Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Luxury of No Stance

We're caught in the middle, Carol.
We're middle class. We're middle aged.
We were wild in the old days...
-- Joni Mitchell "Chinese Café"

An old saying runs that a young person who is not liberal has no heart and an old one who is not conservative has no brain. The idea, of course, is that in all situations, the Truth or the Best Path lies between two extremes. While this seems a reasonable statement on its face, the problem has always been in determining what really counts as extreme. Opposing parties in a dispute are not necessarily at extremes: think of the considerable overlap between the major political parties in the US. President Obama, for example, is not a socialist, despite Republican rhetoric to the contrary. An opponent does not necessarily indicate a pure extreme. Taking the middle point in any dispute strikes me as not only morally lazy but also, eventually, paralyzing.

In the last post, I considered the idea that one can and must maintain political ideals even while realizing that political negotiation demands compromise. I was hoping to communicate that certain short-term concessions might be necessary in order to achieve a long-term goal. As the old spiritual says, "Keep your eyes on the prize/Hold on."

Today, I had the opportunity to read an excellent article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, marred by one flaw: it has an insightful recognition of the seeming paradox that the academic arena of queer theory shares the fundamentalist Christian belief that gayness is not a core aspect of one's identity.  However, the author then forgets this point and wrongly suggests that someone who adhered to queer theory and then became a fundamentalist Christian switched from one extreme to another. The writer and many of the commenters then suggested that a middle way between gay orthodoxy and Christian orthodoxy was necessary. A big helping of moderation all around.

I am happy to report the NYT selected my immoderate comment as one of the editors' highlights. Perhaps my academic knowledge can be translated to the popular sphere after all!


  1. "Come on try a little
    Nothing is forever
    There's got to be something better than
    In the middle
    But me and Cinderella
    We put it all together
    We can drive it home
    With one headlight"
    Wallflowers, Cinderella