The Silent Middle

There’s no way to know everything about everything. But somehow, a couple of decades of social media has created a society where everyone’s opinion seems to be equal.

I think that is a shame.

I don’t know the exact moment it happened, but I don’t understand how the ability to share our opinions in the wide world has somehow given some the idea that they are more valid, or necessary.

They are not.

And instead of telling us the truth, giving us facts, some of our politicians, and a lot of the media we have today, placate the ignorant and play to the extremes. They try to trick us into thinking opinions just need to be loud, without necessarily having any basis in fact. Those are the notions that get noticed, rather than the ones that are well-researched, or evidence-based. I, for one, miss the news that told me what happened and let me make up my own mind about it. 

In a country of this size, we are never all going to agree. What politicians and news outlets have capitalized on is turning us against each other. But, there are an awful lot of people in the middle who probably have lots of opinions. We don’t say them out loud because the loud people will eat us alive.

In the past, the “other side” meant another country; an enemy of our Republic. Now, those words refer to opposing political parties and value arguments in the United States. Haven’t you already been unfriended, or done the same to someone because you go to Facebook for funny GIFs, rather than constantly hearing about how wrong you are in life?

So many of our leaders aren’t taking care of us; they are taking care of themselves, while telling us they are doing it on our behalf. Here in the middle we don’t pick sides because there are selfish people everywhere. Sadly, some of those people have recognized that the more divided (and scared) we are, the more political capital they have.

It’s no longer a given that the free press—organizations that employ educated journalists who adhere to standard practices—is not fake, or at least heavily biased.  Are uninformed opinions, or those poisoned by organizations with no journalistic intent at all, just as valid as well-researched ones.

They are not. Even if they are delivered with humor or a crazy cat picture.

And while we are busy fighting amongst ourselves, some politicians are pushing agendas that keep themselves rich and powerful, at our expense.

I wish I had an answer. Right now I am losing hope that, as a regular quiet American going to work and raising a family and paying taxes, I don’t mean anything to any of them if I’m not loudly pushing for their cause. I’m just a single vote among the millions who can’t take time off work to protest the latest tweet or some imagined hate-think, and have better things to do on the Internet than pick fights with strangers. Still, I do wish the media could understand that I actually am smart enough to understand facts and not just following the loudest person in the room.

I got flamed three times last month over a comment I made about climate change. I honestly don’t know if I’m being more hard-headed believing we have 12 years to Armageddon, or if the “crisis” is a trillion-dollar fraud designed to make money for people pushing green energy. Do you? Doesn’t matter. And don’t write letters to the paper about it; I’m making a completely different point.

People in the middle are the ones who educate themselves, using many sources and listening to many voices, and gain an understanding of the subject. I’m not going to blow up an oil refinery but I can stop picking dandelions and spraying Round-up on my yard. I’m doing something that simply makes sense to me and I’m not going to scream at my neighbor for not doing it. That simple method translates into nearly any controversial fightin’ words you can think of… guns, babies, vaccinations, whatever. 

The problems arise when we start debating things that are not simply moral-based choices and resort to arguing based on information we can never be certain is factual. I know what I think about guns and vaccinations but I won’t argue with someone who is sourcing a different set of data. We both have facts to back up our argument and neither of us can say for sure that we’re right. 

My point is this; how can we somehow start demanding ethical information sharing? I don’t, for a minute, think we will earn integrity in politics just by asking for it.

There are many who are experts in a field. As a middle person, I’d like to hear what they have to say but it doesn’t mean they’ve got enough expertise to lead the city, or the state, or the federal government. I do wish our leaders would listen to those experts instead of each other.

I’d much rather hear what Neil DeGrasse Tyson has to say about artificial intelligence over the guy who saw “The Matrix” 100 times.

If someone is telling you facts, it’s important to get their source. From where does their statement originate? Read about the issue. Take the time to investigate the sources. If I read an article, I look a little further to see whether the organization has a partisan slant. I use a variety of sources, and I knew which ones are trying to convince me for their own agenda.

It is painstaking work. However, because I take the time, I can sometimes establish that what I hear—repeatedly—is truthful or not.

Ignorance isn’t something to celebrate, and it’s certainly not more valid simply because more people heard or read it. I just wish we would take greater responsibility for our opinions. (Are you listening, Hollywood?)

Here in the middle, we fancy a good compromise now and then. Compromising based on facts is hard enough. Compromising when facts and innuendo and bad journalism and uninformed opinion are at play is darn near impossible.

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