A line has two sides. The debate has two sides. Are you for or against? Are you with us or not? In America, they call queues lines which honestly makes a lot of sense. If you’re at the front of the line, you’re on the front line, down in the trenches, going over the top, and you’re also the first to get inside. If you’re at the back of the line, you’ve got a while to wait, you’re a sub.
A coin has two sides, except technically three if you include the endless side circling the initial two which I referred to at the start of the sentence. When you flip a coin, it lands on heads or tails but it rarely lands on that endless side. The bit in the middle is rarely acceptable and when faced with a decision that requires a coin flip, it is often that middle bit we exist in. One day I would like to flip a coin for someone and have it land on the rim of the coin for a bit and the person’s gut would swoop and in shock at the chance happenings of a coin not landing on heads or tails, they would realise what they wanted. It’s the flip, not the landing, that tells us what we already knew.
But back to that line, the one with two sides. Two sides, both alike in dignity. Two tribes, fighting over pride and their determination to survive and for their right to lead their lives. A line winds its way between its sides, joining the two whether they like it or not. Inextricable from each other, they exist because of the other.
Yet neither can live with the other survives. Neither can live while the Other survives, if we keep seeing those unlike us as the Other, if We see them as They, if We see Us as We. The line is drawn when a border is made and reinforced by a wall, built on lies and rage, directed at the wrong targets, down not up. The line of a bullet as it leaves a gun, barrel to teenage chest because of a hand in his pocket. The line leaving lips and a mind reeling in disbelief as a smile leers, unwanted hand on knee. The line of a cursor as it beats slowly, waiting for the hate to pour out onto buttons, pressing vitriol into pixels, pressing tweet after tweet into feeds and feeds.
The line of the straw that breaks the camel’s back, that forces a reaction, that forces the sides to agree, used to be extreme violence. It used to be shocking to see the lines forming numbers that rose and rose after explosion or shooting or natural disaster. An image was used by the Leave Campaign of an endless mass of people, the line so long here that the sides aren’t even in the frame. We are meant to think that the line does not have sides, that it is endless and will always be unless we vote to LEAVE. ‘BREAKING POINT’ emblazoned across the grass that lies underfoot of the humans, this is the end of the line, we are told. This is the point at which the long line of compassion ends. Close the borders. End of the line. Full to the hilt. Go home.
Home is a line and a line and a line and a line and look at that, you have a wall. You only need a few more. But look at those sides of those lines, they’d look excellent with a floor and a ceiling too. A line has two sides but added to other lines it can have so much more.
Look at the lines of airplanes in the sky, one side moving quickly, the other left behind, indistinguishable from the clouds already drifting up high. Look at the lines of fireworks as they rise from the side of the ground to the dark vast night, the end of the line, the inevitable burst of colour as it bangs and subsides, becoming only a memory, one part of a whole. Look at the lines of the buildings as they stack on top of each other, sides meeting each other at odd angles, bricks and tiles and window frames, alongside more sides.
The lines of volunteers after a national emergency. The lines that form a hashtag, creating space for honesty and truth where before there lay shame. The lines to vote at referendums despite violence from those who would seek to stop the drawing of two lines in a cross.
A line has two sides. On its own, it separates. It divides. It creates opposing sides. Look at that line, that long thing in between, graciously linking two unthinking sides. That tool of empathy, it requires contemplation and waiting, allowing for patience. Common ground of the sides it lies between. Add another line, link more sides together, expand outwards.
The sides are not left or right, black or white, binary is not the language anymore. Binary: a language created of zeroes and ones, circles and lines.
A circle is just a line with no end.