Standing quietly in the middle of the road


Hey! Look at me! You can’t see me, can you? Of course you can’t! Because I’m way over here on the left! Or on the right! It depends on the direction from which you’re looking.

It’s been a weird year. Screaming letter-writers and strangers on the street alternately accuse me of being a flaming liberal and a right-wing nut job. Never anything in between. Nobody ever accosts me to insist that I’m a middle-of-the-road freak with commitment issues.

Which I am.

Depending on what I’ve written that week, I’m either an ardent follower of Glenn Beck (I could puke) or a disciple of Nancy Pelosi (who?)

Here’s how it works. If I write a story about Somali gangs terrorizing locals, I’m a heartless conservative with no compassion for the plight of immigrants.

If I write a story about the gun trade between Maine and Massachusetts, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal who would like to see guns ripped from the hands of honest men and women.

Faithfully tune into the comic tag team of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert: screaming liberal.

Utter one remark about end-of-the-world preparedness: militant, paranoid, red-state lunatic with an obvious man-crush on Rush Limbaugh.

Which leads me to one conclusion: Everybody except me is crazy.

Everybody except me is lining up on the playground demanding either a red uniform or a blue one. You either watch FOX News or you get all your information from Keith Olbermann. You’re either WITH US or AGAINST US. Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton.

Here’s the thing: I don’t watch FOX News because FOX News strikes me as a 24-hour-a-day infomercial for the neo-conservative movement. I don’t tune in to Olbermann because it seems Olbermann’s head is one day going to explode right there on live television, and who wants to see that?

When I wrote a story about gangs of Somali teens attacking and robbing locals, a couple of strange things happened. One was all of the people who, in fits of righteous rage, came out to deem me a xenophobic racist who clearly despises immigrants.

The other was a group of people who wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me for finally putting down my liberal pen and writing the truth about Somalis.

Again: You’re all nuts.

The story was about a group of criminals preying wolf-like on innocent people over a period of months. I would have written a story — and my editors would have demanded one — if the assailants had been white, green, purple or extraterrestrials with an odd attraction to Kennedy Park.

Nothing I write is politically driven, which just makes many of you sad. The state of things in this country today is such that if you can’t neatly classify someone as an elephant or a donkey, your world falls apart. Nobody is just a middle-class guy from a small town in America anymore. It is almost a requirement these days that you pledge allegiance to a tea bag or the Daily Kos.

Yet, not everybody has chosen a side with which to live or die. You may have a hard time believing that, even as you read these lines.

It’s like the great lady sings: You probably think this song is about you. Don’t you? Don’t you?

But I exaggerate. It’s not just me trying to stand ground somewhere in the middle of the road. Prowl through the political section of Facebook or anywhere like it, you will see fewer people using a capital D or capital R to describe their affiliations. You’ll see a lot of progressives, moderates, independents, arachnophobics, lactose intolerants. Anything to separate oneself from the radical right or the lofty left.

I don’t think the passage of health care reform would usher in an age of American socialism, in which the elderly are taken out into fields and shot. I also don’t believe it’s a giant step toward Utopia.

If Sarah Palin were elected president, I’d hide under my bed. If Rahm Emanuel took a run at that office, I’d hide under yours.

Are you starting to get the picture? In the grand scheme of things, I’m too wishy-washy to have an agenda. It’s a state of slack-jawed ambivalence that keeps me free from bias.

Now hush, would you? I’m trying to watch cartoons.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can flame him for his lack of political passion at [email protected]