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Minding the Middle
I have always been a via media person myself; looking for common ground between two extremes, two contrary views always seemed a practical matter of living together. I probably learned that as a kid with a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, and that predisposed me to maneuver for the middle. But the middle has moved. As a conservative in a very liberal town, I have quietly held out hope that there could be a rational, reasoned approach to hot issues we face in this country, hoping for intermediary ways of grappling with the polarities, even if the truth of any matter is obfuscated by hyperbole from either corner. But the middle has moved. I am beginning to think it is due in part to undeveloped powers of discrimination. Now there is a loaded word! Discriminate. To someone my age, that word carries only one connotation: Black against White, White against Black—the kind of discrimination that led to segregation, race riots and the 60’s. It was not until recently that I redeemed that word from its singular connotation to include the valuable developmental faculty evident in the mature. This definition is glaringly absent from our social/political discourse. A word study from the online Webster dictionary:
- Discriminate • Verb: 1 he cannot discriminate between fact and fiction:
- To be biased against, be prejudiced against; treat differently, treat unfairly, put at a disadvantage, single out; victimize.
- To recognize a distinction—to differentiate
- To discriminate is to perceive the differences between or among things that are very similar; it may suggest that some aesthetic evaluation is involved (to discriminate between two painters' styles).
Without this faculty, we see in broad strokes, gross categories, and generalities. We view left versus right, democrat versus republican, conservative versus liberal with a one-size-fits-all simplicity that defies reality and belies our rationality. For example, as a conservative in Lawrence, I have suffered in silence over the misdirection of this country under the current administration. Then, not too long after the Scott Brown win in Massachusetts, I felt the boldness of new optimism that bubbled up to declare to a neighbor, “I love Glenn Beck! I love Sarah Palin! I love FOX News!” The response was a joke but telling, “Well then you won’t like this wine because it is organic!” I chuckled and said, “Hey, I recycle.”
Good neighbors, good humor, but still no middle ground because conservatives like me must all share the same characteristics, in this case not caring a whit about the planet like all the bad oil companies. See what I mean? How do we grow out of this? How do we grow-up in time for our kids to have a chance? I say the middle has moved because the political spectrum now blatantly includes Socialism and Communism as unabashed as the President’s inner circle. So, when the Left includes the Far Left, of course the Right needs to counter in loyal opposition--hence the ‘Tea Party’ movement.
Now after the Republican primary process, which at least has been a refreshing contrast to the media-endorsed status quo of a liberal agenda, we have an opportunity to research issues and engage our latent powers of discrimination, making certain to discriminate between the sound-bite presentations of a candidate and the actual man/woman, checking records against rhetoric, finding sources of contrary views to sift for the Truth—all vital responsibilities of citizenship that we accept if we intend to keep our republic. We are the government. If we abdicate, we deserve the tyranny that results. God forbid.