When you think about wings, what comes to mind? Birds? Butterflies? Angels? Hospital buildings?
I’m pretty sure you weren’t thinking about politics. So, why is it that we are all being shuffled off into either a left wing or a right wing of whatever politics are available to us? It doesn’t matter which country you live in, we have all been convinced that there are left and right wings, that we all have to be slotted into one side or the other, and that the other side is the enemy.
A recent exchange of messages with one of my nieces got me thinking about this because she was imagining a world in which a middle ground party was possible in the United States. I am wondering why this is a question. Of course there should be a middle ground party! In fact, it should be the biggest political party of all. Most of us sit somewhere in the middle.
The more I thought about this, the more I thought that we have all been misled. We have been induced to believe that the wings are all that matters, but that is entirely wrong. The left and right wings of a bird, or a butterfly, an angel, or a hospital all depend for their existence on the central part. The body is where the heart beats, the mind calculates, and the instincts respond. The wings make movement possible, but they are not the essence of the being. In fact, the wings would not exist without the body, but the body would continue even if the wings were disabled.
Can we all, just for a moment, imagine a political world that was not described with wings?
I am not a feather on someone else’s wing. I am a complex, thinking, intelligent, flawed, productive individual who may sometimes support capitalist ventures and sometimes support unions. I may sometimes invest in stocks and shares and sometimes invest in a non-profit for the homeless. I may sometimes exercise and sometimes veg out on the couch. My thinking about all these things has evolved, and will continue to evolve over time, and that is a good thing.
So, if my thinking and my choices can vary at any one moment and change over time, why should I be forced into an imaginary or metaphorical binary choice that fits about as well as a pair of pants I bought thirty years ago.
I try to read a wide range of political commentary and information. I subscribe to online news sources from three countries and I read, in addition, articles I can find for free from several more publications on my news feed every day. I try to read a variety of opinions, even though I am turned off by extremes of all kinds.
In each article I read, I am aware of the unstated expectation that I need to buy into a philosophy that is exclusive of all others. That is what troubles me. I cannot and will not fence in my affiliations and my understanding.
Every time I think about commenting on an online newspaper article, I realize that I am setting myself up for failure. The commenters, even if they are real people and not bots, are predisposed to being the champions of a “wing” point of view. There is no genuine debate, no nuance, no serious personal reflection. There is only regurgitated extremism and childish name-calling.
One of the surprising benefits of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the worldwide realization of our shared frailty and compassion. We have all sacrificed, shared, lost, feared, and given to one another without a care for any left- or right-wing politics. I wish we could make this the year that those wings disappear for ever.
From now on, if anyone asks which way my politics lean, I’m going to say that they don’t lean at all. They stand up straight, right in the middle, where everyone is welcome and broad-minded respectful discussion is encouraged. This political centre is not on a line but in a circle. Everything radiates from the core and the extremes are not right or left but simply far out.