Friday, March 25, 2011

So where is the center, anyway?

A recent exchange on the Kent State library school listserv helped me realize something about myself and the current political situation.  I have long thought of myself as a centrist, a firm believer in moderation, compromise and the middle way.  I've been pretty proud of it, actually.  It feels like I'm in solidarity with one of my heroes, St. Thomas Aquinas.  And it's bothered me a lot lately that on many subjects, I seem to be liberal, left-wing, not center.  Am I betraying my hero?  Am I being sucked into the extremist, left-wing, socialist Dark Side?  Quelle idee!  God forbid! 

It helped considerably when a responder to one of my listserv posts said that the center changes over time.  He pointed out that while the right-wing is still advocating the same extreme libertarianism, this country has no left advocating, for example, government ownership of anything.  (Well, there are a few, but they have no real influence on anything.)  The positions which, thirty years ago or so, were centrist are now supported by liberals.  So I am not turning liberal, liberals are becoming centrists.  I had been deceived by the fright-wing propaganda calling anything that they don't like "socialism".  I've tried to tell my ditto-head friends that they have no idea what socialism is, but they don't seem to care. 

Not that I'll ever call myself "liberal".  The biggest problem with centrism is that on a few subjects, there is no center.  The most important such subject is abortion: the unborn are people, or else they are not.  No middle ground there.  I've often said, though perhaps not in this blog, that the worst thing to happen to the unborn was not Roe v. Wade, but the co-opting of the issue by the right wing.  As a result, few people actually think about the problem.  Everyone is either "I'm conservative, I'm against it" or else "I'm liberal, I'm for it."  And the slaughter goes on.