Where’s the Middle Ground?


Think we don’t agree on anything anymore? Fine, let’s fix that …

Recently, I asked readers to send me examples of things, no matter how basic, that most people – no matter who they are – can agree on. I did this for me. I’ve been truly dispirited lately about how angry and divided the country seems to be right now – more so than any time in my adult life. (I was a kid in the ‘60s – that seemed worse.)

We, of course, don’t agree on politics. People seem to have flocked to the fringes and don’t seem terribly inclined to come back to the center, where compromise lives.

Maybe that’s not surprising. The internet has brought us wonderful things. Think of it: the entirety of human knowledge is right there in the cell phone in the palm of your hand. It’s amazing.

But it’s also fractured us as a society. And that’s only part of the problem. We also don’t watch the same TV shows anymore. We don’t read the same newspapers. (No wonder we don’t agree on politics – we’re all singing from different hymnals.) We don’t listen to the same music. We don’t consume the same anything anymore. We have no shared culture, in essence. So, what is there to talk about, then?

Some will say, “Vive la difference!” Yeah, sure. I’m all for everyone marching to the beat of their own drummer, but there’s something to be said for having things in common with everyone else.

That’s what I was looking for with my request – just something, anything that we can more or less agree on.

In response, Carole C. said, “Summer is here, fall is next, then winter and spring. Can you agree to that?” Yup, I can. It’s not much, but it’s a start. And that’s what we need – a start, a baseline of things that are truly inarguable.

Marshall B. says this qualifies: “Ex-Lax in the PM yields a BM in the AM.”

Um, okay – I think we can all agree that’s funny but crude. Thanks, Marshall. I needed that. Not Ex-Lax, the joke.

C.B. says the following are inarguably true: 1) “We all need to belong to some kind of subset, either a tribe, a group or a club. This primal need transcends culture.” 2) “We are most likely to welcome different ideas and cultures when they come to us in the form of new foods or music. Our senses are designed to reward novelties in the form of nutrition and entertainment.” 3) “None of this current political discord is new. It ebbs and flows in predictable cycles. This climate of juvenile bantering will pass.” I agree, C.B. But could we hasten its passing by finding common ground? I think so. And I suspect a lot of you do, too.

Ann P. says she knows where the common ground lies for Michiganders: 1) Nothing beats a good hot dog in the summer, especially a Flint-style Coney. 2) The Detroit Lions need ownership to support a winning team. 3) You can’t beat a Michigan evening around a campfire. 4) Freedom and the right to vote. 5) Ice cream cones on a warm day. 6) The look of pure joy and wonder on a child’s face as he/she learns a new skill.

I agree with all of those. Let’s keep this going! Please send me your list of things you think we should all agree on. No politics, please. Send them to andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.

Here are a few things on my list to start your engines: watching a water sprinkler (still one of the most relaxing things ever to me), a fire on the deck or at the campsite, dogs (who doesn’t like dogs?), pepperoni pizza and three-day weekends.
There. Now it’s your turn.


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