Never seeing the extremist in one’s self

It’s the debate and campaigning run-up to the 2012 election, so naturally you can expect more political and social ramblings from me around here, like…oh…talking about how batshit insane so many of the GOP presidential hopefuls are.

As I watch Barack Obama not really initiate much change in “politics as usual” nor really advance an even remotely progressive agenda (not that I want to see all left-wing changes, though), and consider how much he is called a totalitarian or socialist or extremist by the right-wing and all who heartily support the Tea Party and the Libertarians…well, I can’t help but laugh. Obama is about as moderate as they come, with some leftward leanings, much like George W. Bush is probably a moderate with rightward leanings (what a shame he was also kind of an idiot, and let right-wing nutjob Dick Cheney and other people on the right call so many shots, thus plunging his entire two-term administration into right-wing madness).

I mean, I almost wish a left-wing, controlling nut would rise to the presidency just so that the conservatives could see what a truly extreme liberal is. Or even a more restrained left-winger, so they could contrast and compare with our last two Democratic presidents, who were very much moderate.

Problem is these days is that the Democrats are fractured (as usual), can’t agree (as usual), can’t stand united and strong in the face of “looking bad” (as usual) and negotiate with the right so that everything they do ends up being somewhere slightly to the right of moderate anyway (as usual). At the same time, the Republicans are being driven by a relatively small but highly vocal group of people who think that helping others, preventing corporations from exploiting people and being smart about how we use natural resources are somehow evil and destroy freedom.

There really aren’t very many true liberals with any political power right now. Not enough to drive any kind of agenda, and that’s in part because they don’t get the big bucks that conservatives and moderates get from special interests. But there are a significant number of hard-core conservatives with a lot of opinions and no regard for facts, science or logic who are well-funded and can get heard and heeded quite a bit.

So, naturally, most of my ire will be aimed at the right wing. Not because I’m some radical, liberal, America-hating person (though I’ve been accused of such, merely for the sin of considering both sides and generally taking a fairly middle of the road approach with slightly leftward leanings), but because extremists scare me.

What’s most scary is that extremists don’t tend to see themselves as extreme, which always confuses me.

You see, the conservatives complain about “radical Islam” (which I put in quotes not because it doesn’t exist…because it does…but because right-wingers apply it to every damn Muslim in the world unfairly) and they often point out how such people are quick to choose violence, won’t negotiate and oppress others. Then those very same conservatives talk about how we need to solve so many of our problems with violence, they won’t ever compromise or negotiate any point, and they stamp all over people’s human rights and dignity.

Fact is, if you only advance the aims of the liberals or the conservatives, you are extreme. Period. The idea that the nation’s problems can be solved by applying all the philosophies and ideas at one end of the ideological spectrum is madness. You cannot solve complex problems with a one-size-fits-all approach.

What frustrates me with Obama’s presidency isn’t that he isn’t liberal enough. What bugs me is (1) he has been willing to give too much away to the right wing, with no consideration for the people who elected him wanting some leftward shifts after eight years of Bush and (2) that the Republican Party will absolutely not work with even the most moderate and sometimes right-leaning policies the president puts forth because they would rather the country burn than to let him advance any successful agenda or earn a second term. Granted, that second one isn’t Obama’s fault, but it’s still a frustration related to his term thus far in office.

If your views are held to by only around half the population (or less), and you try to enforce them for the whole population without any kind of adjustment or balance, you are an extremist.

If you only look out for the rights of workers, and never consider the value of capitalism and allowing it some room, you are extremist. If you think corporations should never be accountable for their bad decisions because they’re “too big to fail” and you think they should be allowed to treat workers and the environment however they will, you are extremist.

If you think that in a nation of agnostics, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Wiccans, Buddhists (and many more) that you should be able to apply Christian value to all and do it through the force of law, you are extremist. If you think it is your duty to erase religion or marginalize it in such a diverse society, you are also extremist.

If you think no criminal ever deserves harsh punishment, you are extremist, as are those who think that anyone put in prison deserves to be there and perhaps die there, even when evidence comes to light that suggests the contrary.

Seeing only the black and white and choosing one color or the other is extremist. There is almost no decision worth making in society that doesn’t involve a whole lot of gray and require compromise to be fair. If you don’t agree with that, guess what? You’re an extremist.

And you should have no place in public policy-making.

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