“This friend of mine, who’s a very smart Southern boy, goes ‘Yeah, you know about that middle of the road stuff, ain’t nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and armadillos.’ I was like, ‘Hey bud. I’m over here in the middle of the road right now. I’m walking the yellow lines, and the armadillos are running free. You know why? Because the left and right traffic is so far to the edge, their tires aren’t even on the pavement’ . . . (They’re) not riding the wheels of democracy I don’t believe.”
While he’s not exactly the Will Rogers of the 21st century, Matthew McConaughey has a point.
The actor who is reportedly toying with the idea of running for governor of Texas in 2022 made that homespun observation this week during a podcast interview.
And quite frankly the wholesale abandonment of political and cultural leaders gravitating to the middle of the road even occasionally is what ails America today.
We view moving toward the middle of the road as either a sign of weakness or a place where no one has any convictions.
And by eschewing the middle of the road — one on which we are all supposedly headed in the same general direction — we end up careening back and forth constantly often forced into severe corrections when someone wrestles the steering wheel from the other guy.
The vessel we call America has a long history of its tires pulling to the right and then to the left and repeating the process.
Not that something trivial like history should guide us assuming we don’t cherry-pick what we want and then re-arrange the view in the rearview mirror to reflect the sensibilities we cherish today, but how America has spent the last 245 years navigating the road does matter.
Hugging the middle more often than not is what has created the melting pot effect.
Just like Americans have done throughout its history new immigrants from lands whose cultures, religions, and even food are different than what we are used to are often marginalized and looked upon with suspicion. That weakness in character has been a flaw of those in various eras who were considered to be on the left and the right.
Eventually as we gravitate toward the middle the political stew we’ve created when people of all creeds, beliefs, and cultures and thrown together eventually mix instead of staying in their separate sections of the proverbial pot.
That melting effect where you bring the specific flavor of potatoes, carrots, celery, peas, and meat together creates a new flavor without sacrificing the unique flavor of each ingredient. And most would agree the stews we create are better than living on carrots or celery alone.
Unfortunately sometime in the past 30 years or so the cooks that are in charge of the kitchen believe the end product is no longer a stew but one homogeneous smoothie where the unique ingredients are completely obliterated.
The same analogy applies to how we expect to be governed today.
There is no effort to blend viewpoints. Everything is cast in absolute shades.
And, just like McConaughey’s friend, too many of us view the middle of the road of being a place as dead zone where only the cautious and those without conviction walk.
They don’t see it as a place of strength and stability. Instead they wear down the edges and in doing so start crumbling the pavement.
And it’s not just party animals that are addicted to the Kool-Aid served by the leaders of their particular pack. People who believe we should be driving on the left side of the road want nothing to do with those who believe we should be driving on the right side of the road and vice versus.
It’s ironic how we degrade those not on our side of the road matching our “purity of thoughts and views” by painting them with verbal slime equating them to Hitler and even somehow one upping him.
Besides marginalizing what Hitler did to the Jews and others by equating the perceived political malfeasance du jour of opponents with the atrocities Hitler committed, we fail to see the one thing that we should have learned as a nation from the monster of the 20th century.
Hitler was all about absolutes, at least when he was bellowing propaganda.
It was a nation of mutts, if you will, that provided the backbone needed to defeat Hitler’s illusions of a master race. Hitler viewed America as weak due to the assimilation of people, ideas, and cultures.
Today when we aren’t busy trying to find new ways to compare political foes with Hitler we’re hell-bent on abandoning the proven course that has always moved the nation forward — searching for the middle ground.
It is a messy process and it can take more time than we want. But lasting change is not brought about by edicts or invading armies. It comes from working together to find common ground.
Too many today see that as a sign of weakness. But just like iron ore alone doesn’t produce steel it takes adding other ingredients such as coking coal and limestone intense heat to forge a string nation.
We’ve got the intense heat down pat thanks to the non-stop stoking of the political flames via social media. Now we just have to add the limestone and coking coal — or the divergent views of the left and right, if you will — to forge the iron ore into something much stronger and versatile than currently exists.
Things won’t get better until we leave the comfort zone of our views.
Nation building is no different than building a relationship. It requires finding common ground and working together.
And while it is true more than a few Armadillos meet their maker in the middle of roads in Texas, that double yellow line is what brings the left and right lanes together.
Without it you set the stage for the road of governance to go from a highway to move us to the next destination that is better than the one we are now in to deteriorating into a non-stop demolition derby.
Disclaimer This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org