Sunday, August 20, 2017

Extremism Provokes Reciprocal Extremism

Our eyes have strayed wildly from the ball as the nation's been caught up in spiraling nonsense. As always, extremism has provoked reciprocal extremism. It's extraordinarily hard for human beings to remain reasonable in the face of stupidity and emotion. Birds watch us with amazement, wondering how we manage to maintain such perfect flock formations (Magnetism? Astral positioning?).


I don't care about Steve Bannon's looks or Donald Trump's hair.

I don't care if Donald Trump's father was arrested at a Klan rally.

I firmly support Nazis and white supremacists' right to freely express themselves (short of incitement - and, yes, I'm aware of the slippery slope). If government decides what's ok to say, we're no longer America. Isn't this whole resistance supposed to be about maintaining constitutional values and the rule of law? How on earth did that lead us to wanting to constrain free speech rights?

The rest of us have the commensurate right to shame and shun those espousing such views. However, I suspect the defeat of this ideology would work better and happen faster if these clowns remained public and unhooded. So the crowdsourced shunning (satisfying though it is) may, in the end, be seen as more self-defeating overreach on our side.

It's ridiculous to assume "Southern Heritage" is a code word for racism. Every culture has atrocities in its timeline, but that certainly doesn't preclude cultural pride (crowds of patriotic Germans give me the willies, but that's my issue, not theirs, and three pints of kellerbier help me sing right along). Anyway, slavery was, obviously, an American atrocity, not a Southern one.

That said, those Confederate statues erected during Jim Crow to intimidate black people should absolutely go (to museums). In those cases, heritage truly was used as a code word. Southerners well know this, and should stop playing dumb. But liberals never reject an opportunity for overreach. A statue of Robert E. Lee is not a talisman of hate. Is there no one, on either side, with capacity for moderation and reason?

"Is Donald Trump a Racist?" is a ridiculous and distracting question. This is how the left joins the right in transforming the presidency into a personality cult. Who cares? Watch his damned legislation and stop feeling endlessly shocked by his patently cultivated outrageousness. Personally, his stated views strike me as perfectly typical of many 70 year old Americans. If, as even the extreme left concedes, "the past is a foreign country" and we ought not judge people in previous eras by present-day values, then we also need to extend some tolerance toward a previous generation. They're dying out, and taking much of this nonsense with them.

Anytime the left advocates something counter to the rule of law (Nazi punching, calling for generals to remove the president, etc.), they are, duh, advancing the agenda of Trump's most ardent supporters. The danger of Trump isn't his racial views or his opinions re: statues. It's his contempt for constitutional values and the rule of law. The antidote is not to find our own ways to tear up the constitution and disrespect the rule of law. It's to work the system, lawfully and maturely. To vote, to make intelligent counterarguments rather than meet hate with hate and lawlessness with lawlessness. That's how the country survives. That's how we regress to the mean.

Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?

I understand that for some people, the failure to shriek at 110% volume upon the first errant glimpse of anything feared or disliked would feel like a moral lapse. Some readers were offended when I expressed exasperation re: the marches on Washington the week after the election - before Trump had actually done anything. Similarly, the notion of remaining moderate or rational in the face of a few thousand loser/clowns espousing patently stupid and outdated viewpoints may be seen as excusing hatred. But while I don't agree much with right-winger Robert Tracinski, I think he nails the dynamics here:
The entire Trump phenomenon is a live-action version of the old parable about the boy who cried wolf. Spend decades telling everyone that George Bush is Hitler or that Mitt Romney is a racist, and you’ll find that there is nowhere left to go when you try to warn everyone that Trump is worse. Crank your reaction to every Trump statement or speech all the way up to eleven, and people dismiss you as noise and tune you out. So there’s no reserve of extra outrage to tap when Trump really does do something awful.

Speaking of Robert Tracinski; if we want to defeat not just Trump but Trumpism as a whole, we need to listen to anti-Trumpers on the right like Tracinski, who are far more sensible on the issue, and who more keenly understand why their cohorts fell for this in the first place. Start off by avidly following the Twitter feeds of Rick Wilson and John Schindler, even if they don't emanate that comforting tribal smell. Particularly don't miss Wilson's great Periscope live video sessions, announced via his Twitter feed. They're hilarious and insightful - like getting a private phone call from a plugged-in DC insider. Also: they're bizarrely relaxing. What FDR did for the Depression with his fireside chats, Wilson does for the Trump era with his live Periscopes.

No comments:

Blog Archive