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The Danger of Right Wing and Left Wing Extremism

“Let everyone regulate his conduct… by the golden rule of doing to others as in similar circumstances we would have them do to us, and the path of duty will be clear before him.”  William Wilberforce

The past two weeks have been a watershed in modern American History.  For the first time in memory we have had a series of ideological, political and religious murders committed by men who believed that their actions were justifiable homicide.  The first was the murder of a physician who had a fair amount of his practice devoted to abortions including late term abortions.  George Teller was killed by Scott Roeder a militant anti-government member of the Freemen and a fringe player in anti-abortion groups who was influenced by the militant anti-abortion group The Army of God which believes in justifiable homicide.  The murder was in Tiller’s church.  The clinic which Tiller operated is being shut down by his family.  Roeder believes it a victory but many in the pro-life movement are concerned that it will lead to crackdown on mainstream pro-lifers, and also that the closing of the Tiller clinic could lead to similar attacks by those emboldened by Roeder’s action.

The second killing was that of Army Pvt. William Long outside of a recruiting station in Little Rock.  The confessed murderer used an assault rifle to kill Pvt. Long and wound another soldier serving as home town recruiters prior to reporting to their unit following their initial entry training.  The suspects, an American convert to Islam named Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he didn’t consider the killing a murder because U.S. military action in the Middle East made the killing justified.  “I don’t think it was murder, because murder is when a person kills another person without justified reason.”  Mujahid Muhammad warned soldiers and their families in the US that they were also targets: “The battlefield is not just in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Muhammad says.  “A battlefield is anywhere we see you at.  And those people in the Army and those families of the people in the Army and the military and personnel all over the country, if you don’t want to die or get shot for this so called war on terrorism, war on Islam, then get out of the Army.  Get out of the Army and don’t walk, run.” This attack followed other attacks on recruiting stations including the bombing of the Armed Forces Recruiting station in Times Square last year.

The most recent attack occurred today as an 88 year old White Supremacist and Holocaust denier James Von Brunn walked into the Holocaust Memorial Museum killing a guard.  Von Brunn’s sites as well as other Neo-Nazi websites such as Stormfront prominently spew Von Brunn’s hatred toward minorities in the United States.   His book, “Kill The Best Gentiles,” embraces Adolf Hitler’s view that Jews concocted World War I as part of a scheme to stab Germany in the back — a myth the Nazis used to justify the Holocaust. He is called an “independent investigator by some and has issued statements on the citizenship controversy pushed by some on the far Right about President Obama’s eligibility to serve as President  and comments about the religion of then CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks.

All three of these men evidently believe in justifiable homicide and are willing to kill for their ideological or religious beliefs.  What makes this sudden spike in assassination for ideological reasons significant is that the nation is polarized by the extreme Right and extreme Left which both see the world and their causes no matter what they are in black and white terms.  There is no intent by any extreme group to dialogue or find compromise with their opponents, even if such compromise would gain them at least part of what they want.  Instead, the rhetoric of the extremes has continued to increase and find airtime on supposedly “mainstream” media outlets both liberal and conservative.  This provides some manner of legitimacy to the extremist groups even as their more boisterous political and media supporters ratchet up the rhetoric.  This makes for an incredibly volatile situation which is fraught with danger for all as more and more people see violence, including justifiable homicide as a legitimate option to push their agenda.  In our country we cannot forget that John Brown, though right in his desire to end slavery engaged in tactics which helped push the country to civil war, a war that while freeing African-Americans from the yoke of slavery imposed a yoke nearly as heavy on them, know as Jim Crow laws that lasted until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Voting Rights Act of 1964.  Even still racism is still a reality for many blacks and other minorities.  Brown’s desire to end slavery may have been righteous but he destroyed the political center which could have ended it peacefully in time just as William Wilberforce and his allies in Parliament had done in England.

The perilous situation that exists now is that which erodes the center on which all depend on to hold.  Neither Left Wing or Right Wing extremists give a damn about the majority who are somewhere in between.  As a passionate moderate I see this as a dangerous trend.  In Germany of the late 1920s and early 1930s both the Communists and Nazis polarized the nation.  The more moderate Social Democrats, Catholic Center Party and other smaller middle of the road parties were marginalized as time went on.  Eventually the Nazis won that power struggle with dire consequences which extended far beyond Germany.  As the rhetoric rises and those who justify violence be it against people, institutions or property are emboldened to act it will further fracture the middle.  It is imperative that the Center to hold, as Edmund Burke said: “All it needs for evil to prosper is for people of goodwill to do nothing.”

