When occasion prompts, thoughtful people, inclined to honest introspection, may dutifully re-examine the tenets of their personal beliefs, most relevantly, in conjunction with the current prevailing marketplace of ideas. Where change or alteration is personally deemed warranted, the same should be the sole product of independent deliberation, and without outside or third party influence.

It would appear to be the natural predilection on the part of most people, albeit of significantly different views, is to consider themselves middle of the road, or moderate, thinkers. Such self-serving labels are evidence of a personal need for reassurance of acceptability. However, any categorization or “labeling” of oneself or others is, inarguably, attained through subjective perception, and accordingly, has minimal value.

In the interest of clarity, we would suggest the following simple description of what appears to be three general categories or labels:

  • “Reactionary.” Characterized by unchanging adherence to formerly established (perhaps, outmoded) ideas, political, social or religious.
  • “Radical.” Advocating political, social or religious change; often branded as “revolutionary.”
  • “Middle of the Road” or “Moderate.” Belief system accepted by a great many diverse people as timely and proper.[This label is also ascribed to by people whose beliefs may not be au courant but are supremely confident as to the verity of their nuanced beliefs and, accordingly, presume ultimate societal support].

In the recent past, American history reveals, the general sentiment was that the institution of slavery, supported by the King James Bible, The Supreme Court of the United States and revered personalities of the time, such as Thomas Jefferson, was legal, moral and good business. Abolitionists who opposed this disgraceful practice were labeled as dangerous radicals; men like Jefferson, as to this subject, were considered middle of the road.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement was, in its day, popularly considered revolutionary and radical. The denial of the right to vote to women was not( generally) labelled reactionary; in fact, in view of the numbers of those in opposition to the extension of the franchise to women, the position might be labelled moderate. Today, when women’s rights of equality still have a significant way to go, the denial of the woman’s right to vote would be universally condemned, even by most reactionaries. In another context, those who presently currently believe that a woman has the right to personally elect to have an abortion are labelled as radical by some, middle of the road by others and morally reprehensible by reactionary credo.

Compassionate citizens today, who believe that the government has a proper and moral responsibility to render assistance to needy Americans (ex., food stamps, health and education), are derided as radicals and socialistic, by most reactionaries, but generally supported by most middle of the roaders.

The inarguable fact appears to be that the practice of labelling or categorizing of perceived beliefs is useless, in that it is purely subjective and comparative, and also subject to the context and prevailing mores of a developing history Its conceptual invalidity is also made apparent by the practice of people, located across the varied spectrum of beliefs, convinced of the “obvious” rectitude of their views, who therefore consider themselves, moderate; it is moreover, reassuring for such people to believe that one’s views are reasonable and within the mainstream of society, regardless of their evident disparity.

Evidently, the lack of utility of labelling or categorization of people based on political and other areas of belief, suffers from the chronic syndrome, commonly known as “in the eye of the beholder.” It is further complicated by the changing societal mores over time, affected by dogma, religious or otherwise, and still further, by the phenomenon of familial or ethnic inheritance of beliefs.

It is truly disappointing and sad that the metastasizing decline of civic amity [the proper tolerance and consideration of opposing ideas, independent of perceived label] has resulted in the societal loss of the necessary and valuable democratic process of the free exchange of differing points of view in the proper determination of policy, as envisioned by our nation’s founders.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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