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Political Extremism Is Drowning Out Real Discussion and Solutions

by on May 27, 2019 5:00 AM

It seems that every issue, question or concern in our country right now is all about polar politics. The current political climate is creating positions of polar extremes as people so identify with their party or ideology that common sense and reasonable opinions and ideas are getting lost. Instead of taking the personal risk of saying “I fall somewhere closer to the middle” we are aligning with (and being relegated to) positions that often don’t really represent a reasoned approach. When and how did we let this happen?

The recent legislation on abortion is the perfect example of this political polarization. States across the country are enacting legislation that seriously limits access to abortion, likely in an effort to get a chance to take on Roe v. Wade in court. In response, people are taking such extreme positions on both sides that common sense and effective problem-solving are losing out to volume and vitriol.

I think most of us get a little queasy about the subject of abortion. It is more complex than the pro-choice or pro-life identity groups want us to believe. For most of us, it is complicated.

A government ban on all abortion is as ridiculous as the activists who stand and say they are “proud” that they had an abortion.   

As a quote attributed to C. S. Lewis says, “What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.”

Having carried three healthy children to term, the decision on when life starts, from my perspective, was clear. As soon as the test came back positive with each of our three, I changed the way I ate, what I drank, the activities I did and the chemicals I put in my body. I can remember even thinking about the other “passenger” when I was driving. I knew and tried to protect the life I was carrying even though it would be weeks before I would be able to feel and, eventually through technology, to see that life inside of me. I was also white, married and had resources including a strong support system.   

Women I know, some of whom are so vehement in support of choice, were even more fervent in their own pregnancies than I was about prenatal health decisions, which only further demonstrates to me how complicated this issue is.

As evolved humans, should the only line be if the pregnancy is wanted or not? That doesn’t seem right.   The total ban legislation that we are seeing in some states, including with cases of rape, health of the mother and unviable pregnancies, seems equally wrong.  


I support limited government in all areas of my life, including in my personal health decisions. I also believe that medical decisions should be between a patient and his or her physician. At the same time, I think that decisions of convenience are not medical decisions.

Those of us in this complicated gray area, in the middle between extremes, are uncomfortable with unfettered access to a medical solution for a convenience problem. The statistics on abortion that show higher rates of abortion in minority communities are also unsettling and raise questions about the impact on those communities. At the same time, as a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities, quality-of-life decisions based on tests and technology that are reliant on the fallibility of human interpretation are also troubling. Some of the bravest women I know courageously and with great risk carried an unplanned pregnancy to term and gave those babies to families who desperately wanted them.

We also know that unless we step up what we do in terms of support for stressed families, single mothers, programs in underprivileged zip codes, adoption-support initiatives, domestic violence survivors and protection for those who have been the victim of a sexual assault, a total ban is not only unenforceable, it is cruel.

The only thing I know for certain is that I was never in the position of being faced with this decision.

It’s complicated.

Polar politics and extremists on both sides of this and other debates prevent real and honest discussion on how to solve our country’s problems by drowning out the voices of those of us in the middle. Few things are ever as simple as yes or no, thumbs up or thumbs down, legal or illegal. From abortion to immigration to taxes and to all of the other hot button topics, there is a middle of the road. There is always a workable compromise that is reasonable, even if the people and their opinions aren’t. If you demand that I side with your extreme position, post ridiculous “facts” on social media, or worse, legislate along the lines of that extreme position, you have lost your credibility with me. I don’t trust the extremes or extremists and hate what polar politics is doing to us.

We middle-of-the-road, common sense people need to recognize how these extremists are damaging our collective community. Each and every one of the important issues facing our society right now can and does have a reasoned, outcome-oriented solution. We just need to meet somewhere in the middle to find it.


Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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