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A Retreat to Middle Ground Ranch

July 24, 2012

Our modern world is rife with polarization.  On any given day, posts to my Facebook news feed remind me several times that this is true.  Thanks to the speed and ease with which we can access information, having a “moderate” viewpoint on any issue is becoming a rarity.  Moderate voices are quickly drowned out by the louder-yelling extreme voices.  It is this polarization that is the cause of our society’s current decline.  We seem to have forgotten, as a society, how alike we all are.

We’ve become too focused on our side “winning” any given argument to stop and put ourselves in the shoes of our friends, family, colleagues, and complete strangers.  As an example, take the recent killing of a young black man in Florida, Trayvon Martin.  In the aftermath of this tragedy, both sides got on top of their soap boxes and began yelling about injustices.  The left cried racism, and attacked Florida’s “draconic” Stand your Ground laws.  The right rallied behind the second amendment, and portrayed the accused killer, George Zimmerman, as the victim.  The blogosphere went crazy on both sides.  The far right was screaming about how Martin was a criminal, and deserved it.  The left claimed Zimmerman had ties to the KKK.  My Facebook feed exploded with rampant speculation (don’t worry, I will reach a salient point before this is done).  I made what I thought was a harmless comment on a friend’s status update, saying how unfortunate the entire situation was, and that I felt bad for everyone involved.  I was surprised by what followed, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

People from both sides of the argument turned their ire towards me.  I was flabbergasted that nobody could take even a second to stop and think that everyone involved in that nightmare was a person, just like the rest of us.  They had a family, friends, work, hobbies–lives.  They had lives that, up until that night, were not dissimilar from each of our lives.  A man’s life was senselessly taken.  Whether or not it was in self defense, I don’t know.  A young man’s life was cut short.  A mother lost a son.  A man has to deal with the fact that he murdered someone.  These are all incredibly important and heartbreaking things–yet we can’t respect the people involved enough to stop our pointless bickering for two seconds.  Not, at least, until the next news cycle rolls around.

We should take time to put ourselves in the shoes of others.  I’m glad that many of my friends who find homosexuality to be wrong at least take the time and thought to figure out that struggling with such feelings must be incredibly difficult.  That doesn’t make me stop disagreeing with their viewpoint on that particular issue, but it does remind me that we’re all capable of compassion and understanding.  We all probably agree that everybody, should have access to medical care.  We want people to be healthy.  We disagree on how to go about making that happen.

Our need to have our side’s position validated often blinds us to how wrong all of us are.  We should be treating each other with respect, dignity, and love.  We need to be reminded that the people we care enough about to argue with are the people that we love, and that love us.  We don’t need to stop arguing–it’s very important.  But we should remember why we argue:  We each want to make our lives, and the lives of those we love, better.  We argue because we want our children to have more opportunities than we currently do.  We argue because we care.

I’m sure I’ll make a hypocrite of myself very soon after writing this.  So when I’m chiding you for not boycotting Chipotle for making burritos out of homosexual beef, just remember that despite our disagreements on fast casual dining, that I respect and care for you as a friend and a human being.  I’ll do the same.

  1. Your calm logic and voice of reason in the midst of this cultural civil war offends me. You are clearly French.
    Kidding aside, well said. It’s like people forget how to communicate or think. Chick-Fil-A, for example… what the CEO said wasn’t hate-filled rhetoric. You can call it backwards, ignorant, religious Bronze-Age rhetoric, but the guy isn’t spewing Westboro venom. He’s saying, “These are my values.” The Henson Company and whoever else can happily say, “We do not share your values.” That’s pretty civil, yet I see friends and anonymous Internet comments talking about all the “hate” on both sides. Agree to disagree and choose where you spend your money without branding the other side as the devil.

  2. You want this Chik-Fil-A Sandwich? Never been eaten, only dropped once.

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