Opinion: Stuck in the middle


Whether it is a rock or a hard place, the Stealers Wheel 1972 hit song “Stuck in the Middle with You” best expressed the feeling that we’ve all had of being trapped. Scottish songwriters and musicians Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty specifically were talking about the pinch between some long-forgotten acquaintances and too many unproductive music industry executives.  “When you started off with nothing, and you’re proud that you’re a self-made man, and your friends they all come crawling, slap you on the back and say, ‘Please. Please!’” What do we owe? Who do we owe? Why do we owe?

While it is lost to history if the intent was for the clowns on the left to be one group and if the jokers on the right were the other, there is no doubt that the singers felt like there was nowhere safe to turn. We’ve all found ourselves pinned down by enemy fire. Our newly minted spouse wants us to commit to her holiday tradition, and the mother who raised us decidedly does not agree. What words do we use to sort the conflict? Maybe we are simply negotiating a settlement between bickering siblings – perhaps our own children or even our aunts and uncles. What do we do when we don’t have a bias toward one position but still have found ourselves with some indeterminate obligation to be involved?

Everyone wants to have their position reinforced. Everyone wants to be in the majority. Still, it is a delicate dance to agree with opposing views with equal commitment. Is it a betrayal to opt out? It is hard enough to escape those who’d simply take advantage of our good nature or success. But what of those who we genuinely care about? How do we survive being stuck in the middle?