would like to think it is.

Randy even made it a little simpler, “Let’s say you have 2 oranges, are they exactly the same? No. One might be smaller, the other heavier, one juicier, the other sweeter.” I got the point. What our brain likes to do is estimate, group, or categorize, it’s not really worried about being exact unless it’s absolutely necessary. So what does this have to do with Citizens* and illegal immigration? I think quite a bit.

Illegal immigration isn’t something that is as cut and dry or black and white as we would like to think it is. And as I’ve investigated and explored this topic over the years this has become ever clearer. Yet what I’ve found is that many people who debate illegal immigration, on both sides of the issue, are doing just that–making “1 plus 1″ type of statements. This is known as dichotomous or polarized thinking. We fail to see any shades of gray and begin to view the world as “pass/fail”, “either/or”. The problem is, in real life with something as diverse and dynamic as human beings, that rarely works.

One of the goals of Citizens* is to get us thinking outside of our own personal borders and recognize that there are answers once we’re open to shades of gray. We want to encourage discussion–an honest and productive discussion. We want to change our thinking from the limited “1 plus 1 equals 2″ to the realistic view of taking in all the variables in order to make an informed decision. We want to encourage the kind of discussion that leads to us working together for the greater good. Is it possible for us, as fellow humans, to do that? We think it is–if not now then some day.

- Jacob A Tapia, Director

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