A note on extremism
A Nation Extreme
By Christopher Michael Carter
Paranoid paramedics parachute from the skies above into the land of capitalist and communist cannibals alike to give aid where needed only to be eaten for their service. We often drop into a dangerous situation that many of us don’t fully comprehend with the intentions to help (in a way that WE feel necessary) and often get killed for our efforts; some sacrifices, some martyrs, and some caught in the crossfire. Capitalism, communism, coexist co-dependently in a spherical world we still treat as though it is flat. The planet is a chessboard to most, though unassuming. The kings move at their own pace one step at a time. The queens go where they please. Their royal guards of bishops, knights, and rooks do the real dirty work while the expendable pawns serve as a barrier between coalitions. Where is our modern day savior who will take the extremists down a peg? Extremism of any kind is indeed more of the issue here than any of the individual points of view. The world, in this dimension or any other, requires a push and pull so it will always remain; however there are many who push and pull too much.
Give an inch and there are those who feel it’s their right to take a mile. People fight for their rights but never think about everyone having rights shared equally as they try to put theirs over others’. Greed is among the worst of the seven deadly sins however there are those who want all of the rights for themselves and less, if not none, for others and that’s as greedy as it gets. The extreme right will thump their Bibles speaking of rights but never notice this. Extremists on the right and the left do the same thing. It starts with a complaint of the off balance, off kilter, and often off putting scales of what we consider justice in this society. Many in the world feel they’re owed something; an artificial sense of entitlement. So many say “I am an American, so these are MY rights” however will complain when one of fame will feel a certain sense of entitlement from their celebrity status.
It’s in the air, in the water, and all around us. People will protest and lash out whilst desecrating the American flag and speaking out against their country while others will attack them for being un-American or “traitors”. In other countries these acts would land them in prison or dead and we, as Americans, look at the actions of those other countries as extreme, often overly strict, or even crazy. We as Americans have the right to voice our disdain for how things are handled but others who claim to be “Real Americans” and “Patriots” will try to steal those rights away. In many ways the protesters who complain and act out against the way they see things done are MORE American than the self-proclaimed patriots who try to abduct their right to do so. The way things tend to go is someone will express their rights by saying what they feel is corrupt and then someone else will step in and say that they shouldn’t say that or feel that way. This reacting person, whether they realize it or not, is attempting to strip the plaintiff of their American rights, which is counterproductive to their goal. It could be argued that the real war we’re fighting as Americans isn’t that of racism and bigotry but other Americans trying to steal our rights. It would seem we’re entering a new Civil War. We should all have the right and ability to express our disliking for government doings (in nonviolent ways unlike the rioters, looters, and assassins) without someone stepping in and masking their belligerent tyranny as patriotism. I’m not for the defacing or the defiling of our flag however I’m not going to fight to have these peoples’ rights removed. If you remove the right to protest we’ll start to unravel and no longer be a democracy but push us more towards totalitarianism. There are fine lines everywhere we step. We’ve always been a very sensitive nation whether we choose to believe so or not but that’s also part of what makes us the United States of America.
People will say, “If you don’t like it here, leave.” Well for one, that’s easier said than done, as most people find it hard to just move out of their house let alone country. For two, if you don’t like something, you have an opportunity to change it and that’s what a lot of activists and such work for. While unaware, the extremist “Real Americans” have a defeatist tone in saying such as it comes across as “This is the way it is, just deal with it.” Finally, for three, the relationship one has with their country is like that of a marriage: you can work together and prosper together but you’ll also fight, argue, and disagree, but they’ll still hold that place in your heart and, on top of that, it’s something you fight for, not give up on so easily as some would have you do.
We are America. It is still the land of opportunity. We can all make a change. We can all leave a mark. A poor child in the ghetto can use their passion to change their status in life just as they can work to change the national, if not global, status. If you want something, you work hard and go get it. If you don’t like the way something is being done, you work hard to change it or at least work to understand it. You’re not owed anything because of where you’re from. You can’t say “I am an American so this is what I deserve” and turn your nose up at the rich children of celebrities who feel the same sense of entitlement because of where or what they come from. It’s not your place of origin that dictates who you are, nor your beliefs, but your actions.
