I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fear, Extremism and the Perpetuation of Evil

Nicholas D. Kristoff, in is recent opinion piece in the New York Times entitled, "America's History of Fear" suggests that we have let extremists dominate the dialog and direct action against sub-groups throughout our history. We now recognize much of this rhetoric as patently ridiculous. Below is handful of quotes and Kristoff's main points:
Most Americans stayed on the sidelines during these spasms of bigotry, and only a small number of hoodlums killed or tormented Catholics, Mormons or others. But the assaults were possible because so many middle-of-the-road Americans were ambivalent.
But we have a more glorious tradition intertwined in American history as well, one of tolerance, amity and religious freedom. . .
Americans have called on moderates in Muslim countries to speak out against extremists, to stand up for the tolerance they say they believe in. We should all have the guts do the same at home.
Mormons decry the persecution in our present and past. Are we equally vigilant when it is directed at other sub-groups? Do we speak up for Muslims, Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews and others? Or, do we sometimes join the extremists? Kristoff names Glenn Beck as one. Whether he is or is not an extremist, extremists are certainly out there.

As I read Kristoff's article it reminded me of the classic quotation attributed to Edmund Burke:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
This quote sometimes gets altered to "good people" instead of "good men" presumably to make it more palatable to modern audiences.

Unfortunately, Burke did not say this exactly. The following quotes capture the essence of the statement if not the exact words. These come from the Yale Book of Quotations.
"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing." John Stuart Mill
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Edmund Burke
The central notion is that evil runs amok when good people sit on the sidelines and that statement is true no matter who said it or when. Kristoff condemns extremists who makes outlandish claims as well as the people who believe them and decries the majority's ambivalence.

People make outlandish claims against Mormons and some people believe them. The problem is at least two-fold. Are Mormons contributing to the overall problem because some members become extremists or listen to extremists and some members believe them? I think so.

I won't name any names but if you have only limited information sources and/or only believe a small number of information sources, chances are you will become part of the problem or already are.

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