A Room with a Viewpoint

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes—and ships—and sealing wax— Of cabbages—and kings— And why the sea is boiling hot— And whether pigs have wings.” (Lewis Carroll)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On Being a Moderate

I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw. (Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2)

Someone, I think it was Jesse Helms, once had this to say about moderates: "only two things are found in the middle of the road; either a yellow line or a dead skunk." Ouch!!

Moderates don't have a very good reputation. We are often viewed as not being able to make up our minds--not without some justification. Even more than straight-out liberals, we are accused of being moral relativists. We are often viewed as unprincipled; just wanting everyone to get along and everything to be okay. But I don't think that's fair.

It's probably only a coincidence that I'm both a Libra and a moderate (actually, I would describe myself as Moderate-Left of Center). But I do try to understand all sides of an argument and, even when I disagree with someone, I generally see their viewpoint.

To me moderation isn't mamby-pamby compromise. It isn't like soup, where everything gets dumped in and mushed together so that it's unrecognizable. To me being a moderate means that I refuse to allow my choices to be limited because they happen to come from one side or other other. It means that I refuse to recognize only two sides in an argument. It means that sometimes I agree with conservatives, even pretty far right conservatives; and sometimes I agree with liberals, even pretty far left liberals; and sometimes I think they've both missed the boat and are so busy being liberal or conservative that they're not seeing some obvious (to me) facets of the problem. And sometimes, often actually, I realize there is no good solution and we just have to figure out which is the least of the bad. I refuse to grant to anyone the assumption of what I believe on any topic because of a one-dimensional label.

Don't misunderstand me (please), I've had plenty of knock-down, drag-out arguments in my life and used to be quite comfortable describing myself as a liberal. And I was pretty down on conservatives. But this started to slide actually quite a while ago. In arguments with conservatives (gee, I wish I could call them discussions, but back then they were usually arguments) I would often hear that liberals don't believe in personal responsibility. And I would take great offense at that: I was a liberal, and I definitely believed in personal responsibility.

I had been a poor single mom and if not for my government job with health benefits and if not for the availability of safe, if not particularly good, day care, and if not for my parents, I don't know if I could have afforded to work. Fortunately, I didn't have to find that out. I didn't make very much more money than I would have received for welfare. But I believed strongly that whatever loss of me my children might suffer by my working was more than made up for by the lesson that it is honorable and right to work for what you get and wrong to take something for nothing, except in dire emergencies. I knew about personal responsibility.

But as time went on, liberalism (and feminism) became something that I didn’t recognize. I still believed in what I believed, but the labels that used to be comfortable no longer fit. The liberals and feminists—at least the ones that were shouting—had carried things way too far. Welfare was no longer emergency relief—it was a way of life--simply one economic choice among others. Feminists wanted equal opportunity without equal responsibility. And a bunch of other stuff. So I moved right on the continuum.

Not right of center. Don’t mistake me for a conservative. But don’t be surprised when I don’t sound much like a liberal either.

It occurs to me that I am writing this as if I am writing to conservatives, rather than liberals--as if I hope to have conversations with conservatives maybe even more so than with liberals. And, perhaps I am. Perhaps it is because my “blog-father” is my very conservative son (the Humble Devildog) and so my entry into the blogosphere comes from the conservative community. Perhaps it is because it is easier to be moderate liberal among conservatives than among other liberals. For whatever reason, thank you for your visits and for the welcome you have offered me (especially Beth from Yeah, Right, Whatever; Mithglin (another newbie), and Delftsman3). I think I'm going to like it here.