yes, I sound like an extremist

And that's fine with me.

Sam, of Pedantry [via Alas, a Blog], has a great take on Barry Goldwater's most famous epigram, "Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

It can take angry extremists to draw public attention to a matter, and to serve as a rallying point for those might agree, in part or in whole, with the extremists goals. It can also make dealing with the moderates much more appealing for those who would rather ignore the whole issue.

. . . .

Fear - fear from the white upper and middle class - of a more violent response to the situation of blacks in America was a factor in advancing the cause of civil rights, and the lack of any such fear now is one of the reasons racial integration and equality has been set so far back in the last 20 years.

On the other hand, it does not do for a large public cause not to have its moderates. Civil rights were advanced in America in part because a large part of the white American public believed that many, perhaps the overwhelming majority, of blacks simply wanted equal treatment in society and nothing else. There was a group of moderates that white people could easily identify with as not asking for them to radically change themselves or their lives, and able to make the kinds of arguments able to appeal to them. This kind of good cop/bad cop approach has on the whole been wildly successful in producing actual progress in almost every kind of industrialised, mediated state in the world.

He follows his argument with compelling examples of the disastrous consequences which result when reactionaries clear the playing field of all moderates. The examples cited? Central America, the Middle East and the U.S. Surprised?
What has happened in America in recent years is that the moderates are under attack. The assault on "liberals" - mostly just moderate progressives who are hardly demanding radical changes to American society - has undermined the possibility of moderates driving institutional change. A radicalisation [more accurately, a polarization] of American politics is the inevitable consequence.
I didn't really need encouragement in my radicalism, but maybe others could use a bit. Say what you think, and say it as loudly as you wish. You know you won't get what is needed, but if moderates survive, we can at least see reaction brought down and avoid civil war.

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Published on March 30, 2003 6:56 PM.

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