You never hear about the rise of politically middle-of-the-road talk radio. Nobody has ever been called a "bleeding heart moderate." There's the religious right; but nobody speaks of the religious nonpartisan. During the holidays, nobody ever gets into a big argument with their crazy politically-reasonable uncle or their bohemian free-spirited, politically-balanced aunt
If I had to describe myself, I'd say I'm, oh, socially liberal, economically conservative, sexually moderate, emotionally radical, conversationally reactionary, stylistically bipolar, culturally neutral, philosophically orthodox, ethically impartial, and inquisitively magnanimous. In other words, I'm not a slave to a political agenda; I'm a slave to adverbs.
I believe the four biggest issues facing the United States right now, in no particular order, are...
1. global warming
2. terrorism and the rise of religious fundamentalism
3. economic stratification
4. college students getting their feelings hurt because you say something that contradicts their personal emotional space
Conservative people compare President Obama to Hitler. Liberal people are comparing Donald Trump to Hitler. Adolph Hitler systematically tortured and killed millions of people. We in the politically middle think that comparing people to Hitler trivializes the Holocaust. No American public figure in the year 2015 comes close to the evil that was Adolph Hitler. Eh, maybe Kylie Jenner.
Most situations are not objectively political. But we make them political. If penis-shaped sponge pods from outer space landed in Times Square and demanded a small discount on their ginger ale purchases, the MSNBC narrative would be "we're a nation of racists for not offering free ginger ale to the sponge pod dicks" and FOX News would obsess that somehow this proves Barack Obama's lack of leadership. And every liberal person would feel one way. And every conservative person would feel the other way.
Free speech is more than just the right to express unpopular views. (I don't love Adele's music! There. I said it. Now go ahead and hate me.) It's about the civil exchange of ideas. It's about people with different viewpoints coming together to compare and contrast their analysis of the facts, their personal perspectives, and their logically-constructed points-of-view. And then if things go really well, this leads to a sex orgy.
But things have changed. Social media and biased news channels have changed the way that individuals access information. Human nature is to immediately form an emotional response at the same time your mind is processing the initial stimuli. (And that "stimulus" can be an image, a collection of words, the weird guy on the subway rubbing his leg up against you, the hot and sexy guy on the subway rubbing his leg up against you, etc.) Then that emotional reaction evolves into a more rational response, guided by the exchange of alternative ideas that makes up society. Think of this metamorphosis as similar to when a caterpillar awakens from its cocoon and blossoms into a beautiful, more humble Justin Bieber. Or don't think of it that way.
Unfortunately, there is no exchange of ideas anymore. People form an opinion based on the political agenda to which they're stuck. Then they are bombarded by the same opinion, from like-minded sources, over and over. Usually this is done in the form of comical Facebook memes. And so people never have the chance to process an issue rationally. They're only hearing one side.
Hence, we're stuck with pointless nonsense posing as serious political issues: culturally insensitive Halloween costumes, the "war" on Christmas, transgendered bathrooms, defunding Planned Parenthood, "standing with" Ahmed- that annoying kid who brought a suitcase that looked like a bomb to school, building a wall around Mexico and making Mexico pay for it, college "safe" spaces, governors halting refugees from coming into their state, the weird guy on the subway rubbing his leg up against you, etc.
These are not issues. Oh, sure, they might be important to the small number of people directly involved in the situation. But these are not issues that we as a society should be focusing our attention. Sometimes, a passionate person needs to be told, "Don't be passionate about this. It's stupid."
Being a political moderate used to mean seeing both sides of an issue. Now it also means the ability to recognize actual issues.
And being politically moderate is to understand that everything isn't political. Being politically moderate is the feeling of freedom- that you can look at a topic rationally and without prejudice.
With all due respect to people who hate Earth, global warming is not a political issue. This is an actual issue. It's a scientific phenomenon that's happening. Scientists know what they're talking about; that's why they're scientists. Right-wing radio hosts don't know what they're talking about; that's why they write best-selling books.
No, climate change doesn't shoot people or set off bombs. But living in an ISIS-free wasteland without breathable air, edible food, or a place to stand isn't so great, either. Heck, that's Florida.
If a moon-sized asteroid was hurtling towards our planet, the asteroid-deniers would call Obama "weak on terrorism" for attending a summit on how to destroy the asteroid. (My suggestion? Send a ragtag group of drillers up into space. And then have them land... eh, just read the plot summary of Armageddon on the Internet Movie Database. That's pretty much my idea.)
Yes, there is a worldwide problem with Muslim extremism. To state actual facts is not being Islamophobic, no more than to fear an unleashed, snarling Rottweiler is dogophobic. (note: You know who is having a big problem with dogophobia right now? The squirrel community.)
This is not about taking away people's individual liberties or religious rights. This is not about Donald Trump's bigoted fake plan to bar Muslims from entering the country, or to turn hardworking, patriotic Muslim-Americans into casinos. But there is a large spot on the world map, which is now spreading to other areas, in which a religious culture is dominating and is dominated by violence, misogyny, homophobia, and however else one might describe Eminem's next album. This is not a political issue. This is really happening.
To say that religious extremism played a part in 9-11, or in the deadly San Bernardino shooting, is to accept reality. When you're politically moderate, you allow yourself to accept reality. When a large number of people are committing violent atrocities in the name of religion- maybe it's time to believe the people committing the atrocities. I know this is unfair to the many peaceful people who follow the same religion- and those people should certainly be allowed to worship without harassment. But, as I wrote when Tom Brady and Gisele had to cut short their private yacht tour of the Cayman Island coastline because of a slight drizzle, sometimes life just isn't fair. And women are treated like absolute garbage in the Middle East and this needs to stop.
Everything isn't political. Everyone doesn't always have to take political sides.
Of course, we need a police department. And many police officers do a fine job. But a police officer's job is to arrest criminal suspects- regardless of how thuggish those suspects might be- and to allow those suspects' their day in court. This is how our justice system operates. When we hear about a suspect killed by a policeman, our first reaction should not be to "support the police." Rather, it's to take the death extremely seriously and to investigate the incident. And police officers who are found to have used excessive force should be prosecuted. This is not political. This is reality. Everything doesn't have to be political.
The United States has a history of racial injustice. Racism is still rampant, only in more subtle, hidden ways. Our economic system is set up so that people of minority races, often of a lower socio-economic status, are at a disadvantage. Changes to our system should be made so that these Americans are given more opportunities. These are not liberal issues. Also, the family unit is breaking down. Many poor, minority children are growing up in dysfunctional, fatherless households. This is a problem. It can be fixed. This is not a racist, conservative issue. This is reality. Everything is not political.
We in the political middle- we're pomiddical, and, to be clear, I own the copyright on that word- believe the majority of our government officials are generally decent people, doing what they feel is right for the country. On the other hand, when a psychopath walks into an elementary school and murders twenty-six people, most of them toddlers, and Congress' response was... well, nothing... this is why we give the government Jar Jar Binks-like approval ratings. We're not "politicizing" the gun debate; we understand that some Americans want a firearm for the feeling of protection, but that there are too many guns and they're too easy to get. This is not political. This is the real world.
Free yourself from the two-sided duct tape of political correctness, of political agenda, of political bias. It's a wonderful feeling! It's like when you agree to help your friend move his stuff but then your friend cancels at the last minute so you get credit for offering to help but you don't actually have to help him move.
Smug, self-righteous jerks on the left and hateful, ignorant lunatics on the right have taken over the political system. But they haven't taken over America. This country is still dominated by sane, reasonable citizens who understand the difference between legitimate political debate and stupidity. Unfortunately, we don't have our own cable news channel.