Dichotomies define my existence. Jewish and Catholic, reckless and disciplined, bookworm and outdoorsman, shy and gregarious, I am often torn asunder by my diametric impulses and characteristics. Perhaps this is why I preternaturally seek the middle ground, the diplomatic solution, the principled compromise, the frictionless resolution. In this column, in diatribes devoid of breviloquence, I have for eight years trod a middle path, careful to account for differing perspectives and the validity of all viewpoints. I do not intentionally hide my opinions, which fall on a very specific continuum. However, in an all-caps world, here I attempt some modicum of subtlety so as to allow my ideas to permeate the minds of people along the sociopolitical spectrum.
In private conversation, I am outspoken and direct. Though believing the world of conflict to be mired in gray, I personally see the world in the starkness of ebony and ivory and readily acknowledge this dissonance. My family members and close friends are very much aware, painfully so, of where I stand and of what I cannot abide. Outside of those circles, I rarely take the bait of engaging in political or religious discussions, knowing that these circular conversations usually end up in cantankerous conflagration.
As intrigue after embarrassment after emergency after insanity has tumbled down from the shaky tower that we loosely refer to as national leadership, I have exercised considerable restraint not to flood these pages with the expletive-filled admonishments that are the only rational response. Like most of you, I am flabbergasted by the state of our union, by the daily onslaught of slights to our nation’s honor. Yet I do not scream from the rooftops, only let the rage filter in specific doses.
The neutrality of my rhetoric is purposeful and intentional. Still, committed to this stance, I lay awake at night, ashamed of my perceived cowardice, torturing myself for not verbally flagellating the objects of my ire. Toeing the middle line, I feel useless and much worse, scared that I squander the privilege of this platform. Authoritarianism is fueled less by acolytes than by the vacuum created by apathy or inaction. As we seemingly tilt in that direction, I feel complicit.
There is power in equanimity, but I constantly wonder if I have reached the edge of its effectiveness. In this moment of great importance, there seems little possibility of dissembling. And yet, I continue in this vein, believing that there is more utility in listening than in preaching. Anecdotally, it is working, though on a scale smaller than preferable. In the maelstrom of media coverage and public discourse, opposing viewpoints are set at each other and immediately repelled, as if by magnetism. The net effect is nil; minds are not being changed, only becoming increasingly recalcitrant.
Whereas, as an outgrowth of maintaining my composure herein, I have been fortunate to have civil, productive, principled discussions with those with whom I vehemently disagree. As a matter of human nature, attacks make folks defensive, make them much more likely to take on views more extreme than they might actually feel, as a reaction to disrespect. Emotions short-circuit rational thought and there is little more emotional than having your fundamental beliefs questioned, especially if it is less a question than a quarrel.
Ballots are already trickling into boxes, campaigns are at their zenith, and we all fear the outcome, regardless of perspective. It is as fraught a decision as I can remember, even accounting for recency bias. I am terrified and hopeful, motivated and fatigued, irritable and serene, dichotomous as ever. At bottom, the result will hinge not on the racists, homophobes, and misogynists that have already secured their moral demise, but on whether otherwise reasonable humans will elevate common decency over their personal pursuit of wealth. I have given them the space to consider their legacy; now it is up to them.