There are two sides to every issue in American politics. For and against. Pro and con. The people in favor and the people opposed.
(This isn’t remotely true about the details of the issues themselves, of course. There are many options in between the extremes. You can be a fan of some public art projects and not a fan of others, for example. You can want to spend a little more or a little less on national defense. But overall, we’re told to pick a position and stick to it.)
COVID-19 is another example. One side insists that we need national unity on public health measures: masking, social distancing, vaccination, testing, and contact tracing. The other side is skeptical of these proposals: warning against government overreach, concerned about profit motives, and generally distrustful of institutions and officials.
These two positions are diametrically opposed. The result is gridlock. Not much progress is being made, and it doesn’t look like things are going to change. Today, it feels like we’re going to forever be in coronavirus purgatory.
But there is a third side to the issue. It’s not the people who are shouting TRUST THE SCIENCE. It’s not the people who are shouting DON’T TRUST THE GOVERNMENT.
It’s the people who cannot shout, who are barely heard, because they are too poor to matter.
My acquaintance Crystal Grave pointed me at some news stories about the third side. One talks about a woman in rural Alabama who went door to door to convince her neighbors . Another is about a group in Massachusetts that organized a block party . Neither of these populations are likely to be reached when most of the emphasis is on the screaming between the two main sides.
Which to me, is the point: we have to stop being obsessed with positions, and instead focus on listening to people.
Because it is people who need help. Who have questions and fears and beliefs.
It’s people who are going to be affected by how the government decides to act and how industry decides to respond.
People are what matter. Not positions. Not sides. Not being for or against. Individual people, trying to get through the day, hoping for a better tomorrow.
People are the third way, and people matter most.