By Colin Relihan The Open Forum

I am a moderate. Whether it be politics, religion, work or any other category you can think of, I tend towards the middle. Unfortunately, the life of a moderate is an often misunderstood one.

Throughout my 19 years of life, people have been trying to get me to pick sides. Some try to convince that I should be a liberal, some try to convince me to be conservative. Since I got here at Georgetown, people have attempted to show that their ideology is the correct one time after time.

One day, a friend will give me his theory that all Republicans are angry, hate-filled white men, in hopes that I will move away from the dark side and become a Democrat. The next day, I read someone’s self-righteous opinion on what it truly means to be Catholic or American or some other random identity. Of course, when people say what the ideal Catholic/American/Human/Whatnot is, they always present their ideology as the ideal. What a coincidence.

It is this same gaggle of extremists that turned “moderate” into a bad word. I have heard all the stereotypes. The common misconception is that the moderate is indecisive, weak-minded, inconsistent and so on. Basically, some people think that moderates can’t make up their minds, so they stand in the middle, refusing to pick a side.

This is the first myth about moderates: we are indecisive. Admittedly, some supposed moderates may be guilty of not taking a stance on any issue, but these are not the moderates I am talking about. The moderates I am talking about are rarely seen as indecisive. If you have liberal friends who think you’re a more vitriolic version of Jesse Helms while your conservative friends believe you are some P.C. tree-hugger, you are probably one of the moderates I am talking about.

Just because we moderates tend towards the center, this does not mean that we are incapable of taking a strong stance on an issue. oderates are capable of having strong beliefs. Nonetheless, there are two differences between a moderate’s beliefs and those of some extremist card-carrying NRA gun nut or a P.C. thug.

First, there is no need to agree with an entire ideology in order to have a belief. For instance, just because I am pro-life does not mean I cannot be liberal in other areas.

When I believe something, I believe it because I feel it is correct, not because it fits in with some liberal or conservative agenda. Otherwise, I would become some unthinking political automaton (e.g. the Republican mindset, “Clinton is evil, he must be destroyed. Clinton is evil, he must be destroyed. Clinton is evil, he must be destroyed. Clinton .”). I’d much rather think independently.

The second reason moderates are unique is because of something called “compromise.” In eighth grade history, our class learned about the “Great Compromise.” In first grade, our teacher taught us to share and listen to other people’s ideas. Plugging your ears and screaming at the top of your lungs to avoid hearing someone’s opinions was frowned upon. Compromise was a good thing. Since my youth, I was told that meeting people in the middle is a good idea. I was taught that compromise was one of the best solutions to any problem.

And now? Compromise has become a dirty word. Tell people that you’re willing to compromise, and they automatically think you’re tossing all your values and ideals out the window. We have left the world of the “Great Compromise.” We are now in a world in which anyone who compromises is seen as another Chamberlain giving Czechslovakia to Hitler. Well, I’m not Chamberlain, and neither are the vast majority of moderates out there.

Of course, in a world of liberals and conservatives, fundamentalists and atheists, capitalists and socialists, there isn’t much room for compromise. Fortunately, not everybody is at an extreme. The middle ground still exists. That’s why I’m there. Compromise may be a lost art, but it is one that deserves reviving.

Is it inconsistent that I’m writing that moderates are capable of compromise and having strong beliefs at the same time? This is the second myth about being a moderate: since we are willing to compromise, our values are nonexistent. We are supposedly incapable of independent thought; our beliefs are bastardized because they accommodate all parts of the spectrum.

I am a moderate because I think independently. Ideologies do not appeal to me. I choose to believe what I want to believe, not what I am told I should believe. Furthermore, I am a moderate because I realize that the best solutions are found when everyone comes to the center. That may not appeal to the P.C. thugs or the sanctimonious self-proclaimed religious saviors out there; that is unfortunate.

In fourth grade, I actually witnessed a fellow classmate plugging his ears when someone else was giving an opinion he did not like. I thought I had left that behind when I grew up and the people around me matured. The methods may have become less overt, but many people still don’t listen. Because of this, my ears are still open. That is why I am still somewhere in the middle.

The Open Forum appears every other Tuesday in The Hoya.

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