Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I'm sure Paul Krugman didn't read my thorny question Monday (Should we avoid alienating the religious right while pointing out the errors in their thinking, or should we be aggressive against their growing intimidation?) Maybe Krugman just read my mind, because Tuesday's column in the New York Times minces no words:
Democratic societies have a hard time dealing with extremists in their midst. The desire to show respect for other people's beliefs all too easily turns into denial: nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.
Basically, Krugman feels that we'd better stop them while we can.
One thing that's going on is a climate of fear for those who try to enforce laws that religious extremists oppose. Randall Terry, a spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents, hasn't killed anyone, but one of his former close associates in the anti-abortion movement is serving time for murdering a doctor. George Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, needs armed bodyguards. ...
What we need - and we aren't seeing - is a firm stand by moderates against religious extremism. Some people ask, with justification, Where are the Democrats? But an even better question is, Where are the doctors fiercely defending their professional integrity? I think the American Medical Association disapproves of politicians who second-guess medical diagnoses based on video images - but the association's statement on the Schiavo case is so timid that it's hard to be sure.
The closest parallel I can think of to current American politics is Israel. There was a time, not that long ago, when moderate Israelis downplayed the rise of religious extremists. But no more: extremists have already killed one prime minister, and everyone realizes that Ariel Sharon is at risk.
America isn't yet a place where liberal politicians, and even conservatives who aren't sufficiently hard-line, fear assassination. But unless moderates take a stand against the growing power of domestic extremists, it can happen here.

His column is worth your time.
Even a life-long Republican, in a column on Tuesday's Post-Dispatch op-ed page, fretted that "reproductive freedoms are being legislated away, piece by piece" and advised: "The majority of Republicans, who are moderates, must take a stand against this extremism. According to a recent American Viewpoint public opinion survey, 73 percent of Republicans support a woman's right to choose."
Eric Mink's column today was about extremists in the Republican party. And even John Danforth had a Times op-ed piece today bemoaning the takover of his party by the fanatical religious right.
Thanks to Terri Schiavo, the word "extremism" for religious zealots is gaining currency and acceptance in the general population.

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