These actions could well be harbingers of things to come.  What is even more concerning as they take place at a time of worldwide economic crisis when we have hundreds of thousands of troops deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Additionally, North Korea rattling sabers and several critical nations, some with nuclear weapons on the brink of collapse, failure or civil war.  I pray that men and women of goodwill and courage arise in the center and passionately advocate not for a particular party or cause, but the good of all.  People of faith need to pray not for a particular political resolution favorable to them, but for God’s peace and healing in our country.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary

Here’s to you Jackie Robinson

“He led America by example. He reminded our people of what was right and he reminded them of what was wrong. I think it can be safely said today that Jackie Robnson made the United States a better nation.” – American League President Gene Budig

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”  Jackie Robinson

April 15th 2009 was the 62nd anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game in the Major Leagues with the Brooklyn.  Robinson’s first game with the Dodgers came a full year before President Truman integrated the military and a full seven years before the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional.  It was not until 1964 that the Voters Rights act passed in Congress.  Jackie Robinson paved the way for a change in American society that has continued for 62 years since his debut at Ebbetts Field on April 15th 1947.

Jackie’s feat was a watershed moment in the history of our country.  Blacks had struggled for years against Jim Crow laws, discrimination in voting rights, and even simple human decencies such as where they could use a rest room, what hotels they could stay in or what part of the bus that they could sit.  In baseball many white fans were upset that blacks would be coming to see Robinson in stadiums that they would not have been allowed in before.  Players from other teams heckled Robinson, he received hate mail, people sent made death threats, he was spiked and spit on.  But Jackie Robinson kept his pledge to Dodgers owner Branch Rickey not to lash out at his tormentors, as Rickey told him that he needed a man “with enough guts not to strike back.”

Jackie Robinson played the game with passion and even anger.  He took the advice of Hank Greenberg who as a Jew suffered continual racial epithets throughout his career “the best ways to combat slurs from the opposing dugout is to beat them on the field.” He would be honored as Rookie of the Year, was MVP, played in six World Series and six All Star Games.  He had a career .311 batting average, .409 on base percentage and .474 Slugging percentage. He was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962.

Today Jackie Robinson’s feat is history, but it should not be forgotten.  He was a pioneer who made it possible for others to move forward.  He would be followed by players like Roy Campinella, Satchel Paige, Don Larson, Larry Dobie and   Willie Mays.  His breakthrough had an effect not just on baseball but on society.

Jackie Robinson would have an effect on my life.  In 1975 the Stockton Unified School District voted to desegrigate.  I was in the 9th grade and preparing for high school.  As the school board wrestled with the decision anger boiled throughout the town, especially in the more affluent areas.  Vicious letters were sent to the school board and to the Stockton Record by parents as well as other opponents of the move.  Threats of violence and predictions failure were commonplace.  In the summer of 1975 those who went out for the football team, both the sophomore and varsity squads began to practice.  Black, White, Mexican and Asian, we bonded as a team, the Edison Vikings.  By the time the first buses pulled up to the bus stops throughout town on the first day of school, the sense of foreboding ended.  Students of all races discovered common interests and goals.  New friends became guests in each others homes, and all of us became “Soul Vikes.”

30 years later the Class of 1978, the first class to be desegregated from start to finish graduated from Edison held a reunion.  Our class always had a special feel about it.  Looking back we too were pioneers, like Jackie Robinson we were far ahead of our time.  When I look at my friends on Facebook from Edison I see the same faces that I played ball, rode the bus and went to class with.   Things have changed.  Even 30 years ago none of us imagined a African American President, we believed in each other and we saw potential, but I don’t think that anyone believed that we would see this in our day.

I think that Jackie Robinson prepared the way for other pioneers of Civil Rights including Dr. Martin Luther King.  Today, 62 years plus one day, Jackie Robinson looms large not only in baseball, but for the impact of his life and actions on America.  Here’s to you Jackie Robinson.  Thank you and God bless.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, History, Loose thoughts and musings