By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
The word “too” in the headline should give you an idea that I am acknowledging upfront that there are extremists on both the right and the left side of the political universe. So the implication is that this is not meant to be a partisan article. The words “Right Wing Extremist” have become part of our vocabulary and there are plenty of justifiable reasons for that. Some on the extreme right have been unreasonably intolerant and that inspired the label. But as I said, bullheaded extremists populate both sides of the political universe. If you doubt this just flip on the news or log on to your homepage and check out what is going on in Washington these days. The polarization between Democrats and Republicans has become so hostile, that they can barely sit in the same room without a police riot squad separating them.
But if it is possible to be a left wing extremist why don’t we hear media using the term? Is it because many national and international media outlets are located in the liberal north and west? In fact in 2017 even Ken Stern, a former CEO at National Public Radio (NPR)– a network popular with liberals– seemed to agree that media tends to lean left. In an article on the website of the New York Post, Stern mentioned that the respected Pew Research Group conducted a study that showed that at media outlets, liberal employees outnumber conservatives 5 to 1. Now let’s be fair. There are media outlets that are also famous for pushing the conservative agenda to extremes—FOX comes to mind. But still, if the study is right, 5 to 1 in favor of liberals is truly notable. Stern said, “When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.”
Extremism on the left takes many forms. Maybe the most famous of these is “political correctness”. As most of us know by now, this is a term used to describe a social system that rewards certain viewpoints and punishes other viewpoints. Today, usually the guardians of this system tend to be liberals. There is good reason for that. Liberals were strong supporters of civil rights for minorities and the least among us. Bravo. So indeed, it’s not all bad. On the positive side, they have used political correctness to make us more tolerant of people who are not like us. This has opened up American society. Yet, political correctness when pushed too far has a dark side. Political correctness can become just another way to practice intolerance from the left. That is because any social system that overthrows bullies and then turns around and lets victims of bullies dictate morality soon becomes as intolerant as what it once opposed. It is always dangerous to give one group absolute power. Lord Actor, British Lord said, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Try to find a TV show or movie that pushes liberal views. Pretty easy. It’s much harder to find one that champions conservative views or Christian ideals (not synonymous by the way). In an article in a leading industry publication—The Hollywood Reporter, Paul Bond said, entertainment executives admitted in taped interviews that Hollywood leaders do tend to be liberal. Bond was reviewing a book by Ben Shapiro called “Hollywood Propaganda”
According to Shapiro, he asked Fred Pierce, once president of ABC if it was difficult for people who are politically conservative to break into television. Pierce responded, “I can’t argue that point. Those who don’t lean left, don’t promote it. It stays underground.” David Shore, creator of House said, “There is an assumption in this town that everybody is on the left side of the spectrum.”
Then there is religion and thorny moral issues. Left wing extremists often accuse religious conservatives of being intolerant. Yet, they often ignore the fact that many times these people are simply living out their spiritual values which happen to conflict with the popular, more liberal view: Religious people who believe abortion, fornication and homosexuality are sins because the Bible says so, are particular targets of left wing extremists. By trying to stifle these views, left wing extremists manage to become what they complain about: people who cannot tolerate the existence of views that contrast or disagree with their own. In other words, doesn’t telling people they must approve of abortion, gay lifestyles or behavior that their faith opposes violate the religious rights of spiritual conservatives?
Right now in Washington, we are experiencing the consequences of not being able to meet one’s opponent in the middle or at least listen to his or her views. Gridlock is hampering the abilities of both Democrats and Republicans to work together. It appears both sides are more focused on getting the other party out of office than in finding areas they can agree on and do what they both can for the good of America. In short, we are in danger of becoming a nation of extremists—on the right and the left side of the coin.
What can we do? First remember the promise of America: we are a melting pot and that means we succeed most when we acknowledge that this nation is a country built on diversity. But perhaps we need to redefine “diversity” a buzzword we use but usually pay lip service to. Diversity does not mean one of each color, sex or type. It should mean diversity of opinion translating into freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to disagree and think differently from the status quo.
Third, setting up systems that punish people because of what they believe isn’t merely intolerance, It’s un-American. Be warned too that systems that persecute your opponent can also be turned on you when the power structure changes. And last but not least, we can all benefit from learning to love our enemies. Jesus said that. He pointed out that it is easy for us to love those who love us. But when Jesus is allowed into a heart, he empowers a person to oppose his opponent in a spirit of love. This does not mean compromising Christian values. But it does mean never stooping to hate. We may hate a person’s lifestyle, but we must never hate the person. Even if you do not share my Christian faith, I urge you to try it. It works. Love is never extreme.