The Middle and the Three F’s

“ — as for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few.
It belongs to us all.
Whoever you are, wherever you’re from
It’s what connects us.
And we need that connection.
We need the middle.”
— Bruce Springsteen

TL;DR: Major takeaways are “clarity over agreement,” We need the middle, “humans are weird,” we might not have Trump anymore, but he leaves a worrisome legacy.

Hi. I’m Mike Hasley. A recovering Christian Conservative trying to make sense of the post-Trump world. I love discussion and listening to thought provoking people. I also like to read, write, and explain things. I was a teacher after all. So for the next few months, maybe longer, I want to explore this idea of The Middle and politics, since it’s one of the dominating thoughts in my life.

It took too long to realize that debating on Facebook wasn’t worth the energy or my time. It usually caused damage. Not only the debating itself, but holding on to one political ideology no matter the issue wasn’t helping. I finally learned being on “the right” wasn’t always right. To feel intellectually consistent, I needed to abandon a fixed philosophy and move myself to the middle because one side isn’t always right. I could no longer view politics as a team sport.

My interest in politics began with my work on Student Government at Virginia Commonwealth University and finally being able to vote for president in 1988. Soon after graduating, I moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for Close Up, teaching about government to students from across the nation.

I moved back to the Richmond area after I got married, and became an active member in my wife’s church. This was where I felt comfortable as a new Christian and was given a lot of opportunities to serve: my main calling in life.

For 20 years, that was me. The Christian Conservative. I served on the Boards of a small Christian school, a Christian campground, was a Sunday School teacher, deacon, head of Missions, and more. I listened to Dennis Prager, read George Will, and debated the “right” side of the argument when I could.

But upon reflection, I was probably too combative in my righteousness, arguing political minutia to try and score invisible Facebook points with people I would see at work the next day. But at the time, I saw it as mostly academic fun, not division.

Then Trump came on the scene and my political beliefs “got flipped-turned upside down.”

And here is where I need to be clear about Trump and my own self-awareness. I had a lot of friends who voted for and supported Obama. They probably didn’t like it when I tried to take apart policy, comments, or whatever … usually arguments from my own Dennis Prager echo chamber. I should not have been such a jerk about it. But I still didn’t learn the important lesson once I started debating fellow Republicans about Trump.

While I disagreed with Obama at the time, I didn’t see him as dangerous. But I honestly felt that Trump was dangerous. So once again, I had many pointless arguments on FB about Trump and policy, where I was probably being more divisive than convincing.

For example, one of my Facebook friends is a guy I went to church with and even did committee work with for a number of years. Once he came to my house to fix a pipe under my house. When he joined Facebook, I was no longer attending that church, so I thought this would be great. However, he pretty much used Facebook to cheer on Trump and shoot down anyone else who disagreed. So I played the combative fool, to the point where I could feel my blood pressure rise every time I saw him post something. So I finally had to stop following him. Engagement wasn’t working and all I was doing probably doing was reinforcing his beliefs. I’m tired of this type of conflict.

That’s where I want to start, and how this path to The Middle has started.

I don’t want to argue with friends, family, or on Facebook (The 3 F’s) about liberal ideas, conservative ideas, none of that. I know there are differences, but that shouldn’t mean building walls and missing out on the other 99% of life with them.

I’ve adopted the motto, “clarity over agreement” from Dennis Prager. Still good advice. And that’s the point of any future posts: Clarity about The Middle: my fight against going too left or too right in this country (more on this in a later post).

Writing is a outlet that helps me process my thoughts. I thought Facebook could do that, but as I mentioned, that just turned to failure. Will my thoughts influence yours? Perhaps. But that isn’t my sole purpose here. I’m writing to gain a stronger sense of my beliefs, where they began, why they remain, and how they can impact others. Hopefully in a positive way.

I also do this, because even though Trump isn’t president anymore, I still see the dangers he created around us. When people like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene are elected officials — When Amanda Chase in Virginia leads the GOP field as a candidate for governor — With QAnon alive and well, I don’t want to just sit still. And my brain doesn’t stop.

Read this, it’s much better: Dan Heller’s piece describes the weird nature of California’s left and right.