Blog and Essays

Extremities

President Obama recently called on the Muslim Community “to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism.”

This got me thinking. When the recent Paris accords on global warming were announced, the Times reported that there were two major obstacles that had to be circumvented before the agreement could be reached. One of those was China — which recently had an emergency alert about its smog problems and is apparently finally beginning to take action — and our Republican party.

Most of the United States, according to a recent National Survey on Energy and Environment, believes there is solid evidence of global warming over the past four decades, including a majority of Republicans. So the Republican Party does not speak for the United States on that or many other matters. The numbers also don’t favor their accepted positions on guns, nor on abortion. Smart money still says (although it’s looking a little nervous) neither Donald Trump, Ben Carson or Ted Cruz have any chance of winning the presidency, despite the fervency of their supporters. And neither Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky nor Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is likely to win any national races any time soon. The Head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Sen. Jim Inhofe, (R-Okla), is not joined by a majority of Americans in his belief that making a snowball outside the capitol building is proof that global warming doesn’t exist. There are certainly many who don’t exactly understand what is meant by the phrase “global warming” but most of us are not so stupid as to believe the weather we’ve been seeing lately is normal, nor so self-aggrandizing as to assume we know more than most of our leading scientists.

But because the Republicans have hijacked Congress these idiotic points of view remain in play: an unlikely alliance of gun nuts and oligarchs pushing a collection of untenable positions that provide cover for their more despicable aims: unregulated corporations and unfettered gun sales. Even though there are murmurings of a brokered convention (let’s hope), and even though McConnell recently raged at Republicans to stop nominating unelectable candidates, the Republican Party creaks along fielding debates at which their hand picked candidates stand around being shlonged by an ill-tempered buffoon. They won’t win, but they cannot be ignored; and they represent America to the rest of the world. Indeed, the rest of the world would be right to demand we police our own extremists.

Will moderate Republicans do it? McConnell and Ryan have made some token gestures. Should Democrats? Just surveying the comments section of any NPR story on guns on Facebook indicates that this would be a losing proposition. Part of the reason the extremist right is so extreme is that its doctrine depends on demonizing the left. For these extremists, no new events — not the killing of children or innocent churchgoers, or people wearing shorts in New York City in December — gives pause. The only thing that matters is the desire not to give in to the other side. Maybe we have something to do with it. Maybe there’s a story to be written about how liberals created the extremist right. But I doubt it.

I imagine this same calculus goes on in the head of regular Muslims, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with and little sympathy for ISIS, ISIL, DAESH, or Al Qaeda, when commentators call on them to condemn extremist Muslims. How would someone from that community who does not believe his religion requires Jihad start up a conversation with someone who does? It’s not as if Muslims are united in a single country that supposedly values consensus and sees a rational middle position — conservative — as the ultimate goal.

The conventional wisdom is that Republicans will change their positions and veer to the middle once the voting begins. Some of the latest numbers indicate more than a fourth of Iowans say they won’t vote for Trump. Perhaps that’s true. Maybe a moderate like Mitt Romney will be rolled out at the convention. But Romney, though a less bombastic billionaire, is certainly not blameless. His campaign hit the skids after he was recorded sotto-voicing some of the same kinds of sentiments Trump is screaming at us today.

What our extremists really want is the right not to be bothered, not to have to think, not to have to understand, not to have to be worried about the world around them. And most importantly not to move forward to deal with the world we have instead of mourning the one they feel they’ve lost.  If they can scream at Muslims then they don’t have to think about what is motivating the Koch brothers, or the prospect of the world becoming unlivable.

These are not yet the end of times. Our world may have finally come together to begin to address global warming on an appropriately global scale, but there is a great deal of work to be done and there isn’t much time. America must stop indulging our political extremists. They will not respond to reason any more than ISIS will. Their tactics are less bloody but much more effective. And telling our children we don’t agree with them won’t help. It is time for a concerted national effort to throw them out of office. And to support our moderate Muslim friends in any way we can. Sensible people of all stripes should band together moderate to moderate across national, ethnic and religious lines to marginalize all of those who would hold their own fears higher than the safety of the world.

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