Wow, over a year since my last post?
Well, that’s what I get for starting & closing a restaurant. Killing time on a slow day so here’s a long over-due rant that’s been simmering in my brain the past few days.
What ever happened to the middle? Aristotle – one of the most ‘heroic’ thinkers for America’s founders – coined “the golden mean” as the ideal we should aspire to. Not too hot, not too cold, but juuuuuuuuust right, in the words of Goldilocks. Middle what? Middle anything! Middle class? Gone. Moderate? Ideologues only. Temperate climate? Get ready to bounce from drought to super-storm/flood faster than you can blink! Religious freedom & coexistence? It’s ISUL/ISIS v the Godless West… Putin v. Obama… Reps v. Dems… East v West… Tyrants v. “Freedom,” Wall St. v. 99%. Black lives matter v. the Police. Take your pick.
The middle ground is disappearing faster than an arctic glacier and the thing that bums me most is that both sides of whatever seem to be glad for it. Listen to this guy Kasich! Hard to hear him over all the yelling but he’s talking pure modest sense in the middle of the road and being totally ignored for it. Then again, there’s that suspiciously gray, ill-defined and fluid, shifty middle ground that makes Hillary so goddamn hard to like. (https://youtu.be/k8ws_APXilE)
But…What good does polarization of every facet of life do for us? I’m not entirely sure. I don’t want to leap to the conclusion that extreme=bad no matter what Aristotle says. What about extreme courage? Extreme generosity? Extreme tolerance? Billy Joel?
So, if I can’t value-judge the thing, I can at least try to understand where it’s coming from, I guess. The knee-jerk is to say that we’re all in increasingly isolated social-media and web bubbles that insulate us from disagreement and bombard us with confirmation of our own world-views and convictions. Certainly, my FB newsfeed is a prime example. Every other post, it seems, is some ‘hooray for bernie’ article or ‘why a Hilary election would be a disaster’ or some other such click bait. They’re full of graphs, statistics, carefully reasoned arguments from verified sources…but that’s the thing, every single one says the same thing: “I Love Bernie, don’t you?” And… by and large it’s a correct assumption this algorithm’s making. YES! I love watching this grumpy old man point out gross iniquity and absurdity in America… and the romantic idealist buried deep beneath my crusty cynical shell really does squeal with spasmodic glee every time he drops a bomb like ‘free healthcare and college for all’ and ‘no more citizens united…” Strategy? Feasibility? Practicality? Who cares! Go big or go home! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_w4oSCJIQk
FB knows what I like to see. That is because online we’re trapped in a constantly self-reinforcing feedback loop where the stuff I like gets shared with the like-minded people I like who in turn share the stuff they like with the people they like, like me.
Ah ha! But then there’s the real world…you know, offline, not the reality TV show (IRL – it’s still out there guys!). Take this example: I found out yesterday that one of my co-workers is a Trump fan/supporter. What do you do with that?!?! I mean… we’re so used to being surrounded by Portland’s comfortable liberal bubble that I just don’t know what to say! Obviously I think it’s clear that he’s a psycho-fascist bully tyrant who doesn’t deserve 1 minute of the glamorous media bath he takes every day… but this guy at work, well… he’s right there, at work every day. We joke around. We both LOVE Billy Joel… we make fun of the same stuff, we get frustrated by a lot of the same things too. And now I hear he thinks its a great idea to build a wall on the border?!? I mean yes, obviously we have and will continue to coexist at work but man it got me thinking. He was really, really hesitant to admit his feelings about Trump to me… he prefaced everything with “ah yeah, we’ll if I tell ya you’re not gonna like it” and all that… Talking to my uber-republican relatives about Bernie I’d probably do the same.
I was glued to the recent Oregon Malheur WR occupation as it unfolded and it really struck me that people out there were honestly ready to die & go to jail for an idea of the west and the constitution….never mind the irony of wanting to “give the land back to its original owners.” Some of my upstanding, law-abiding rancher relatives down south probably sympathized with their cause. What would I do if my uncle or cousins were out there in the freezing cold…so committed to an idea that they faced potentially dire consequences?
Is this how we do business now in the world? Are we going to hold each other at gunpoint and see who blinks first? As fluid, corruptible and infuriating as the middle is, it’s the place of progress! What have we gotten with splitting down the middle? Gridlock, shutdowns & sequestration… intractable opposition meets unflagging support. Are we really just going to stand on each side of a thing and yell at each other eternally?? I think the way people see it is that if we can just get ‘our guy’ in charge he’ll take it to em and beat down the opposition. If we just get Bernie in there he’ll show em! He’ll take it to those maniac psychopaths in the house! And on the other side, if we can just get Trump in there he’ll make America great again! But seriously people… how is that logistically going to happen?! Trust me this isn’t one of those “vote for Hillary because…” things, I mean seriously…even if Hilary were to take up the exact same causes, how does it happen? You know, the thing where your side gets everything it wants and the other side gets nothing… HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?! (like, other than all out, go for broke conquesty war? Is that what we want?)
We need the middle… the middle class, the rhetorical middle ground, the grey areas we NEED THEM. Whoever you’re yelling for please please please consider taking a break and a deep breath. Cooler heads must prevail. Remember, we don’t all work online yet. Some of us still have to coexist IRL for a while longer.