When you're too extreme to think critically, the center looks like a bunch of existential terrorists
Something happened to Kendra in the last twenty years. The woman who once was, in true progressive form, willing to accept another’s deeply held belief contradicting her own, recently defriended me on Facebook because she claimed I 'misgendered' people and was 'transphobic' and a 'TERF'.
That was the extent of her argument. I'd take a half hour or more to explain my positions and she'd return a few seconds to toss off a few irrelevant insults.
The article that launched a thousand TERF accusations: We Accept Trangenderism, Are We Ready for Transracialism?
"What happened to you?" I asked. "You were a lot more tolerant twenty-two years ago when we disagreed on the War in Afghanistan."
In the days after 9/11, she wanted me to sign a petition protesting the as-yet unlaunched war on the Taliban. I explained this was our Pearl Harbor, we were attacked, and the Taliban knew what to expect as President Clinton had warned them if they didn’t turn Bin Laden over to us, and if he pulls any shit on our soil, your asses are burnt falafel, capische, paisans?
They didn’t hand him over, and in retrospect maybe Clinton shouldn’t have spoken Italian to a bunch of semi-literate goat herders. But I’m paraphrasing. Rather a lot.
Kendra politely acknowledged our differences, and we were back on the same page a year and a half later with the Iraq War.
Now, she's turned fundamentalist. Not Christian, 'woke'. In an already-divided world rent violently asunder by an orange-haired dementia-addled manchild, the left and right have both embraced extreme ideology, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, rigid adherence to holy dogma, and persecution of ‘heretics’ who dare to dissent. Their only difference is one god.
The ‘woke’ even have their own Judgment Day thing: The fuzzy future ‘day of reckoning’ their adversaries have coming for them.
The hell with established evidence. Fundamentalists believe what they want, regardless of how demonstrably ludicrous. Faith trumps facts with religious nuts, every single time.
Opposing extremism has squeezed those of us who see logical fallacies and inexcusable hypocrisy on both sides closer to the center, where we reside easier with others from t’other side of center. We all eschew both the whiny overprivileged identity politics of the red-capped Trumpers and the label-obsessed narcissist Social Justice Warriors, two extremes united by one common agreement: That those of us in the Murky Middle, where the other side isn’t always wrong, and our side isn’t always right, are The Devil!
The Murky Middle is where the world isn’t as simplistically cut and dried, black and white, Democrat and Republican, male and female, or, most importantly, good and evil. It fully embraces and flaunts the dreaded N-word:
The Murky Middle is where we come to say….
The Forbidden Things
The opinions that piss off everybody.
The ideas that used to sound rational, reasonable or just plain commonsense before the world got — crazy.
“My only problem is not all cases are the same. The comedian Aziz Ansari was being mentioned in the same sentence as Harvey Weinstein and that’s ridiculous.” ― Christina Hoff Sommers, feminist bête noire
“It is time for those who love liberal democracy to join hands with Islam’s reformists. Here is a clue to who’s who: Moderate Muslims denounce violence committed in the name of Islam but insist that religion has nothing to do with it; reformist Muslims, by contrast, not only deplore Islamist violence but admit that our religion is used to incite it.” — Irshad Manji, gay feminist author and perpetual bug up Islam’s ass
“One does not need to be brown to discuss racism, one does not need to be Muslim to discuss Islam. Ideas have no color, or country. Good ideas are truly universal. Any attempt to police ideas, to quarantine thought based on race or religion, and to pre-define what is and what isn’t a legitimate conversation, must be resisted by all.” - Maajid Nawaz, British activist and media talking head
“Racial differences are largely adaptations to climate. Skin pigment was a sunscreen for the tropics, eyelid folds were goggles for the tundra. The parts of the body that face the elements are also the parts that face the eyes of other people, which fools them into thinking that racial differences run deeper than they really do.” — Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist, science writer
Two-for-the-price-of-one offense with The Pinkster: The extreme right is offended that color is only skin-deep, and the extreme left denies race even exists.
This is *embarrassing*
It sounds intellectually virtuous and fashionable to challenge the sacred dogmas and rock-solid ideological beliefs of both extremists. We Murky Middlers can cheer each other and pump a fist or two. We’re so smart!
We know, after all, the world is a lot more complicated than the infantile tantrums over stupid crap pitched by the let’s-see-who-we-can-get-fired-this-week Twitterati would admit.
Then other voices pipe up from the darkness, saying things we agree with, and the Murky Middle squirming begins.
“Things have happened, having to do with many things including political correctness, where people are so worried about being politically correct that they are unable to function.”
“Cities like Richmond and Baltimore and Philadelphia have black mayors, have black city councils, have black police commissioners. How can it be systemically racist if these men and women today are actually in control of the city?” “I have fought on the front lines to prevent illegal immigration.”
The Murky Middle turns to smile in camaraderie with those who dare to voice our own unpopular opinion and find ourselves looking into the eyes of Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and racist Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, the trio who gave us those last three quotes.
Then there’s Fox News's troublesome Tucker Carlson, for whom I briefly gave grudging respect a few years ago when he stood up to the left's social media hit squads. They tried to boycott him into the unemployment line over offensive sexist comments he’d made more than ten years ago on a shock jock’s radio show. His comments about women were loathsome but he was perhaps the first individual with the power and clout to successfully challenge far left social media sociopaths.
And I’m pretty sure he was punking women anyway. I think?
Someone has to challenge the suspiciously unemployed and mentally deranged Outrage Machine on Twitter, which has nothing better to do than dig up the ancient dirt in all our backyards. And anyway, who has to go back ten years to find Carlson’s misogynist views? Just switch on Fox.
