The Moderate Majority

Will we ever get back to a calmer, mutually respectful world?

  • Saturday, October 10, 2020 2:51pm
  • Opinion
Phil Clapham

Phil Clapham

I think most people would agree that the unremitting train wreck that is American politics has become utterly exhausting, and the chaos that is COVID-19 just took another step forward (backward?) with the announcement that both Donald and Melania Trump have now contracted the disease (I don’t believe in God, but if one exists she certainly has a fine sense of irony).

Anyone who wasn’t already in a state of despair by the time the recent presidential debate rolled around was probably most of the way there ten minutes into it. It resembled a brawl more than a debate, and more than one commentator correctly labeled it a disgrace. The sight of an American president bullying both his opponent and the hapless moderator, constantly making up unsupported claims, encouraging white supremacists, and generally showing no respect for either the event or the process, reinforced how completely we have let this abomination of a human being debase our national discourse.

But of course, it’s not just Trump. There has been much talk about the extremists on either side of the deepening political divide. The white racists on the right, uneducated and ignorant, who glorify violence, worship the gun culture, and who blame immigrants, Black people, or anyone else who doesn’t look like them for their often self-inflicted failure to succeed. And on the left, the anarchists and other zealots who stupidly believe that violence is a legitimate form of protest, and who seek the absurdly unrealistic goal of destroying the capitalist system.

Yes, these people exist — and much of the time these days they dominate the press coverage. Given this, you certainly could be forgiven for believing that the extremists who are so dividing our country number in the millions. But I don’t believe that’s true. They just happen to be (as zealots often are) the loudest voices in the room – harsh, grating voices that are greatly amplified by the talking heads on the media networks that constantly promote right- or left-wing agendas masquerading as news (yes, Fox News and CNN both — I’m talking to you). In reality, the true extremists are a minority.

The vast majority of folks in this country are not like that. We’re moderates who are sick to death of the constant strife, the deepening hatred, and the paralyzing dysfunction in Washington. Most of us just want to go about our work and live our lives in peace, raise our kids, enjoy football on Sundays, and have barbeques with our neighbors. We want to see our leaders work together to pursue policies that help the average American, not the billionaires or the politicians’ well-connected cronies. We want a return to civilized, respectful political discourse – not the insult-laden tantrums and dogmatic intransigence that these days pass for debate. And we want a President who is kind, respectful and empathetic. One who listens and learns, and works to make life a little easier for everyone. We don’t want to undo capitalism; we just want it to be fairer than it currently is.

Will we ever get back to a calmer, mutually respectful world? I don’t know. But the next time you despair at what you see on TV or the internet, take the broader view and take comfort in the fact that you’re the majority, albeit one that is largely silent and long-suffering. Decency still exists everywhere, though its innumerable small, daily manifestations usually pass quietly and unrecorded. Kindness doesn’t make it onto Fox News.

So do your part: smile more at strangers, be helpful and kind whenever you can… and don’t let the extremists and the talking heads set the tone.

Phil Clapham is a retired whale biologist who lives on Maury Island.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@vashonbeachcomber.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.vashonbeachcomber.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

How the Big Lie Unleashed a Horrorshow

The first thing we must do is continue to stand in the bright light of the truth.

x
Former Congressional Staffer Asks: Where Do We Go From Here?

Last Wednesday, I am sure I wasn’t alone in feeling heartbreak.

x
School District Preparing For “Year of the Comeback”

It’s time to maximize our student’s academic achievement gains over the last half of the school year.

x
Savoring the Secrets and Science of Riparian Areas

You don’t have to be an ecologist to appreciate the vitality of a place like this.

Make Mental Health a Priority In Difficult Months Ahead

With many extremely vulnerable, some can find it hard to find relief.

x
Looking Toward 2021

With the legislature set to convene, it’s time to address the inequities 2020 highlighted with policy

x
Finding Community, Serenity in Puget Sound Waters

We are surrounded by water; it’s the DNA of island life and recreation.

Beware of the Power of False Beliefs

Here’s an idea: Let’s listen to public health experts, and get vaccinated.

x
New Lodge for Dogs Needs Volunteer Support

We can’t do this work alone and need community members to make the lodge a success.

x
The Remote Appeal of Vashon

Many unemployed Vashonites learned a new word this year: adjudication.

x
Songs and Dedications Connect an Island-Sized ‘Pod’

I have always felt inspired by the enormous power of radio and sharing stories over the airwaves.

To Fight COVID-19, Follow Example of Activists

After the AIDS crisis emerged, the fight led by advocates set the example we should follow now.