Stuck in the Middle
I’ve often been accused by friends, acquaintances and the occasional family member of being either “too liberal” or of just being “a liberal.” First off, I’m usually befuddled by the statement because I’m not sure what that even means. Can or should anyone define themselves simply on the basis of one aspect of who they are? Does being a Fireman automatically disqualify you from being a father, does being a firefighter disqualify you from being a woman?
I am a man, more specifically an African-American male, more specifically a man of mostly African descent, with significant European ancestry as well as American Indian, Mediterranean, and various other ethnicities. Does that disqualify me from being a feminist, or an occasional bigot? Do the thoughts to the contrary disqualify me from being any of the things I feel with a greater measure that I am?
I read a lot of “manosphere” related blogs, from the ones that take themselves way too seriously and occasionally make me throw my hands up and walk away exasperated, to those who try to walk the line of respectability and occasionally teeter off the edge. Does it make me a misogynist because I find nuggets of value in these writings? Does it make me a dreaded “SJW” when I disagree?
I’ve written before about finding inspiration in places that either scare me or repulse me (perhaps not in those words but this is heavily implied often) but alongside that inspiration, finding the proper amount of disgust.
When I was in College, I owned a copy of Iron John, flirted with the burgeoning men’s movement and got way too in touch with my feelings. I resolved that I was a good thing that I was raised largely by women. I understood what periods meant and had just enough of an inside track to having many a female friend with whom I enjoyed long talks if nothing else. I was 135lbs soaking wet and unsure of myself as a human let alone a man. I always bloomed perpetually late and in some cases, ended up better for it. In others, it was torturous, sometimes still is.
I remember that time culturally as well, the geeks were silently preparing to take over the world through every living room, and men were flirting with androgyny because we thought it would get us laid. It was the path of least resistance in a culture that was still trying to define and in some cases, undo manhood. Why try to wrap yourself up in the rugged traditions of being a man when those traditions were as much a restraint as they were freeing. They required so much damned work and so much effort, why not just give in?
From this, it is easy to draw parallels between men’s changing roles and the periods in history when women faced similar choices, at greater peril. Now that last part of the sentence is important, it isn’t an approbation designed to ramp up attraction from women. It isn’t an “I feel your pain” ploy for the affections of the other sex (this too has become complicated, misgendering be dammed!) it is a simple truth. Men, possessing of greater physical strength on the average and a history of using that strength to dominate those weaker than them have caused much violence over maintaining the preferred class, mostly White Angelo Men, another fact.
You don’t have to know much about history, only the broadest of strokes will tell you that there has been a great transformation in gender since I was born (the late 60’s) and that change has become the source of tension. As much tension as there is in the fact that change has occurred in other “roles” and categories as well. Gender, Race.
What it means to be an American in practice is catching up to what we’ve been taught it means on paper. Combine all the cultural upheavals that have happened in the past 100 years or so, accelerating in the last 15, and you have what we have now, a lot of angry, distrustful people of all stripes. The closer we come to the ideal America my Catholic school civics nun taught us, the less US we are.
Men are angry because we deeply fear the next woman we look at lustfully may not have been born that way, White men are angry because they feel the country, hell the world they’d been implicitly told was theirs is no longer exclusively so. Black men are frustrated because of the existing barriers of Race and our annoying inability to grow beyond victimhood, real or perceived. We, more than most, are schizo-Americans, entitled to all that we have never been allowed to have yet “entitled” still. We are stymied and stilted by our continuing reverence for a God that was never ours and lack of any real viable alternative.
Politically we are divided into camps of “Left” and “Right,” “Liberal” and “Conservative,” divided mostly along lines of education and race we are kept so busy with petty bullshit, fighting each other over it, that we don’t see who is truly benefiting from it. Hint: it is neither them nor us.
It isn’t just here that this wave of change threatens to devour us. Europe, especially the more liberal economies, are also struggling with cultural change. Israel’s dwindling interest in peace and its neighbors tiring of war has hardened each side into intractability. We are all to blame in a way.
So what about us middling folks, the ones who despite having strong inclinations to one side or the other, rest practically, in the center. Those who believe in live and let live but if my neighbor feels the need to use deadly force to stop an intruder from entering their home, that the neighbor should not only have the right to do so but must also live with it if he or she makes a fatal error.
What about those of us who believe that there are things that Socialism just does better and things that Capitalism, as unfettered as it can be with the balance of government enforced monopoly laws does far better than Socialism ever can. What about those of us who believe that all the amendments to the constitution should be equally protected, including the second, but none, not even the first, is absolute.
Or those of us who accept the right of everyone to determine their gender identification while still asking that those of you who do to please have patience with those of us who need to adjust to the idea. Or that those who feel that although traditional gender roles are outmoded, still respect the arrangements of others who adhere to them by choice. Just as we respect those who choose to turn them on their head. That in a world of division and fragmentation, both are equally brave in their own way.
What about those of us who are so far to either side in our heads, but realize that as we are now there is so far to go before a Libertarian or Socialist utopia can be achieved. That we, as humans, aren’t quite ready for total freedom without feeling the need to subjugate others nor can we be totally collective while maintaining our individual selves.
What about that middle?