In praise of moderates

Posted by at 5:49PM

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Last Thursday’s Faith and Feminism program hosted by the Stanford Women’s Community Center and the Office for Religious Life got us thinking about how underrated moderates are in our society. The gist of tonight’s program was about how people negotiate the sticking points between feminism and religious traditions, which made us think about how needlessly polarizing the rhetoric on this topic is. Feminists are still largely portrayed as crazed man haters and much of the stories related to religion are about terrorists or abortion clinic bombers or, at the very least, about people whose views are so reactionary that they could easily be characterized as hate speech. It seems to us that the people who garner the most attention in our world are those whose words are the least helpful in creating much needed understanding, tolerance, and mutual respect. People who try to navigate the sometimes contradictory points of concepts such as faith and feminism are often chided for not “taking a stand.” Despite what you think of John Kerry, it was disheartening to us when the media mocked him for being “wishy washy” for trying to sort out complex issues with some balance and nuance. Yet think how different the world might be if we had spent the last four years under a leader who did not take a “for us or against us” view of the world. Maybe it doesn’t make for good sound bytes and maybe it’s even not sexy to stand up for moderates, but moderation is precisely what it is going to take for all of us to live together in an increasingly complex world. Instead of getting caught up in “us and them” type language, moderates take a rational, problem-solving approach that allows for multiple realities to co-exist. In our view, people committed to this kind of logic deserve more praise, more power, and less ire from all of those interested in making actual progress on the issues that divide us.

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2 Responses to “In praise of moderates”

  1. Peter says:

    Moderates are rightly derided because they are the ones who are so reasonable as to expect that things will just get better if only everyone would try to get along for a little while. Not for any particular reason, mind you, but just so we can all smile a bit and have a sip of tea together.
    Those of us committed to reality recognize that things do not just get better. We realize that ‘the mushy middle’, by not actively opposing wars, racism, sexism, religion, and violence, are part of the problem. They fund corporate and government aggression and violence and then tell us to ‘relax’ and ‘be civil’.
    If moderates wish to delude themselves into thinking that being moderate (not getting upset, not doing anything, shunning and deriding the work of activists) is worthy of praise, then that is their choice, but we shouldn’t support their ‘comforting illusions’.

  2. Laura says:

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to accuse anyone with moderate views of “funding corporate and government aggression.” Also, no one is suggesting that we “smile and sip tea.” The suggestion is that we take a problem solving approach to complex issues rather than hurling accusations of “isms” as this approach effectively shuts down substantive dialogue.

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