I Believe in the Middle
I came of age in the 1970s when the phrase “the silent majority” was in common usage. It seemed a curious phrase to me then, and it still does. As far as I can discern, it simply means that the majority of Americans are in the middle on most issues and are comfortable there. I’m a happy middle-dweller myself and I believe I know why most of us are.
Whether we’re Democrats, Republicans or Independents, those of us in the Middle want to help our neighbors who are truly in need, but we don’t want to support someone who doesn’t have the gumption to help themselves. I don’t want a welfare state, but I recognize this is a cruel world and good people often have hard times, despite their best efforts. I also want law and order, but I believe in the presumption of innocence and recognize that abuses of power can happen to me. Every political cycle we hear about candidates “moving to the middle”. I just wish they’d stay there or at least extend their visits past election day.
Whether we’re Christians, Jews, Muslims or something else, the Middle believes there is a God and he has certain rules we’re expected to live by. There is moral bedrock beneath American life, but the practice of one’s religion should be personal, without government interference. I believe that if your religion shouldn’t dictate to the government then might shouldn’t either. Those that seem intent on injecting one into the other usually do so to further their own agendas–not for the public good. I believe the Framers intended there to be a wall between church and state–right in the middle.
Middle America isn’t a geographic term as much as it’s an approach to life. I used to wonder why middle-dwellers stayed put. We’re always being wooed or attacked by the extremes; usually for not being one of them. I believe we stay put because, simply stated, being in the middle works. Day in and day out the Middle continues to function when the extremes break down. I believe the Middle also works because those of us there go about our business without listening too much to those on the extremes. We know that when the Middle listens too closely the world ends up with a Chancellor named Hitler or Premier named Milosevic. But then the Middle is their only audience; so we have to take a lot of things in stride and not be rushed to judgment.
I believe the Middle is why this republic has endured. While doing most of the living and dying in this country, we middle-dwellers need to take the time to tell those at the edges: we know who we are and are comfortable there, and we ought to invite them to join us for more than just a convenient visit during election time. I believe in the Middle; life’s great balancing act of people, problems, passions and promise.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.