The Continuum That’s Been Forgotten

The difference between fault and blame is that fault is a defect: something that detracts from perfection while blame is censure (to criticize)

Blame it on the media, blame it on Trump, Obama, McConnell, Pelosi, Boehner… whomever. It doesn’t matter who is to blame, what matters is who is at fault. And that is you (probably), that is all of us, because we fell for it. All of us think we are the masters of our own opinion but opinions are shaped over time and they can evolve and they can change. The zeitgeist in which we live evolves as well and this has been very troubling to witness. It has evolved to a point where one’s political opinions are not allowed to fall on the continuum that makes up liberal and conservative views.

con·tin·u·um
/kənˈtinyo͞oəm/
noun
a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements [us in reality] are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes [us when arguing policy] are quite distinct.

Although most of us lie somewhere within one standard deviation of the typical bell curve of views (more “adjacent” than we think), the dichotomy that has emerged (“extremes”) over the last few years and escalated to an unbearable point over the last few months, is in and of itself in direct contradiction to what a party system should accomplish. Some might think that the outright political disdain Madison had for Hamilton which became personal and ended with Aaron Burr killing Hamilton in a duel was the climax of dichotomous politics, or perhaps it was Lincoln’s tenure with secession leading to war. Maybe so, however one can’t look at the politics of today and wonder if we’re almost as divided as we were in 1860. What was lost between Madison and Hamilton, the North and the South, and now the Left and the Right is the ability to meet in the middle. Where most Americans truly fit.

George Washington, the ultimate exemplar of maintaining reputation while still enacting policy, and the father of our country, was also the last independent to hold the office of the president. He stayed out of the party system, in fact he didn’t think it would work. But his successors were determined to unify against one another into factions that buoyed their own beliefs: Parties. Many would agree that this is much better than a dictatorship or monarchy for obvious reasons and Washington’s brilliance in setting up three branches of government to check each other keeps a shred of faith alive in our democratic-republic to many who have otherwise lost hope. But because we like to group and associate with people who share our same views, be it our social media friends, the news we watch/read that confirms our current opinion, and even geographically (think of Mormons, the Amish, or even minorities living in the same relative neighborhood) we must accept the fact that parties aren’t going anywhere. Let’s explore this. Bernie Sanders is an independent by his own definition, because he feels his beliefs don’t fully fit with either party (or any party for that matter). However, if Bernie had won the presidency his “independent” views would start to be shared with many people. Those “many” people would then group together to create a platform on which to campaign and raise money, so as to get him and like-minded individuals elected. Hence, the birth of a new party. Bernie, already aware of the improbability of his own candidacy, knew he had to run with one of the god-forsaken parties, because at least then he’d have a better chance! The point is parties are here to stay. There can definitely be more than two and frankly maybe that’s what we need. Maybe that will help us to start negotiating again.

We should all agree that negotiation has gone the way of the Rhinos* and we can blame the lack of negotiation on anyone; democratic leaders trying to filibuster cabinet appointees, republican leaders refusing a supreme court nominee, Obama with his pen, McConnell vowing to “block” Obama at every turn… And once again it doesn’t matter. What matters is we fell for it, and it’s our fault for exacerbating it, whether in conversation with family or friends, or on social media. We have become the problem. We must stop blaming politicians and start recognizing the fault in ourselves, and fix the problem by demonstrating a willingness to talk and negotiate. We must be willing to meet in the middle of the forgotten continuum and demand the same from our representatives. That means that all of us must compromise. We must be willing to compromise even on a minute scale, like conversations with friends and family, or on social media (the bane of civil discourse). From small and simple actions comes great change. How did being a “moderate” (like most of us) become a non-negotiable for our representatives?

So the next time you are in a political argument with someone, you must first recognize that you are probably more similar than you think, remember how we’re all adjacent elements on the forgotten continuum? While it’s ok to agree to disagree, it’s better to compromise and agree to agree. (TM☺) But be prepared, the person with whom you’re talking might not be ready for you to agree to agree but it will probably end with a hug or a handshake.

-Bryan James

“The day you stop doing the small things is the day you think you’re above everybody else.” –Kevin Hart

“Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things; to the every day things nearest to us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon.” -Booker T. Washington

*Almost extinct but noooooot quite