Have you noticed the trend in society lately? Maybe it's not just something that's happening lately— maybe it's some twisted drive brought on by our survival instinct and has been happening all throughout history. It's only becoming more evident now because there's only so far one can go before coming back to where one started from. It's like a pendulum that swings from side to side and someone keeps pushing it higher and higher. If they push hard enough, rather than swinging back and forth, it will just go all the way around— and unless the one pushing it is careful, the pendulum will swing around and "kick 'em in the ass". The trend I'm talking about is taking everything to the extreme— from world record attempts to politics, from religion to fashion. Society is becoming a whole bunch of extremists and unless we're very careful, all those pendulums are gonna come swinging around and do a whole lot of damage.
Sports is a prime example of our drive to the extreme. We have whole networks on television dedicated to "X-sports". We have extreme skiers, extreme skate boarders, extreme bicyclists, extreme motor cross riders: if you name a sport, there's probably some extreme version of it. Sporting goods companies are spending millions redesigning equipment to shave a tenth of a second off a world record. People are dying in attempts to be the first to scale a mountain by a new route or to dive the deepest into the ocean using no oxygen tanks or rock climb some face with no safety equipment. We have people "marrying" sports that were probably never intended to be "married": like high jumping on motorcycles and snowboarding while skydiving. Not only are the sports themselves becoming extreme, but the money being spent on those sports is going to the extreme. Kids right out of high school in some cases are being signed to multimillion dollar contracts that tie them to one team for the next ten years. These contracts are written so that even if they are injured and unable to fulfill their contract, they still collect on the majority of their promised salary.
Another indication of our push for the extremes can be found in the new world records that are constantly being broken. The most live births in a single pregnancy, the most swords that are "swallowed" at one time, the most hotdogs eaten in 2 minutes. There was a show on television the other night that pitted man against beast: a sprinter trying to outrace a giraffe and a zebra, 50 little people trying to pull an empty airplane across a finish line faster than one elephant, a sumo wrestler trying to win a tug of war against an orangutan that weighed half as much as he did. (As a side note, all of them lost except the man sprinting against the giraffe and he only won because the giraffe stumbled.) We're having to come up with new categories for world records because everyone, it seems, wants to be the best at something.
Then we turn to politics. There was a time when political parties didn't exist in the US. As time went on, politicians found the benefits of joining political parties: if they didn't have a stand on a particular issue, they could toe the party line. But there were a lot of parties then— and one of the "outside" parties (the Bull Moose party) even had a successful presidential candidate in Teddy Roosevelt. Used to be that anyone could run for political office— now if you want to run for political office even on the local level you have to have a sizable "war chest" of funds. Our nationally elected representatives have it made. All you have to do is get into the House of Representatives for one term and for the rest of your life, you will get a non-taxable pension of over $15,000 a month with complete health care paid for by a "grateful nation". And to top it off, you can vote yourself a pay raise whenever you want! How's that for extremes?
The biggest extreme we have now is George W. Bush. He doesn't win the popular vote but somehow he gets all votes from the electoral college in the state where his brother just happens to be governor. He claims to be for giving power back to the people and yet he's done more to take away the civil liberties of Americans than any president in the last 50 years. He claims to be for the common folk, yet his policies are widening the gap between the haves and the have nots. The only thing I can think is that God'dess, in his/her divine wisdom, put someone like George W. Bush in office to wake up the American people. To get them off of their apathetic behinds and get involved in the political process as is not only their privilege but, in my humble opinion, their civic duty.
Even religion nowadays is going for the extremes. There's very little difference between debating a fundamentalist Christian or a fundamentalist atheist: both believe that their view is the only correct one and that everyone else who disagrees is damned/ignorant. We have people who claim to be "pro-life" killing doctors and supporting the death penalty. We have cults popping up left and right and those who are following these cults are not stupid people. Jim Jones was able to convince more than 900 people to uproot their families and move into the jungles of Africa where they all eventually died in a mass suicide/murder. David Koresh and the Branch Davidians built an armed fortress and garnered the support of both the white supremacists and the anti-government militias (themselves indistinguishable from cults) when they all died in Waco. Heaven's Gate resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people who believed they were going to be taken up into a spaceship in a comet's tail. Many of us are stupefied that these apparently intelligent and sane people were willing to give up that much control of their lives, and yet many of these same wondering people are doing the same thing when it comes to giving up control of their lives to their president.
In addition, many of the accepted and established churches in the US come very close to being considered cults. Creationism declares that scientific evidence is invalid based on nothing but faith in the words of the Bible. In many of the more fundamental Christian faiths, the very act of questioning one's pastor/minister is seen as a sign of lack of faith. We have political action committees masking themselves as "Christian missionary" programs: Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, Moral Majority to name a few. These extremists are very powerful: while making up less than 2% of the population, they have enough money and political clout to get their poster boy elected president of the United States of America!
Then we come to the groups fighting for the rights for specific groups or causes. We have environmentalists who drive spikes into trees (thereby killing the tree in many cases) so that loggers, when cutting down the tree, will break the chains on their chainsaws (and often are seriously injured in the process). We have those who are protesting euthanizing of unwanted animals in shelters who release all the animals into the "wild" where they are ill-fit to take care of themselves or find food/shelter and where they are free to breed, creating even more unwanted animals. Or those who protest the use of animals for clothing who then splash blood on fur coats. One has to wonder where they get such large quantities of blood. And one cannot advocate respect for another living creature if one does not GIVE respect— at least if one wishes to be taken seriously. We have extremist in the feminist movement too: women who actually advocate for the virtual enslavement of men or who blame men for every problem women have ever encountered. These same women will scorn and deride any woman who chooses to marry a man and become a wife and mother, ignoring the fact that the feminist movement started out as a drive for equal opportunity for women and the freedom to choose what path they wanted to take in life. We have black supremacists who think it's time to enslave the white race and we have white supremacists who rue the day the North won the Civil War.
But for me, the most painful extremism is that within the gay community. And I'm not even talking about the drag queens, who are admittedly on the extremes. I'm talking about those extremists who consider heterosexuals nothing but "breeders" and those who make it their purpose in life to seduce as many straight individuals as they can and "convert them", as if such a thing were possible. And I'm talking about those who see discrimination in anything that is even remotely associated with being gay.
For example, there is a new video game due for release in which one gets to be a mail carrier and shoot people. There are people who are of all races, sizes, shapes and orientations. According to the games maker, there are no bonus points awarded for killing gays in this game. There is no special effects one gains after killing enough gays. There is no beneficial reason for killing gays in this game and one can just as easily shoot a gay as a straight, a black as a white, a skinny person as a fat one. And yet there are gay rights groups that are up in arms about this game, calling it a "dangerous" game. Rather than see the positive side— that the games creators have chosen to include gays in "normal life"— they go to the other extreme and see only the negative. (Don't get me wrong: I think senselessly violent video games are a bad idea and I won't let my kids buy this game.) If anyone should be upset, I'd think it would be the postal workers!
To cry "discrimination" when there is none intended (or even present, as far as I can tell) is like the boy who cried wolf. At some point in time, people are going to do what they always do to extremist: ignore them. But more importantly, in the minds of many, it will turn them off from supporting gay rights and may even send them into the "other camp". If the gay community wants to gain the equality we deserve, we need to speak up when these extremists spout off. It may seem to be causing dissonance within the gay rights movement, but a little bit of dissonance now will prevent the entire movement from self-destruction. It's a bit like drilling a small hole in your windshield when it develops a small crack. While it may seem as if the hole is doing more damage, it will prevent the crack from getting any bigger and from destroying the entire windshield.
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