The dictionary defines extremism as “the condition or act of taking an extreme view” and “the taking of extreme action” (-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc.). It goes further to describe a person who acts in such a way as an extremist or “One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics”(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition).
We see extremists at work in a wide variety of ways in our world. Most of the time, extremism is associated with groups of people who hide behind a facade of religion to commit acts of atrocity against other people. Yet, there are those who are extremists who use other facades, such as political views or parties, as their means of acting in a manner that is beyond the norm.
One of the problems with extremism is that as it is covered more frequently in the news, it loses its shock and starts to become seen as the norm. We become desensitized to extremism unless or until it rears its ugly head in a violent manner. Even then, to some extent, we are desensitized to it unless it happens to us directly. Then, we become incensed and enraged and demand action to rid ourselves of extremist elements around us. By then, many times, it is too late for the extremism has crept into our mainstream lives and, in doing so, has caused others to see the extremism as a means for their own salvation.
Rather than focus on the obvious example of extremism, that being religion based, let us look to that which is based on politics. They share commonalities with one another even though their mode of operation and existence is different.
What breeds extremism? What causes seemingly normal people to want to follow extremist views? I believe this is a very complex issue and cannot claim to be an expert, but I think some of it has to do with power or at least the perception of power to be gained through extremism.
Some people who have nothing to lose are drawn to extremism and extremist views. They feel that their problems are caused by some entity or group of people who are different from them and, since they themselves feel powerless or so downtrodden that they cannot bring themselves up, they turn to promises made by the peddlers of extremism.
Take a look at the current political situation in the U.S. One particular candidate knows how to peddle extremism very well. So well, that he has managed to become the primary candidate for his political party. If a person looked simply at his ability to govern or ideas, there is nothing there. He leads through intimidation and inflammatory rhetoric alone. One news report mentioned his lack of debate skills during the primaries by saying that he “is active, if not overwhelmingly aggressive, in the first 30-45 minutes. When answering a question during that time, [he] tends to avoid any policy details and has, on occasion, shown a remarkable lack of knowledge on the issues” (Blake). The article continues and says that the candidate then, “tends to fade into the background. He answers the questions asked of him and hits back when someone attacks him. Beyond that, however, he tends to look somewhere between disinterested and sleepy. He does very little to inject himself into the conversation. He is, rather transparently, just waiting for the whole thing to be over” (Blake).
However, when he speaks at his events, he is very much the center of attention and speaks quite long. However, there is not much content in his speech aside from rhetoric that is meant to inflame his most devoted followers. He talks of building walls to prevent immigrants from Mexico, hints at both imprisoning or assassinating his opponents, and makes negative commentaries on refugees. These comments are not policy meant to give people an informed choice as to issues that matter to the entire country, but inflammatory remarks made to people who he knows are most likely led to extremism. While he may not directly tell his followers to discriminate or even consider murder, he does so indirectly and with innuendos that he and his supporters are quick to dismiss and remark that he was simply misunderstood.
It’s a bit like Mark Antony’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” where he says that “Brutus is an honourable man”(Shakespeare). Antony knows Brutus is part of the murder, but in order to turn the crowd against Brutus, he first uses the phrase to flatter, then to condemn him. The candidate in question says things such as “…nothing you can do, folks…Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is, I don’t know”(Corasaniti and Haberman). The candidate did not call for murder, but his words, along with chants often heard from crowds at his events to “Lock her up” or “Kill the bitch”, certainly give the impression that he does not disagree entirely with the suggestion. Add to this his hints at the possibility that the general election will be rigged as being the only reason he feels he could lose, and you have a potentially dangerous situation.
This political extremism is dangerous regardless of which party someone supports. It is dangerous for our country as it lends those who feel they are no longer heard or who fear no longer being in the majority an excuse to act in extremist ways.
That is not how a democracy exists.
It is dangerous because it creates a sense of anger-fueled anarchy simmering below the surface of our society. It only takes people who feel they have nothing to lose who have reached either such a low state of self-control or who are worked into a frenzy by this type of rhetoric for things to become violent.
That is not how a democracy exists.
It is dangerous because, if unchecked by people who are not beguiled by such extremist rhetoric, it undermines the very Constitution upon which our country is founded.
That is not how a democracy exists, but how a democracy perishes.
We cannot allow political extremism to hold sway over our country. We must peacefully and legally stop the extremism. We must get out the vote to stop that particular candidate and those who support him and his extremist agenda in order to save our country.
Extremism is not an American value. It is the value of dictators, tyrants, and those who do not value human rights and decency.
Blake, Aaron. “Why Donald Trump might not debate Hillary Clinton.” The Washington Post. N.p., 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 11 Aug. 2016. .
Corasaniti, Nick, and Maggie Haberman. “Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton.” The New York Times. N.p., 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 11 Aug. 2016. .
Shakespeare, William. The Life and Death of Julius Caesar.