Ideology and Politics

A conservative friend said the other day, “He who stands in the middle can cast stones at either side, then run to the other for safety.”

This can be true, and such a person is not to be admired! What my friend did not say (and does not know) is that the person who stands in the middle will certainly be stoned by BOTH sides, and that is what I experience constantly when I’m talking to ideological people. In fact, that’s how I know I’m truly in the middle. Both sides think I’m on the other side.

I always tell couples in marriage counseling, “At some point you’ll both be convinced I’m on the other person’s side. I’m an equal opportunity offender.” Counseling any other way cannot work because the truth is almost always somewhere in the middle. And that doesn’t mean that neither side has the truth, it means neither side has all of it – that each side contains perspectives that are valuable and can help solve the problem and each side contains sludge and crap that has to be let go of. The truth is weaved in and through a lot of falsehood and misconceptions on each side, and if I’m deciding before I even see a couple that this is the way it is (a, or b, or I’m on his side or her side), I’m going to miss the truth that’s there, and that’s where the only opportunity lies to make any real progress. If I align with either of them, I’m simply perpetuating the worthless, ineffective spiral they are already in. He’s made his “points” 10,000 times and she has made her “points” 10,000 times. Neither of them has changed the other’s mind, and they’re both miserable. Each of them feels right, self-righteous, and totally misunderstood, unheard, and invalidated by the other. There has to be another way through this – some vital piece they are both missing, but that is nonetheless present already in what they are both trying to get at. It’s my job to help identify that and bring it out and create new ways of thinking that get them out of the worthless ruts they’ve been stuck in. Success depends completely on BOTH parties being willing to drop all the crap that brought them to see me (blame, condemnation, criticism, judgmentalism, etc.) and adopting new perspectives and new ways of looking at things.

Ideological politics never ends because both sides just constantly blame, condemn, criticize, and judge. But mostly because neither side ever listens to the other except to gather evidence and information that will be damning to the other side when it’s time to make their point. Of course one of you can instantly invalidate everything I’m saying by remarking “That’s counseling, this is politics.” Of course then you’re left with the fact that politics is fundamentally about relationships and about human beings. I’m not sure what you make of that, other than that pieces of the truth lie on both sides and if one is committed first to ideology and then truth, one will miss the truth at least half the time. But if one commits first to truth, then one will find pieces of truth at different times that each ideology would embrace and support.

But that’s never enough for the ideologue, who always wants you to not just accept a point or two here and there, but to actually embrace the ideology itself. NOT GONNA DO IT.

I feel that as a moderate I’m committed to the truth, and the clearest way to know that something is not really the truth is when an ideologue says he’s got it. No one has all of it, so I prefer to find it wherever it might be found, in spite of the criticism that might draw from those who wish I’d just be a man and take a side.

I realize Jesus claimed to have all of it but the difference, for me, is that I believe him. I don’t think George W. Bush has it, or Barack Obama has it, or even that any of Christ’s followers have it, but I think Christ has it. And to me, that is worth pursuing.