While life is without question easier for some than it is for others, we all enter this world the same: small, naked, vulnerable, unaware, unassuming, without opinions, without a skewed sense of belief, and without a sense of entitlement. We grow and over time develop these things but some people decide to stop growing. Some people have a ceiling to their beliefs and opinions and will come to a halt refusing to learn and grow anymore. That’s life. Not every flower comes to full bloom. We need to continue to grow, to evolve, and to learn. We need to see things from all perspectives; only THEN can an honest opinion or hypothesis be formed. Some people have with each other the mentality that is “This world isn’t big enough for the both of us.” Well, newsflash: in the universal scheme of things we’re all mere particles, specks of dust. There’s no one side of our arguments that is the Be All End All. We can all coexist, we just need to do the work to make our surroundings suit us. When one wants to begin building something but their house’s structure doesn’t lend itself to such tasks, they don’t say “Oh well, I guess I won’t build,” instead they make a workshop. We shouldn’t let our surroundings (or the way they are, rather) dictate how we operate but the other way around.
Life is evolution and adaptation. There are those who fight the concept and simply the word Evolution without taking its definition into consideration: Any process of formation or growth; development. We grow, we learn, and we adapt. There are those who fight natural change by saying “But that’s not the way it used to be”. Well if we go back to the way things used to be African Americans and Women alike (just to name a couple) would all still be persecuted for being who and what they are and would never have the rights to do anything they can do now. Women would still be treated as property and would not be seen as equal. Women would be seen as housekeepers and maids that pump out children. Men would still beat women whenever they feel like it because it was okay back then in some citizens’ “Golden Age America”. African Americans would still be enslaved in a free country. Different races would not be able to mingle with one another let alone be in relationships together. These are just a few points of the way things USED to be. We have a horrid history of segregation and it's a notion that a lot of Americans wish to keep and are unwilling to budge. These are the Americans with low ceilings over their growth.
It’s always been clear that we fear what we don’t understand and become defensive. Just as a man who is approached by an animal; his initial thought is that the animal might be approaching to cause him harm. We don’t understand it and often times won’t take the time to do homework on the subject matter at hand and instead lash out. All of this leads to extremism. Instead of learning and growing we plant our feet firmly and refuse to understand why the other is there. We protect ourselves from something that MIGHT be. I’m not saying to be ignorant, naïve, or unaware; I’m saying to pay attention. We can grow and learn a lot just by paying attention. We won’t always agree, and that’s fine. That’s the push and pull needed. If everyone felt the same and if everything remained the same we’d cease to be what and who we are but we’d become robotic; a universal machine. We are made in the image of our maker and so we in turn create, whether it’s procreation, art, architecture, societies, religions; however it’s hard to keep building and creating when so many of us want to spend our short time on this earth as destructors. There are those who believe in order to build, some things must be torn down. I understand this wholeheartedly, but some things aren’t given a chance to build before they’re demolished. Those same people who want to tear down others in order to build society the way they see fit don’t understand that many of the attributes of the “Old America” need to come down so we can endure. The tread on our tires have worn down and the wire has been showing for some time now and if we don’t change them we’re going to have a blowout.
A stone is a great foundation to be built upon but it can also weigh you down. Explorers of yesteryear had drowned in shipwrecks because they refused to give up any of their heavy goods, their treasure. As babies our umbilical cord tethers us to our motherland and it provides for us but it’s cut and we then need to sustain without it. When children we lose our little teeth so that more stronger teeth may grow back to aid us. We outgrow our clothes and construct more to fit us as we do so. Some of us outgrow our surroundings and beliefs and construct more as we go. Others don’t like this, usually the stubborn ones that refuse to grow.
We, as a nation, are a lot like a group of strangers in a movie theater: everyone’s in tight quarters viewing someone else’s creation while having various opinions on it (from mild to extreme) and everyone fights for an armrest, a good spot to see, a level of comfort while having an opinion or belief. How do we rectify this crowded theater of opinionated viewers such as ourselves? Well, one could say “Give everyone equal space and be respectful” but at the same time that kind of goes back to that defeatist thought of “It is what it is so let’s just get through it as comfortable as possible.” Another, and more progressive, outlook is to say, “Let’s build a bigger and better theater where we can all have our ideal seats, vantage points, and room for comfort in our contrasting opinions.”
