“Extremists have a problem with you, too…”

I’ve always thought that it makes sense to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, be it in a business negotiation or a social conversation, if only because it may give you some helpful perspective on how others perceive you. Putting this in the context of what is happening in the Middle East today, it is hard for me to reconcile the U.S. position in Iraq with our government’s legislative agenda at home in light of the United States Congress’ recent highly irregular actions in the Schiavo case.

Maureen Dowd’s column in The New York Times today made the following assertion:

“As the Bush White House desperately maneuvers in Iraq to prevent the new government from being run according to the dictates of religious fundamentalists, it desperately maneuvers here to pander to religious fundamentalists who want to dictate how the government should be run.”

As the word “theocracy” is increasingly invoked to describe the creed of the Republican party, we should not ignore that, according to a CBS News poll yesterday, 82% of the American public opposed the actions of the Congress with respect to the Schiavo case.

An astute friend of mine pointed out something obvious but profound to me at lunch today: “As much as you, Pascal, may have problems with extremist ideologues, they have a problem with you, too”.

Thinking about that simple point, I can only respond that the good news about extremists is that, by definition, they are outnumbered by the rest of us. The problem that we moderates (or progressives, or whatever we want to call ourselves) have, whether we are Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, is that our voices have been drowned out by the noise of the extremists.

We must find our voices and be heard. I believe that more and more people who want to find ways to get along and who are willing to put themselves in the other person’s position, are also finding their voices. It all starts with learning how to listen. More on that subject to follow….

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