moving the middle

This week on TVLand or one of those channels, I stumbled upon an old episode of All in the Family, when Edith’s cousin Liz died. At her funeral, Edith and Archie learn that Liz’s longtime roommate, Veronica, was actually her… you know. Yep, they were “like that,” as Edith said; Archie of course commented it was entirely unnecessary, a shame really, because she was attractive and should be able to get a man.

That episode was from 1977. I was a senior in high school. We didn’t watch All in the Family in my household when I was growing up. It wasn’t “approved” TV. Norman Lear pushed boundaries and made people uncomfortable. Or just pissed them off.

Several years later, I was living in Washington DC when AIDS was becoming a known thing and folks were beginning to make noise. And by “folks,” I mean people on the left; Reagan, of course, set the standard for the right, and he wouldn’t talk about it at all. Hell, people still weren’t even talking about “gay” out loud much. Marriage rights seemed the impossible dream. But people were dying, and something had to happen to get political attention. Someone had to do something.

One of the groups that emerged during that time was called ACT-UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. Not too much later, the Lesbian Avengers were born. These groups, and others, relied on direct action, public marches and street theater to draw attention to the violence of AIDS and the violence of homophobia. They dared to demand attention, to require conversation, to insist that something needed to be different. They worked outside of political channels. They were the fringe. Or as I like to imagine, the forward guard.

The keystone of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was Martin Luther King’s commitment to non-violence. He inspired a lot of people to resist the violence, to work for a new system without themselves inflicting harm. But there were some who weren’t that patient. Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers – their names conjure a particular kind of insistence, a lack of patience. They were the fringe.

The fringe matters. The fringe moves the middle. When the fringe moves, the middle creeps along behind, perhaps far behind, but moving in the direction of the goal.  The Lesbian Avengers and the Black Panthers knew this. Norman Lear knew this. For a while, it worked. We gay and lesbian Americans didn’t see progress until our growing demands for marriage rights made “civil unions” seem reasonable. But lately, the left has forgotten. These days, the people on the right are the ones who know this. The tea party knows this. The National Rifle Association knows this. They don’t expect to get everything they want, but look how far right they’ve moved the middle. In his work toward health care reform, President Obama never even talked about a single payer system – “universal health care;” but the right talked loudly and incessantly about complete privatization. And the middle moved to the right. It has happened time after time after time, and it is happening again with this so-called and self-inflicted sequester. Anytime the left takes its hands out of its pockets at all, the right bellows “government overreach.” Insane. And it keeps working. The right controls the conversation, and left is afraid of opening its mouth.

Now, it’s about gun control. We can’t require background checks, says the right, because that might lead to a national registry, says the right. The bumbling left tries to reassure America that a registry isn’t in the bill. And I’m wondering why the hell not. A national registry is the absolute most minimal thing we can do that makes any sense at all. A national registry is something that would save lives, calm our national proclivity to shoot one another, give more young people a chance to become old people. It is a reasonable middle ground.

The MOST sensible thing, of course, is repealing the second amendment altogether.

Don’t you see? A national registry is a compromise, not a fringe position. But it is only a middle ground, a compromise, when the left fringe is clearly defined. So, I’m throwing down the gauntlet and claiming a place on the fringe:

It’s time to repeal the second amendment.

People are dying; something has to happen. Someone has to do something. Time to push boundaries, to make people uncomfortable, to piss them off. Let’s see if we can move the middle.

(And by the way, thank you, Mr. Lear.)

About Deb Conrad
I’m Deb Conrad, pastor, teacher, photographer, writer, antique-lover, cat-mom, wine-drinker and old-house-seeker. I have a bike by Burley and knees by Stryker. I play guitar marginally, bowl when I can. I live in Flint, Michigan, with previous lives in SC, NJ, PA, MD, Washington DC, TX, CA and KY. I founded and still help run UrbanSpirit, a poverty education center in Louisville (link below), where I meet interesting people and try to do what I can to change the world. I'm pastor of Woodside Church in Flint, a groovy place if ever there was one.

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