NEITHER TROUT NOR QUAIL

For many generations we of the English-speaking world have tossed around a powerful metaphor which has caused us immeasurable cultural harm. I refer, very simply, to these dangerous words:

NEITHER FISH NOR FOWL

In my own personal history I have never heard this metaphor employed to connote something admirable, valued or worthy. As many metaphors have done (because they are powerful in ways of which we are rarely aware by capturing emotional neurons and giving weight where there is none) Neither Fish Nor Fowl has led us to feel good about ourselves and our friends who come down solidly on one side or the other of a particular life choice. (cf. “My way or the highway” “namby-pamby” “Casper Milquetoast” , “undecided” and “spineless”.)

It would appear to me that we have evolved (sic) into a culture where compromise is next to spinelessness. We rarely hear from the people who are willing to work with the NRA to fashion some rules that will reduce the senseless violence without totally destroying the 2nd Amendment. The other side of that token reveals the NRA folks who refuse to countenance limits because they are afraid that they will lose everything. They are, in effect, projecting on their opposite numbers their own sense of all or nothing.

Even inside the metaphorical game we find “Hawk” or “Dove” (rarely Dove or Hawk). The metaphor makes compromise impossible. Dovish is not a label that would please a Hawk. And Hawkish would disqualify any Dove worth his soft heart, making his friends turns their backs on him.

To be sure, there are many areas where it is inadvisable to be neither salmon nor partridge. For example, I would not blame a person for running away from his/her lover who intoned, “I am sort of in love with you.” HR folks do not enjoy candidates for employment who say they are not exactly sure they wish to work here at HugeImmenseBigCorp.Com.

I suggest, however, that there are areas where it’s just wise, relaxing or fun to be neither smelt nor Hummingbird. “I’m not sure there is a God, but I like the idea and I am a church-goer because I feel better when I go along with the religion deal.” “Until something better comes along, I’m voting for one of the two parties I am offered.”

I suggest in this current civilization (sic) we have created, those statements would not make us particularly popular at cocktail parties or on Match.Com. There is more respect to be gained by making the tough decisions, standing for something (whatever it might be), being deeply committed, going to the mat for gold or silver or Muslims or Mormons or global warming or dinosaurs and cave women and Jesus and Socialism and Big-Little Government and being wobbly on gay marriage is tantamount to being wobbly about the primacy of GOD and some plan that is more important than humans.

Because that what it always boils down to—subtraction….Subtracting somebody or somebody’s opinions or beliefs or behaviors.

All I know is that human life is sacred. Anything else is nuts.

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