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  • The Niche of Extremism

    ex•trem•ist (n): a person who holds extreme or fanatical political or religious views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action.

    This term has taken on new meaning in 2016. Just look around you. Visit your news feed on Facebook. Look at the vitriol on the campaign trail. For every good moment that we witness, for every proud graduate that we watch crossing the stage, for every small victory that someone has when he or she manages to get out of bed in the morning, we watch helplessly as extremists take over the conversation.

    Sunday morning’s tragedy in Orlando shows us yet again the best and worst in people. It brings the same outpouring of grief and compassion that we saw in the wake of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Paris, and too many others to count. It brings the same number of talking head “experts” onto cable television to fill the airwaves. It brings out the writers (me included) and so-called analysts who feel compelled to weigh in.

    With what? Opinions. Conjecture. Speculation about motives. The why, why why.

    Why?

    The extremists show no signs of letting go, willing to use isolation and intolerance as their comfort food. Extremists thrive on attention. That’s why it takes a mass shooting to temporarily lift us out of our self-imposed food comas and look at the world around us.

    The first word that came to mind when I saw the news this morning was “Horrible.” I saw the horrible tweet that came from Dan Patrick’s Twitter feed, followed by the wave of condemnation. I saw Donald Trump’s narcissistic “I was right” statement, still in shock that he has a one-in-two chance of being the leader of our country. I’ve seen God’s name used to justify beliefs from all sides — the pro-gun community, the anti-gun community, the LGBT community, the Fundamentalist community, the Muslim community.

    That’s part of the problem. We’ve become so strongly identified with our niches, our think-alike communities, that we can’t seem to take a step back in our day-to-day lives and look at the bigger picture.

    I don’t disagree with a person’s right to bear arms, but I don’t understand why anyone believes it should be easier to get a gun than a driver’s license.

    I don’t understand why someone who identifies as transgender, and is willing to be above board and brave in the face of bigotry and misunderstanding, can’t go to the damn bathroom of his/her choice.

    You can agree or disagree with me on those issues and countless others, but can't we do so in a civil manner? Or is that impossible in today's extremist world?

    Come on, folks. We’re better than this. We can’t let the extremists on either side win.