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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Missing the Middle Ground - Finding answers the hard way.

I know everyone who reads this won't agree with this, but I write in good faith and with good intentions. I don't claim to know everything and I don't claim to be right on everything.  Also, some things I write about, I realize my perception isn't complete.  In other words, maybe I am only seeing part of the story or don't quite 'have it down yet'.   So, where am I going with this?  This is a follow-up to Stereotypes are often not Stereo, but instead Mono.  It was a reflection on the Michael Brown case initially, but ended up being largely about my father.  I guess I just need to reiterate the general concept.

Kids bicker among each other and to their parents and at their parents.  Yes, much of it "I shouldn't have to do this" or "life's difficult" or "Joey hit me" or "Sally made fun of me" or "You don't care about me" or similar.   Frankly, adults do this too, but it doesn't necessarily take the same form, but  I digress.   This can be tiresome for a parent and even grating.  As such, it can easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater.   Lodged inside the bickering and gripping often are points or legitimate concerns.   Now, as a parent you can't just let a kid bully or shame you until you get their point.  However, at the proper time--maybe when the dust settles--it is important to acknowledge their underlying point.  It is also best if you can direct them to do their best to get to the underlying point sooner, make it more clear if possible or not to add dramatics to it.  However, some parents will never get it.  Additionally, some parents don't seem to care if they ever get it as they have in their mind THEIR idea of how kids should think, behave, etc.  Anyway lodged in this process of theatrics is a middle ground.

As a country, we seem to miss the middle ground.  We have a problem, an issue, we overcorrect.   We elect a politician who is significantly on one side of the political spectrum and that person drags the country or state heavily in one direction, sometimes too much.  So, what do we do after we realize that?  We elect someone who is far on the opposite side of the spectrum.  In other words, we overcorrect.  What seems to get lost is the middle ground.   We have a tragedy unfold before our eyes in Minneapolis as caught on video.   That was a good moment for raising our voices to be heard and reflecting on where we are as a nation and where we should be without steamrolling everything in the process.  Unfortunately, for many that wise middle ground has been lost.   In a number of cases, what are legitimate and righteous protests have been overshadowed by clashes, rioting and looting with many injuries and death along the way.  I realize that some say that that's the only way that they'll be heard, but really is that what we are shooting for?  I feel the message is getting lost in the optics of the situation.  What I see is many people are largely taking two camps again.
  • You need to literally tear everything down to make your point.
  • If you don't take the stand that I think you should, you are okay with the status quo.
  • Protesters are just trouble-makers,
  • Why should we listen to the message when some take it too far?

In the moment, we have lost much of the middle ground.  Instead of constructive dialog and a serious push for necessary change, it seems like we are just retreating into camps.  To me, it's sad it has to come down to this.  There has to be a good middle ground where concerns are heard and acted on rather than letting them fester and build up.  There has to be a good middle ground where we can push for justice without destroying everything in the process.  

Whether it is in our families, our schools or in our society, we have to find a way to break through.  We have to find a way where we can hold people accountable where necessary, but also not go in assuming that others who aren't fully with us, are acting in bad faith.  Often times unnecessary fights flare between those who could get along.  I think this happens because there is an underlying assumption that the other party doesn't have our interests in mind.  In other words, the other party has their own interests in mind and will not yield for my interests at all.  That is, they are only interested in themselves and their interests and at best could care less about how their stance affects my interests.

Yes, we have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  However, when we start slamming cartons of eggs on the table, we are left with more of a mess than an omelet.   We have to be know about how many and which eggs to break and how to break them to effectively make an omelet.  If we just recklessly break eggs just because we are impatient for an omelet (change), even if we end up making an omelet, it will be a poor quality one and will probably have a lot of egg shells in it.   In other words, if we push recklessly for change, we may get change, just not the change we need.

I'm always for self-improvement as an individual and a society, but we have to be wise about it and avoid going to extremes when there is a good solution that can be had in the middle.  In other words, pick out the eggs that we need to break (the old ways that need to be broken), break them in a constructive way (in a way that doesn't destroy everything else in the process) , add the proper and proven 'change' ingredients from recipes (good replacements for the bad ways) and have a seasoned chef guiding the making of the omelet (trusted leadership overseeing change).  It may feel good to just start cracking the eggs, winging it and saying we don't have time to make it properly.  But, when it is time to serve the omelet, if it is not made properly, their will be additional cost (more pain) to remake it.

I hope as a nation we can find a way to listen to each other and not just talk past each other.   I hope as a nation we can come to a good consensus for necessary change.  I hope as a nation, we can find the moment and seize it, and not use the moment to push without compromise or discussion our position as the only right, complete and proper way.   We don't need to sellout and capitulate just to get a few crumbs, but we can seize the moment and seize the common ground, realizing a win means taking what is there.  The battle for self-improvement as a society will not be fought and won in one day.  We can't tear each other apart if we aren't in complete consensus.  We can't have it be all my demands be met everything gets 'blown up'.   We can't take that extreme position.  If we do, we risk blowing up the message in the process. 

IMHO, MLK was effective because he understood that that unfortunately as a nation that we weren't completely ready, but that we could be moved dramatically in the right direction.   He knew that it was a process.  He could have got frustrated at the pace of progress and pushed more forcefully for change, but he knew it would be best that he find a middle ground, both in tactics and in outcome.  The country wasn't going to change overnight.  So, he took victories when and where he could and continued to peacefully push the envelope.  He knew the path to success wasleaving the agents of status quo no option except to risk looking like extremists while his movement showed peaceful resolve.  

As a nation we still have work to do and I believe in light of the case of George Floyd the moment is available.  I believe however, ugliness of some to tear everything down potentially sets back that moment.   The ever growing list of demands OR ELSE are not conductive to a healthy path forward.  We are losing the middle ground IMHO.   Unfortunately, just like parents who get bullied by their kids the moment is at risk.  I fear that instead of coming to a healthy understanding and path forward, we risk further dividing.  Unfortunately, that means we risk only coming to the answers that hard way..

Just some thoughts,


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