Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Middle Road

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can 
without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things
 you can't see from the center.**

-- Kurt Vonnegut 

In politics, there's always talk of the need for a middle road, a proverbial path where extremes are blended into some sort of equanimity. People who cry for moderation maintain that there is great virtue in being moderate, that the voices of the left and the right are "too extreme," "irrational," "out of touch with normalcy," etc. My father, a very wise and intelligent moderate bemoans the lack of civility in modern politics and abhors extreme positions on either the right or the left, but as a moderate, his viewpoints are often mysterious to me. I don't know, really, where he stands.  I'm not moderate and would never claim that my way is the right way. It's just my way, I think. I try to temper my beliefs and listen to those whose beliefs are dissimilar, but I feel a weird pressure to somehow move to the middle, to recognize commonalities, to embrace what binds us together  to use some common expressions and exhortations from seemingly more reasoned people than myself. And I'm finding this to be nearly impossible. Frankly, I don't think the middle is that great of a place. Even more frankly, I don't want to move to the middle.

I thought about these things this morning as I drove back from Oliver's school and listened to NPR's coverage of the Republican primaries in Alabama. A nice-sounding guy told the reporter that he was still undecided on whom he would be voting for in today's primary. I'll paraphrase his comments and put my own in parenthesis):

Republican Primary Man: I like Romney for his financial acumen. (He used the word acumen, so I'm assuming he's thoughtful and well-educated, a plus, but there's controversy about just how Romney ran his businesses and acquired his vast wealth. I believe voting for him is like voting for a corporation to be president).

Republican Primary Man: I like Gingrich for his foreign policy views. (Okaaaay. Bomb Iran?)

Republican Primary Man: I like Santorum for his social views and emphasis on family values. (Okaaaay. Hatred of homosexuals, stripping women of reproductive rights, blending church and state, religion and politics?)

Now, where am I going to find commonality with this guy and where is he going to find commonality with me, other than the obvious fact that we're both humans and good enough people (although I really think that anyone who espouses the social views of Santorum is NOT a good person). Why do I have to walk some middle road with the likes of him?

I don't have any answers and am thinking aloud, obviously. Have you heard of the word sheeple? I guess it refers to people who flock together like sheep. That's how I currently see the middle road. I'm going out on a limb and saying, f*^$ that. I'm walking on the edge.

** Thanks to Erika for leaving a comment on this post with this quote! It's just so perfect that I had to add it.


  1. "I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center." Kurt Vonnegut

  2. I don't know about the middle, but I do think that most people, red, blue or otherwise really want the same thing. We want (I think) a healthy, educated society. We just have VERY different ideas about how to get there. Or maybe that's just what I want and the other guys just want money and control. I hope not though.

  3. No. I'm with you, babe. Totally. The middle is not for me. And I have the exact same thoughts when I hear people like that talk whether on the radio or real life. Basically it boils down to them being idiots. Okay- call me what you want- I have a brain and I use it.

  4. The way I see it is like this. We live in a democracy, at least an imperfect one. In order to live somewhat harmoniously with each other, we have to compromise. But only insofar as our rights as humans and citizens are not affected. A woman has the right to decide what to do with her pregnancy. A gay couple has the right to marry. A black person has the right to live his or her life without discrimination. An immigrant has the right to stay in a country if he or she proves that their life is endangered in their country of origin. And as long we have these rights enshrined in a document and abide by them and go out of our way to show newcomers that they're also protected, then, we don't have to choose a middle road, but the pavement. Because sooner or later you'll get run over, if you keep walking on the middle of the road.

    Greetings from London.

  5. I can't remember a time when I thought middle of the road was an okay place to be. How can one possibly be middle of the road in the face of bigotry, homophobia, misogyny and economic rapists?

    If we were all a lot more civilized and valued all our citizens, maybe middle of the road would be a fine place to be.

    I don't know what the answer is either, we don't get anywhere by screaming at one another, but that seems to be where we are now. Logical, respectful discourse is rare. That's why I love Bill Moyers so much. But then, there are some who call him a commie. Go figure.

  6. That is a terrific quote, Elizabeth and although I often make please for balance, I'm not sure it's the same as going out like sheep.

    To me to get to a state of balance requires moving around from one extreme to the next, getting a feel for the edges not just assuming a sameness is good.

    So I'm all for your ferocity in sticking to your so-called extremes, which to me are not extremes at all, though those on the opposite side might think they are.

    Also there are some ways of viewing the world that I can never embrace, some such as you mention here, no matter how thoughtful I can be.

    I can understand how Hitler came to be the man he was, I can empathise with the abused child he once was, but that does not mean I condone his behaviour.

  7. I'm with you. Edgy has a certain appeal, especially when I feel like screaming after listening to people like Santorum or Romney. Being on the edge means I can yell all I want and when the sound echoes back, I imagine how many others are screaming, too. And then I feel solidarity.

  8. I don't strive to be middle of the road. I have my beliefs and most would probably say those opinions are not middle of the road. But I do strive to listen to others, and to not hold my opinions so tightly that I cannot learn from others. And I strive to understand people even if I cannot agree with them.

  9. I'll walk the edge with you any day. I kinda thought Romney was at least the most balanced of this conservative cabel till he mentioned that he wouldn't appoint Santorum as his running mate if he won the nomination because Santorum wasn't conservative enough...WASN'T CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH???? WTF?

  10. you rock! I love kurt v.'s brilliant quotes :).

  11. This is reminding me of something ...
    A few weeks ago, someone on Facebook was bemoaning "tolerance" and a new age sort of definition that has departed from the original definition blah blah blah .... That led me to look into "the definition of tolerance" and I found this excellent statement: http://www.unesco.org/webworld/peace_library/UNESCO/HRIGHTS/124-129.HTM

    I love this post E.
    I am discovering in my own heart some very strong opinions that I never knew existed. It's a good thing.



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