Thing is, it works in reverse too. Several months after the left failed to cancel Carlson, the undercover far right and their easily-gaslit lefty allies found they can’t cancel J.K. Rowling either. The trans movement demonized a perfectly reasonable beloved children’s author whose only arguable transphobia stems from the online abuse she’s taken from misogynist trans-activists. She’s called them out for what they are: Abusive assholes just like her ex-husband.
The Murky Middle’s first challenger began with a racist overaged frat boy who defends Nazis. But damn, he had the balls to stand up to anonymous and powerful online bullies. He told Twitter to go fuck itself, refused to resign and, holy shit, Fox News was perhaps the first corporation with the balls so far to refuse to fire a ‘canceled’ employee.
This is our embarrassing condundrum: In the Murky Middle, we don’t always like the company we keep. We recognize that even repugnant assholes from either end of the spectrum sometimes make a good point.
The Murky Middle’s intelligent and messy denizens properly represent real life: The deeply flawed human beings we all are who say, do, and act in abhorrent ways sometimes, or oftentimes. We don’t expect the unattainable moral purity the fundamentalists demand, yet are unable to deliver themselves.
Murky Middlers know Trumpers are on the wrong side of history, but so too are those who promote exaggerated, racist and distorted ‘critical theory’ ideologies for children and adults in the name of ‘wokeness’ and ‘accountability’ that never seems to include themselves.
When you’re part of the Murky Middle everyone who’s a football field from the center thinks you’re on the opposing team. The Republicans think you’re a Democrat and vice versa; the conservatives and liberals each think you belong to the other group; feminists think you hate women and the MRAs and incels are afraid you don’t.
Murky Middlers condemn the right’s, especially the ‘Christian’ right’s, excuses for any and all sins - as long as they’re committed by their own. Family values? No touching genitals you’re not married to? Hold your nose and vote for three-baby-mamas Trump! Anti-pedo? Vote Roy Moore, he loves Jesus! Pro-life? Don’t wear a mask, because liberals do!
We also condemn the left who started the anti-vaxx crusade years ago with a titty-flashing Playboy model, her past-his-prime funnyman boyfriend, and her perhaps-not-as-autistic-as-advertised son. We further condemn those who mock, persecute and attack people on its own side for sins they consider far worse than anything Republicans excuse: Jokes, ‘cultural appropriation (but only for white people), ‘misgendering’ (except for women’s athletics), slavery obsession fatigue, kids’ Halloween costumes, or writing about any indigenous person or character while white.
Lefty radicals join with their enemies on the one objective they agree on: Destroy all liberals!
Turning others from the dark side
Some brave Murky Middlers march into the metastasized hate fringes and their festering beliefs.
Black dude Daryl Davis, my Murky Middle Dalai Lama, befriends members of the Ku Klux Klan. He collects their robes when they leave. He’s got dozens.
Some Murky Middlers come from the Belly of the Beast itself and decide simmering in spiritual poison is no way to live.
Nothing makes you sympathetic to people’s beliefs you now reject than having been one of them yourself.
Some of us may be more imperfect than others, but all of us are more imperfect than we believe ourselves to be.
Stage Five hate cancer is too late. It’s what happened in Christchurch. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. El Paso. Pulse. Charlottesville. Overland Park Jewish Community Center. The Wisconsin Sikh Temple. The Pittsburgh Tree of Life Temple. The Buffalo supermarket.
People like Daryl Davis and Christian Piccolini strive to cure those who want to be cured, and to prevent Stage 1’s tentative tendrils from taking root in naive young minds.
The Murky Middle Challenge
I choose to confront the hard left because it’s too easy for them to brush off critiques from The Other Side. They’re more likely to listen to one of their own, although, like my ex-friend, they can be quick to shut down any challenge to their beliefs (exactly like their ‘enemies’ on t’other side).
Have you talked to a center-right or center-left person, whichever isn’t on your political side, recently? Intelligent, rational conservatives and liberals do exist, and they’re our fellow allies against extremism. We don’t agree on everything, but we don’t need to. Read Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, and then talk to someone from t’other side. Who may read the National Review rather than Huffington Post, or who may enjoy avocado toast. Hey, you don’t have to eat it too.
Before we help others, though, we need to help ourselves. It’s hard when we’re as easily triggered or emotionally hijacked as they are. I struggle with it daily.
How do we deal with our own anger issues? How many of us turn it inward or lash out blindly at the world, like Trumpistan and the Twitterati? How many of us engage in unhealthy coping behaviors - like our adversaries - while living with perptual anxiety and a chronic, background, low-grade depression whose origin we can’t identify? We, too, make others around us miserable and angry.
We have more in common with our opponents than we know.
At some point, if we grow tired enough of our own emotional cesspool, we wade toward the ladder to pull ourselves out. But others don’t, perhaps unaware they don’t have to feel this way. That they have a choice.
Spewing at rallies or on social media is the lazy person’s public debate. Painting a childish black-and-white world where the wolves are always evil and the humble tradesmen always good is easier than acknowledging many of us share the wolves’ desire for flesh. As for the humble, heroic woodcutter and miller, when they’re not saving their beautiful daughters from evil witches, they’re attending anti-immigration pitchfork mobs and plotting to commit genocide against a neighboring kingdom.
The Murky Middle conceals you if you do the easy thing and shut up. When you speak up or refuse to take sides you get slapped down by both.
Is that any way to live?
Do we want to cede the power to the screaming, vexatious mobs who compete to see who can bring down public debate, civil behavior and political discourse the fastest?
We in the Murky Middle are The Enemy To All. We must embrace it.
We are the ones who dare to think, see and hear other sides. And recognize the nuance.
Because we’re not The Side of Good, and they’re not The Side of Evil.
How do we know?
Because finding a simple point of agreement is a start. Even with Klansmen and Nazis.
Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a post!