By Joe Rector
A good friend of mine enlightened me on an important factor in life. Joe Dooley and I were discussing politics and world events. At one point, he looked at me and stated,
“Everything in life is a bell-shaped curve.”
Now, most people know that I am a failure in the area of math, and for a few seconds my mind processed on that statement. Because a bell-shape curve also is discussed in sociology, a subject in which I minored in college, his point became clear. In fact, Joe’s statement is one of the most poignant that I’ve heard in quite some time.
For those who might not recognize the term bell-shaped curve, I’ll give a quick definition. The formal one says that it is “the symmetrical curve of a normal distribution: a normal curve.” My definition is that it’s a curve where the most of any thing is in the middle and smaller segments are on each side.
Bells-shaped distribution is visible in most things in this world. For example, in school, the majority of students do average work for their grade level. Some students, by means of superior intelligence or industriousness, make A’s in classes. Another smaller group refuses to complete the work or study for anything. They find no value in education and can’t wait to escape the classroom. The problem comes when the parents of the average students insist upon their children receiving inflated grades for average work, something that would skew and wreck the normal shape of distribution.
Plenty of folks pooh-pooh welfare and denigrate all recipients. The fact is that the majority of individuals on welfare struggle to make ends meet. They would much rather have independence than handouts. At one extreme are those who use welfare only for short periods of time as they re-group from some misfortune which they have encountered in life. At the other end is a group that enjoys the free life; they have no intention or compunction to leave it.
Politicians fit “the bell” as well as any group. Most representatives are moderate in their views. They work to do what is in the best interest of the country and its citizens. However, a few are ideologues who care only for advancing their narrow-minded agenda. Yes, the ultra-conservatives are on the right, and the ultra-liberals are on the left. It’s sad that these fringe groups too often determine what happens in our government.
The same is true for gun control. The majority of Americans want some restrictions. That might mean registering them, running background checks on anyone who wants to buy one, or closing gun show loopholes. Now, one radical group screams and hollers against any restrictions. They yell 2nd amendment rights, even though even conservative Supreme Court Judge Scalia said the government has the right to regulate guns. The other extremists group yells for complete ban of all guns, another ridiculous stance such a statement ignores the millions of folks who enjoy hunting and target shooting.
Even religion fits this equal distribution. Most folks are God-loving people who work each day to live by the examples given in their religion. It is the splinter groups that cause the troubles. Some want to fight holy wars that destroy any and all who refuse to drink the poisonous Kool-aid of their extremist views. Others want to damn to hell all who fail to toe the line of their word-for-word credo that ignores others who might think differently. To them, theirs is the only correct interpretation of God’s words.
In all things, the largest group is in the middle. That’s where the truth usually lies. The extremes of the bell shape curve cause the problems. In many cases the small groups yammer and whine and curse the loudest, and in cases like the government and religion, the squeaky wheel gets the grease while the silent majority is ignored.
We might take a lesson from religion’s middle. It believes that God loves all of His people, no matter on what side they fall. He expects the middle to teach and guide the extreme parts until they understand the divisiveness they cause. If we work a bit harder, perhaps the middle can grow while the extremes diminish. It would be nice if we all pulled in the same direction for a while.