Friday, March 26, 2010

The Right Finds Virtue in Extremism

During his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican convention, presidential candidate Barry Goldwater famously said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” But was he correct?

Last weekend, those words were wrapped around a brick and thrown through the window of the Monroe Democratic Committee headquarters office in Rochester, New York.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York, whose Niagara Falls office also received a brick through a window, reported that someone left a voicemail message that referenced “snipers.” Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, provided a photograph to the Associated Press showing a cracked window in her Tucson office.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, one of the few anti-abortion voices in the Democratic Party, was called a “baby-killing mother f***er” on his office’s voicemail. The brother of Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Virginia, had a gas line cut after the brother’s address was mistakenly listed on a Tea Party site as belonging to the congressman.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, received a faxed image of a noose. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that at least 10 Democratic members have been targeted.

Clearly, extremism, even in the defense of a certain perception of liberty, is still extremism, and a vice worthy of serious punishment. That people are resorting to such playground bully tactics only underscores the lack of leadership on the Right.

The Right would do better to take a page from the Left in this regard.

During the 1960s, when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading marches for civil rights, King preached the necessity of modeling the movement’s behavior on the nonviolent actions of Mahatma Gandhi. In his book Stride Toward Freedom, King wrote that nonviolent resistance was not passivity in the face of evil, it was active love in the face of evil.

King explained that “nonviolence … does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. ... The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”

King also noted that nonviolence resistance must target the evil itself, not the people “who happen to be doing the evil. It is the evil that that the nonviolent resister seeks to defeat, not the person’s victimized by the evil.”

People on the Left would do well to remember that the violent people protesting are indeed not just perpetrators but victims, too – of a media that has not offered them what only a Fox News anchor would deem “fair and balanced” reporting on this issue.

The major media has allowed the demonization of the health care bill and its supporters, to such a degree that some people feel their fundamental liberties are being taken away and thus they are justified in threatening, and in some cases committing violent acts.

That said, however, the chief responsibility lies with the perpetrators of the violence and intimidation, no matter how misled they are. And these people should listen to one of the best leaders the Republican Party ever had: Abraham Lincoln.


Read the rest of my latest article at


Blogger Ainsley_Jo_Phillips said...

Back when Barry Goldwater said what he did, I bet he didn't have in mind what is happening today when he said "extremism."

He probably just meant standing up to injustice and being strong about it.

What we've been witnessing as of late isn't firm reasoning but, instead, a bunch of people out-of-control who are responding to a feeding frenzy of spoon-feeding.

4:28 PM  

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