What it Means to be a Centrist

I’ve been wanting to write a post on the ever-widening gap between the left and right for a while and at last the time has arrived. It’s no secret that Americans are more divided in their beliefs than ever before. Left is further left, and right is further right. So, it’s important to define what a centrist actually is. A centrist is someone who weighs and measures issues on merit as opposed to ideology. Opinions not based on moral superiority, religious dogma or some other motive but born from a) having lived long enough to be able to develop informed opinions b) being educated and well-traveled and c) being mindful and recognizing that perhaps people do have legitimate reasons for their personal beliefs, even when they differ from my own.

Both sides are extreme. Left or right makes no difference. Both sides suffer from the same affliction, the inability to listen, to process and to form open and honest opinions, that might differ from current beliefs. Part of the problem is that these issues help define both sides. If one changes those positions, they cease being who they are and become someone new or different. But that doesn’t have to be the case. It might simply mean that someone is evolving, becoming broader minded.

Without change, there can be no growth. President Obama, when he ran for President the first time, clearly stated that the union of marriage existed only between a man and a woman. He later changed his opinion and said that same sex couple marriages are as legitimate as traditional marriages. He changed his opinion and whether anyone agrees with him, makes no difference. The only reason someone could be against two people who love each from marrying, is the bible and/or their own prejudices. People who never change their ideas or opinions, are doomed to a life of ignorance. Parents understand the importance of malleability. Being a parent requires change since children are new people and ultimately form their own opinions and beliefs even as they hold onto some of the beliefs, we as parents, instill in them. Parents who would disown their own children because of sexual orientation or for any other reason, are simply terrible human beings. That’s my opinion.

When people form their opinions based on religious dogma, there’s almost no hope for change. They defend their positions based on what they believe to be the word of G-d and that often requires following without thought or reason. You can’t have an intelligent discussion with someone who says, it’s in the bible. A centrist on the other hand is a person who sits in the center of all topics, carefully reviews both sides and fine points and then makes a decision on where he stands. It used to be the definition of what it means to be a judge, but no longer. The right and the left are so entrenched in their biased positions, that they rarely, if ever, sit down to examine any possible alternatives to their reasoning. They are closed minded and immovable. They don’t seek any truth, other than their own.

Let’s look at the issue of abortion. I believe abortion should be legal and a decision between a woman and her doctor. It would be wrong for me to assume that I have any right to make such a difficult and complex decision in someone else’s life. The government needs to stay out of such personal decisions. On the other hand, as I’ve already written, I’m strongly against student loan forgiveness. It removes the concept of personal responsibility and places the blame inappropriately. No one forces anyone to take a loan for school or to purchase a car. That’s a personal decision. Liberals argue that these lenders are predators. It removes the onus of a bad decision from the decision maker. These two issues are the very example of what it means to be a centrist. If you’re a liberal, you would tend to believe that student loans are predatory loans. If you’re a conservative, abortion equates to murder.

When someone believes they are correct, without weighing issues, they are labeled right or left, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. And most often people vote along party lines. If you’re a Republican, you vote without looking at or learning about the challengers. Same for the Democrats. But perhaps, there’s a good candidate from the other party that truly might make a difference. That person is never considered because of narrow mindedness. As a centrist, I have often split the ticket. I vote for the best person for the position, regardless of party. I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats and will continue to do so.

Americans need to spend more time learning about issues as opposed to simply reading the brief and often inflammatory social media headlines. It’s incredible how many news sources I’ve never heard of, print stories without knowing the source or validity. The problem lies in the fact that Americans gravitate to the stories that validate their opinions, as opposed to questioning their beliefs. People just want to be right, regardless of truth, and that’s never a good thing. If we are to ever turn around this country to where we can once again engage in civil discourse, people will need to become more informed and open minded. My belief isn’t simply based on hope, as hope is not a plan. We have been divided before when we fought a civil war. We were divided during the Viet Nam War and recovered from these two polarizing events, although there have been many others. So, I believe we will eventually return to civility, but it will take certainly some time.

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