Naomi leans against a brick wall, and the United States flag is present in the background. She is wearing a coral jacket and has a smile on her face.

The Middle, the Jeep commercial

February 8, 2021

I’m a Jeep girl. I’ve owned my red Jeep Wrangler since 2014 and I love it. I love the carefree feeling it gives when I get behind the wheel – even when it’s too cold to put the top back. I appreciate the sound of the “rugged” tires on the road, and the community between other Jeepers when we put up the “peace sign” from our grip on the steering wheel, as we pass each other while driving. I’ve always valued community and seek it whenever, wherever I can.

A new Jeep commercial – called “The Middle” – aired yesterday during the Super Bowl and featured an old CJ5, a classic Jeep from the late 1950s . Nebraskans were abuzz as Bruce Springsteen filmed part of the footage in Western Nebraska. And the internet was lit up with discussions around the messaging of the commercial. [Note: the YouTube video is currently not available due to an internal situation]

The middle has been a hard place to get to lately. Between red and blue. Between servant and citizen. Freedom is not the property of just the fortunate few; it belongs to us all. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from. It’s what connects us. We need that connection. We need the middle. Our light has always found its way through the darkness. There’s hope on the road up ahead. 

Bruce Springsteen

I’ve known the middle for most of my life – in education, religion, politics, choices of zip codes, being biracial.. The thing about the middle is that it indicates a place to come back to, not a place that you could be from in the first place. Use of “back to center” or “in the middle” denotes neutrality and a safe space. 

The sentiment of the video assumes we all have an equal chance or opportunity to find our way to the desired “middle.”  It seems to assume that a place of hope, health, and forward progress means everyone would be invited to that space. 

What the commercial left out, is that we can’t be content to stay in the middle and not everyone has even been invited to do so.  Sure, some of us may need that common ground to settle ourselves, or get our bearings straight, but we will miss incredible opportunities if we become complacent and comfortable in thinking that if we simply meet in the middle, and focus on the light, we’ll be ok.

The truth is, for those whose realities are lived and experienced in the middle, it’s not actually a place where multiple sides of a thing (or identity, or politics or …) come to co-exist together. Instead, it’s a place where compounding collaboration happens. Where the next choice demands we learn from each other, take the best bits of what we all bring to the table, and figure out what the next steps are going to be. And then we collectively move forward, together. 

When I’m elected, we won’t settle for the middle as an end game. We’ll value and listen to the experience of those we’ve historically left behind and ignored. We’ll ask those with power to share, and those in power to make room. We will focus equally on residents as much as we do on citizens. 

And we will acknowledge that for many of our neighbors, finding the middle between red and blue isn’t what’s been hard. Their truth is that the path to equity, justice, and a life free of oppression has been the place that’s been hard to get to.  

There can be hope on the road ahead, as The Boss eloquently stated, but hope is a discipline, requiring leadership and a willingness to intentionally apply radical community building.