Some will look at life as a situation of right or wrong, black or white. “I’m right. You’re wrong. This is the way it is.” Although, in a lot of ways, it’s more about comfort. “Are we comfortable with this being done? At which point does the comfort stop and we have to speak up?” We’re comfortable with this over here being right and that over there being wrong, but everyone’s different. What is comforting to some is quite discomforting to others but where does the discomfort come from? Those who are against certain groups of people getting married, what does it matter to you if people who are complete strangers to you get married? Those who are anti-abortion, what does it matter to you what complete strangers decide with their bodies? You point to your beliefs and say that your problem with these things are that they’re not living according to those guidelines, but in all honesty, not only should you make sure YOU are living by those guidelines before casting stones but you should also keep in mind that those are YOUR beliefs and will not be shared by all. Those of you who are against people owning guns, what does it matter to you if a complete stranger wants to own a weapon? Because one owns a weapon does not mean their intent is malicious; it’s their personal choice of personal property. There’s nothing wrong with guns or wanting to own a gun. A gun is a tool and the problem that comes from shootings are that of the intent and mind frame of the individual using the tool, not the tool itself. If someone is killed with a hammer will we ban hammers? After a hit and run nobody stands up and says to ban or boycott motor vehicles. We’re so afraid of the sheer THOUGHT that someone might push their beliefs on us that we, again, as said earlier, become defensive. We’re often reactive whilst being proactive simultaneously. We’re so afraid of what people are going to do with what they have whether it’s a gun or a mind. When people are in power others tend to be afraid of the change that will come, what they will DO with said power.
We’re all strangers in some way or another and we all make executive decisions in our personal journeys. What does it matter if someone is doing something that is against your beliefs? It never occurs to us that the way WE live is going against someone ELSE’S beliefs. Many people go through life with blinders on. They see the little world they’ve constructed for themselves and have no interest at all in seeing other worlds but instead will watch from their window and criticize their neighbors for THEIR decisions that they feel they’ve had to make in THEIR lives. We live our LIVES, not LIFE. We are all individuals. To put people in categories, to me, seems to deny the concept of the soul. To generalize and say “This group of people are like THIS and they act accordingly” is to say “There is no individual soul but one entity and they’re all the same”. We can say “I’m an American” but that doesn’t fully encompass who or what we are. There is so much more to each and every one of us. We need to stop treating each other and, in turn, ourselves as one dimensional. Life is full of texture and it’s texture that makes us stand out.
Our nation is so much like a sports team: we go through different seasons, different rosters, coaches, owners, fans, etc. Sometimes we have a winning season and sometimes we don’t. Your favorite team will go through the worst season of their career but you still back them. You say “Man, they sucked this year. We need to change this or improve on that.” It’s exactly how people are with our country. “Man, that decision sucks, they need to change this or improve on that.” Like sports, there’s always going to be different seasons and things change. There’s never going to be the same lineup forever. Whenever there’s a new administration there’s always a group who throws a fit and says “That’s it! Our country is over! They just ran it into the ground!” Everything is for a season. Nothing is over. Things will always change. It goes back to that defeatist attitude of “Well it’s done. That’s it. I don’t like it but it’s the way it is.”
Again, things change. Every administration going back to the beginning of presidency has caught the same flack. Every time there’s a new president there’s the ones who say “He’s going to destroy everything! He’s the antichrist!” and then it’s time for them to step down and new people come in and catch the EXACT same treatment. The world is full of conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers who are all looking for the end instead of A) Understanding the way things change over the years and B) Attempting to make any changes themselves. If you stare at one brushstroke or blot of paint the whole time you’ll never see the whole painting; never see the big picture. They’re so busy with their apocalyptic tunnel vision that they fail to see what good can be done and, by that, fail to see what good THEY can do.
We often see the world through windows and the wonderful thing about windows is not only do you see what’s out there but you also catch a reflection of yourself. So while we’re looking at others thinking about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, we need to remember to look at ourselves as well. Every time you point your finger there are more than a hundred fingers pointing back at you. Some take their finger pointing to extremes and the extremism IS the problem with this country. The mind goes from 0 – 100 on some things: One group says, “We want equal rights! We want to be treated like you!” and another group replies, “They’re trying to take our rights away!” Sadly, that’s just how a lot of people think. Fighting for rights is great, one of the many textures we hold as a country, however we need to keep in mind (and for some people, learn) that just because one has rights doesn’t mean it reduces or eliminates someone else’s. The scales of justice are easily off balanced especially when so many of us are as greedy as we are. We want more, it’s only natural, but we do need to find a balance. How do we attempt to complete a race when we’re constantly shooting ourselves in the foot?
Presentation is always key. The old saying “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” applies greatly to our country. Just be smart about things. You don’t have to agree but you don’t have to be a raving, violent lunatic to get your point across. We need to nix the extremism, on the right AND the left, and start using our minds. Just use common sense and THINK; give it a shot at least...