Middle, muddle

Robin heard an interesting debate on the radio, which he then brought home so that he and I could discuss it, too.  Fortunately, it didn’t turn out like the infamous gift card debate of 2002.  Look!  In 9 years of marriage, we have learned at least one thing: how to disagree about things that are completely irrelevant to our relationship without making them all about our relationship.  Woo!

I am curious what the wider world thinks of this particular question.  The interviewee on the radio was extolling the virtues of the center in American politics, saying how important the undecideds and in-the-middles are to the culture and course of the country.  She was asked by an audience member about progress – don’t we need extremists (like, say, feminists or abolitionists, who were considered extreme at one time) to push the middle when it grows complacent with things that are immoral?

I wished I could have heard the answer, because it seems to me that for every extremist who turns out to be right, there is one who is running around in a bedsheet, burning crosses on somebody’s lawn.  So does that put the middle in charge of deciding, in the long run, which “extreme” positions amount to progress and which do not?


About Grape

I've got the world's best kids and husband. Great house, steady job. I'm living the American dream. The trick is to appreciate it. I'm working on that part.
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3 Responses to Middle, muddle

  1. Robin says:


    David: My name is David and I’m coming from Saint Paul. I’m originally from the New York area, so if my comments are a little more aggressive and confrontational I apologize in advance. Before securing the blessings of liberty and before establishing a common defense, the first thing they say in the preamble is to establish justice. I think there’s a certain level which I might challenge your “embrace of middle” because I think there are times when the extremes are actually the ones that are on the right frequency. I’m sitting here in the state where Dred Scott was in refuge when the decision was made and his fate as a free African American man. And I seem to remember that the abolitionists were the extremists. The middle is a great place to be, it’s also a very comfortable place to be and I think that’s what you’ve been talking about a bit. But I think that there are times when one must recognize that there are things worth fighting for.

    I listen to what you say and I embrace a great deal of it, but I’m a bit older than I look and I’ve seen enough of our own history in my own life time to recognize that there are times when the proper place to be is not necessarily in the middle.

    Smith: That’s a great question or a great observation. How do you respond to that?

    Chemberlin: It is, and I agree. I’m going to have to wrestle with what that means in terms of my interest in the middle. Let me throw out this; I think that the tradition in the church gets to talk about the prophet, the prophetic one. But the prophetic one was always acting out of life inside the community. I think we do have to be prophetic with each other inside the community, and I think our best leaders have not been outside of the community but pushing and pulling at the community towards a new place based on the values that they really did believe were in the middle. But let’s pull ourselves along, and that’s been true for the Nation Council Of Churches. I was at an event a few months ago and congressman John Lewis was a speaker and afterwords I introduced myself. I didn’t even get a chance to say my name, I said I was the president of the National Council Of Churches.

    He threw his arms around me because the National Council Of Churches was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the National Council Of Churches has to be asking, where do we need to be today? Is it around the immigration issue? Is it around the eco justice issue? Is it all of the above?

    I think we do have to press ourselves, but it’s from inside the community asking, pushing, demanding that the community be faithful to the values that it says it has. So, I may be saying both at the same time, but I think your point is well taken. I think we have to ask ourselves do we have a place in the community that’s supposed to be pushing, pulling, cajoling? Some of my friends would think that I do that from time to time too

  2. lastboomerstanding says:

    I can’t decide if the middle is shrinking or growing. Are we becoming more polarized as a nation… as a country… as a world-wide civilization? Is there less of the middle grounders now, or have the outer edges of both sides just become so loud that no one in the middle can be heard above the din?

    I used to think that people in the middle just couldn’t make up their minds – just couldn’t commit to a set of core values and went with whichever way the strongest wind was blowing… Now I’m starting to wonder if it was the middle – people who listen and try to make sense of all this noise before making a decision, might be the substance and the fluid-glue that holds it all together.

    I’ve heard it said of yin and yang, that the goal is neither yin, nor yang, but to float effortlessly between the two.

    As someone who was once somewhere out there toward the edge of the left, who has now drifted decidedly toward the middle, I can only hope that we find a way to come together to solve our problems. We need a loud, strong, thoughtful and powerful third party in this country. A middle party. If either of the edges grabs the power and won’t let go, history will repeat itself, and not in a good way.

    It’s hard to let go and compromise and even concede that someone else’s way might have some merit… how does one let go when they think they are correct? How can correctness be determined… until it’s all around us, and maybe it pans out, or maybe it’s a horrible mistake?

    We live in an age of lies, and spins, and red herrings… and I for one am no longer sure that “truth” is as absolute as I once thought it was. Have I lost my insight, or learned to compromise?

    Good questions, great topic… Is there a peaceful way to talk this out? I hope so. I really do.

  3. DAD says:

    I feel its important that the extremes are heard and have thier say. I feel that they represent both sides of a spectrum, left and right, but its the middle that holds it all together and will maintain society for the best of humankind. I consider myself one to hold to the middle, I’m sure my children will tell you that I was very strict in their upbringing , but that I stood up for the rights of all. I believe in the rights for others to be different than me, but for what I believe in to be protected and honored, I must yield to others to have that same right. Some times the extreme represents a place society should ponder and consider if rights of others are being denied. I will admit that change is difficult to accept at times and the middle are the control, but its more than likely the extreme that brought it to the surface of society.Protest may bring an end to a war. A march may bring a society to its knees to see the injustice to a race,or maybe learn to accept that others are of different religion or sexual preferences. This doesn’t necessarily mean its for you, but if I want others to respect my rights should I not protect thiers? I feel that the middle holds the cards in compromise between the extremes.

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