Does calling for a radiant center in politics mean that people of good will should be, or seek to be, centrists? Is being a centrist always a positive thing? Is there anything negative about being a centrist? These are some of the questions I began to think about after posting my Feb. 8 blog article and reading the thoughtful comments made about it.
WHY BEING A CENTRIST IS GOOD
Assuming that being in the “radiant center” as proposed in that blog article makes one a centrist, the positive things about such location must be considered.
Centrists are persons who don’t like extremism and want to live in peace and harmony with all people as much as possible. That’s good.
Centrists are persons who want to accept, and be accepted by, people who disagree with them and who promote inclusion over exclusion. That’s good.
Centrists are persons who appreciate and affirm truth, beauty, and goodness wherever it is found, no matter the label or the location. That’s good, too.
WHY BEING A CENTRIST CAN BE BAD
Sometimes being a centrist is not a good thing, however. That is particularly true when, or if, centrality means neutrality in the face of injustice.
In one of his oft-quoted statements, Desmond Tutu said,
In the 1930s, what benefit was it to the Jews for many (most) Germans to be centrists rather than being on the left opposing Hitler and the Nazi fascists?
In the early 1960s, what benefit was it for many (most) white Americans to be centrists rather than being on the left opposing the Jim Crow laws supported by the segregationists on the right?
In the 2010s, what benefit was it for many (most) “straight” people to be centrists rather than being on the left supporting the civil rights of LGBT people buffeted by prejudice and discrimination by those on the right?
And looking toward the future, if human habitation on this planet is in jeopardy because of effects of global warming, as it most probably is, what benefit is it for citizens of the world to be centrists rather than being on the left and in vocal opposition to the global warming deniers on the right?
If being a centrist means not taking a stand against injustice and against the mistreatment of people or the environment, then clearly that is not good.
ANOTHER WAY OF BEING A CENTRIST
Soon after posting the Feb. 8 article on the radiant center, I realized that I had mixed metaphors in talking about the center. That realization was partly due to reading Mennonite theologian Ted Grimsrud’s Feb. 7 blog article titled “The Left/Right Schema Must Go” (see here).
Grimsrud stressed the importance of holding to “core values.” This means that the center is the core, not the position between the right and the left on a linear spectrum. This is what Easel Roberts was suggesting, I came to realize, with the image of the merry-go-round—and what I had missed by staying with the right/left schema.
So, moving toward the center, which represents core values, is another way—and a good way—to be a centrist.
But, alas, that doesn’t seem to solve the problem of the division (“polarity”!) so prominent in contemporary society. Why? Because people disagree on core values. For example, conservatives (people on the right) see their opposition to abortion (“killing babies”) to be an immovable core value. But people on the left see women’s reproductive rights (“pro-choice”) as an important core value.
So, being this kind of centrist is also a problem.