“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” — Barry Goldwater, Republican convention acceptance speech.
Most of you will remember this in a slightly different form, and that is because Barry Goldwater did not say the phrases in the way that his speechwriter wrote them. The phrases are remembered and quoted in the way in which they were written, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” They are quoted that way because this is easier to remember and more compact.
Those lines have been quoted over and over by Tea Party members and later conservatives for the last several years. Finally, those phrases have begun to be taken seriously and action has been taken. Unfortunately for conservatives, it is not their side that has begun to take action based on that philosophy, but the far left. In particular Antifa, and some other far-left groupings, have reached the breaking point with the emergence of the alt-right. And, they have truly decided that the only option they have is extremism. They have sworn that fascist and racist thought will not be allowed to prevail in this country. And so, they have begun to actually do what the right has been threatening since groups like Oathkeepers, the militias, and other groups of that ilk were founded. Those groups loved to talk about how they would rise up in defense of liberty, if necessary. But, it is the far-left that has risen up, and now some non-far-left citizens are beginning to join in. Yesterday, thousands of counter-demonstrators showed up in Boston at a free-speech rally. They clearly communicated that they were opposed to the alt-right message, and that they had every intention of defending liberty and pursuing justice, even to the extreme, exactly as various Tea Party groups have threatened for years now.
At this point, I might make a suggestion.
“Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” For years, the Tea Party and the far-right have been threatening to rise up in violence. It might be time for them to stop doing that. Their justifications and their attitudes are precisely what has given the freedom to the far-left to become violent. They are using the identical justifications that were launched by the very conservatives during the last few years. As a result, we have seen violence in our streets, from the original far-right that threatened violence, and from the re-invigorated far-left that has taken up their challenge.
There is a reason why I believe in non-violence, whether verbal or physical. It is because violent talk inevitably leads to what has been happening in our streets lately. The constant verbal threats, and violent gatherings of one side are now being met in force by the other side. Live by the sword; die by the sword.
There is only one way to keep this from degenerating. The violent talk and threats that have been a hallmark of the last few years must stop. Peaceful compromises must be reached in our government. Talk of one side being patriotic and the other not, must stop. Both sides are now claiming the patriotic mantle, which was inevitable given the misappropriation of the term patriot by one side. Disagreement is not treason. It is time to return to the approach of people like Martin Luther King and strive for peaceful resolution to conflicts rather than threats of violence.
So long as one side demonizes the other, so long will the other side demonize back. Only a commitment to verbal non-violence, along with a commitment to physical non-violence, will help calm the situation in our country. Only a commitment to compromises will allow us to go forward. Otherwise, it is just a matter of waiting for the next conflagration, and then for a final conflagration that may drive our country to open warfare in our streets. So long as moderate approaches are considered traitorous, so long will we fail to reach accord. It is time for moderation and for moderates to step forward. Otherwise, one extremism or another will eventually take charge, and we will end up with an extreme government and lots of suffering.
So, which will it be: the sword or the dove?