Bruce Watson's Lifestyles: When did moderation go missing?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Greeks had a term for it — the "golden mean." And Americans, aside from football fans and gun owners, once believed in moderation. We were a moderate country, praising “the better angels of our nature."

But it's almost 2017. In the wake of the election, do you know where common sense is? To make sense of the zoo-like behavior that has surfaced since the president-elect strode forth from under his rock, meet Ms. Moderation.

Ms. Moderation knows the extremes, all right. A 1960s radical turned FOX News ranter, a two-pack-a-day smoker turned kale and quinoa addict, an arrogant Type A personality turned driver who insists you turn in front of her at green lights, Ms. Moderation hit dead-ends at both extremes.

That makes her an ideal guide to the zealots who are putting America on a hair trigger. She now takes your questions.

Hey, Ms. Mod:

All my life I tried to be kind but since November 8, I don't have to. That next morning, I made my first flame on Yahoo. Some jerk was mouthing off about the Electoral College and I know I shouldn't have but I just let him have it. And here's the thing. When I clicked "submit," I thought I might feel bad. But I felt great! From the safety of my own home, I had reached across the country to spew toxic waste on a total stranger. Now I'm on the Internet all day, flaming the last liberals, telling "concerned housewives" to move to France, etc. My question: Am I still a good person?

Angry in AZ

Dear Angry:

Extremists of all stripes share your concerns. One will make death threats, then go off to work wondering how death threats became the new American "Howdy!" Another will shout "Lock her up!" and then recall ol' Gramps who fought Hitler. A third will wake up wearing a Klan hood and say, "Oops, how'd that get here?" There's a little extremist in all of us, a tiny internal voice who is done with "those people" who "just don't get it." So are you a good person? Perhaps, but your online persona is a creep. Question is, which is the real you?

Dear Ms. Moderation:

I haven't slept a wink since November 8. I thought with "their guy" headed for the White House, the shouters and haters would stand down. But they just won't shut up. Will they ever?

Moderate in MN

Dear MN:

You are making The Moderate's Mistake. Extremism and its symptoms -— mob madness, spontaneous rants, edgy "second amendment" behavior — runs deeper than Republican or Democrat. Extremism is a disorder that stems from ingrown self-loathing. Blame parents. Blame the ego. Blame all those confusing "ideas." Whatever the cause, extremists have stopped thinking, if they ever started. What's a moderate to do? Back away slowly, but keep talking. Don't feed the madness. Moderates are still the majority, as the popular vote proved, and they will be heard again, once the shouters and haters who will never shut up get jobs. Or hobbies. Or fall in love.

Dear Ms. Moderation:

We used to be a nice country. Should we blame the election or are we, deep down, a nation of loons, not of men.

Confused in CA

Dear Confused:

Indeed, the better devils of our nature are on the prowl. But don't blame the election. Anyone could have seen this coming once tabloid journalism plunged us into its cesspool. "The sleep of reason breeds monsters," the artist Goya wrote on a dark etching haunted by bats. Instead of bats, Goya might have etched a 60-inch flat screen TV. Pump fear into people day and night. Earn more money the more your news screeches. Refuse to check facts. Stage "debates" where interruptions and insults are an art form. And kiss the "golden mean" goodbye.

So turn off the bats. Read a book instead. A more moderate activity has never been found.

Bruce Watson can be reached at breadandroses22@yahoo.com.