By John F. Di Leo -
I cannot tell a lie: I am an extremist.
As an amateur actor, I have certain beliefs that I hold dear. I detest drama and tragedy; I really only like comedy, both musical and non-musical. I believe the stage is for laughter and song, for tap dances and pratfalls. I won’t spend my money buying tickets to see a sad show, and I certainly don’t like to waste eight weeks of my life rehearsing to perform in one. Many would call these views extreme.
As a trade compliance manager, I have spent my career – my “day job,” if you will – trying my best to help importers and exporters obey the often complex laws of domestic and international trade. From Country of Origin marking regulations to Free Trade Agreement qualification tests, I have been accused of worrying too much, of being too cautious, of insisting on accuracy in Customs documentation with too much rigidity. But I stand with Founding Fathers George Washington and Alexander Hamilton in advocating ever-stronger international commerce, proudly championing both imports and exports in line with Jack Kennedy’s adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” But an errant shipment must be stopped and fixed rather than be allowed to cross an ocean mis-marked, undeclared, or undervalued. Some would call this rigidity in support of the law "extreme."
As a patriotic American, I am proud of the nation we inherited, and I am concerned that recent generations have squandered our forefathers’ legacy by allowing the country to be transformed from the Judeo-Christian beacon of freedom that we were given – the “City on a Hill,” as Ronald Reagan put it so fondly – into a rapidly declining, statist and secular, welfare state. I take every opportunity to do my part to educate the public about our Founders’ intentions, praying that we can turn the nation back toward the right track again, so that our children may again enjoy the limitless potential offered by limited government. But many, including the Resident of the White House, now call these views "extreme."
A Nation of Extremes
The United States of America is a union of fifty sovereign states, the District of Columbia, and almost countless territories, from Puerto Rico to Guam. Just two hundred years ago, our union hugged a single coastline; my, how we grew.
We didn’t grow by being moderate in our goals or methods. We didn’t grow by being soft.
Our nation grew because of “extreme” Christians – honorable men and women of faith who had the courage to dare an ocean crossing to live in a land where they could practice their denominations freely.
Our nation grew because of “extreme” patriots – people with the courage to risk “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to win independence from the British crown so that we could claim the mantle of Manifest Destiny that we believed our birthright and our obligation.
Our nation grew because of “extreme” hard work – courageous settlers who dared prairie, forest, mountain and desert to blaze a trail westward and tame the wilderness of this vast land, with a tenacity that came to be respected the world over as “the protestant work ethic.”
Our nation grew because of “extreme” Christian missionaries – priests, ministers, pastors, sisters, monks, and friars, who built missions and churches, and attached grammar schools, high schools, colleges, hospitals, and orphanages to them. These centers of devotion became the hearts of neighborhoods, the core of communities, as disparate farms grew into towns and cities from coast to coast, with the Word of God contributing even more toward the civilization of that wilderness than canal, road, or rail ever could.
Our nation grew because of “extreme” workaholics – the entrepreneurs and inventors who burned the midnight oil, sometimes for years, sometimes for decades, until they built economic empires that employed millions in industry and commerce. To start a business, and then a chain of businesses, takes levels of energy and single-minded dedication that few have ever possessed in any culture, but we had a plethora of them in our first century. The modern Left calls them “robber barons” and “exploiters,” but real Americans know better: the entrepreneurs are the ones who make a good life possible for everyone else.
People who do not share such dedication – the worker who’s not a workaholic, the Christian parishioner who’s not a preacher, the user of inventions rather than the inventor, the consumer of food rather than the farmer – must still respect and appreciate that others had that dedication. And hopefully, they have extremes of their own. Americans have always had our extremes; we have always depended on them for our very success. And there once was a time when we all knew it.
Our very Constitution was written in an effort to harness those different extremes, to ensure that the public had enough freedom that all these factions, all these vocations and avocations, might have the chance to develop and spur a growing nation’s expansion. It was our extremes – our devotion to God and Country, our desires to make the most of the opportunities afforded us by American resources, a free economy, and the traditions of Western Civilization that came before – that enabled our nation’s unprecedented growth and success on a world stage of barriers, both natural and manmade.
Extremism as a Scapegoat
The Resident of the White House, unwilling to acknowledge that his own intentional missteps in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya were among the leading direct causes of the huge recent spread of jihadist activity there and throughout the region, has convened a conference to discuss the matter, declaring the problem to be “extremism.”
This extremist himself, a extreme leftist, an extreme anti-Christian and anti-Semite, blamed extremism, as if an extreme devotion to a cause is itself a threat to peace and safety. It is not; it depends on what that cause IS.
The truth is plain: If one is good, then being extremely good is no danger to society. Only if one is evil, does extreme evil become even more of a danger.
The crisis we face is that the devotion to jihad – the radical belief in “holy war” to establish a caliphate – is growing in popularity across the world. The crisis is that jihadism – not in the abstract but the concrete, not in some distant future but today – is the prevalent strain of islam being preached in a growing number of islamic congregations.
If an imam in a mosque or community center, or an islamic teacher in a madrassah, or an islamic chaplain at an army base or prison, is an adherent of this branch of islam, then he is spreading this hatred and teaching his students or congregants to engage in jihad. This radicalization is going on all over the world, and has been for many years, but the practice has sped up during the past six years as the United States, long a civilizing force in the world, has retreated from its former position as the world’s leading advocate of Judeo-Christian peace and freedom.
Consider: When we learn of a country building centrifuges for processing nuclear material, we destroy them, because we know they are factories for the proliferation of nuclear weapons. When we learn of a country operating chemical and biological weapons laboratories, we destroy those labs as well, because we know that their very existence is a clear and present danger, because of the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
When will we recognize that the mosques and madrassahs that preach the jihadist branch of islam are WMD factories as well, engaging in the production of homicidal maniacs in hordes to threaten civilization itself?
We do not know the percentage of mosques that reject jihad as the evil that it is, versus those that support it as a legitimate religious calling. The islamic practice of taquiyya may make it impossible for us to estimate it. But we can at least listen for the voices of reason from within the islamic community, and what we hear is not encouraging.
General el-Sisi of Egypt, in his New Year’s Day address to the imams of Egypt, called for the imams of the world to speak up and renounce this barbaric practice, to “write out of islam” the imams who preach jihad and reform islam from within… and he was met by a shocking silence. If there is a moderate muslim majority out there, one that truly renounces jihad, as we must all pray that there is, then it is the quietest “silent majority” in political history.
If an imam preaches jihad, then his extreme adherents will take to the battlefield, mutilate women and homosexuals, slice off the heads of Christians and Jews, burn children alive, bomb restaurants and buses and malls.
And what will that imam’s non-extreme adherents do? His non-extreme adherents may not join in that direct activity, but they will give the jihadi shelter in their homes, or contribute funds to their cause, or vote for politicians who support the caliphate.
Every war has both soldiers and financiers, a supply corps that enables the soldiers go out into battle and fight. These non-extreme adherents – the majority of adherents to the jihadi branch of islam – are just as much of a danger to the world as the “extreme” ones who do the fighting themselves.
Members of mosques who don’t enter the battlefield themselves, but who vote to establish sharia law, or who vote to support the Muslim Brotherhood or ISIS or Al-Qaeda with tax dollars (or vote for western politicians who just sit idly by and give the jihadis free room to grow, unchallenged), are just as much of a threat to Western Civilization as are those “extremist” jihadis who wear black masks and bear swords, guns, and grenades on the snuff films they share on YouTube to terrify the West.
So, No, Mr. Obama, extremism is not our enemy.
Our enemy is the jihadist branch of islam, from the imam who advocates it, to the noncombatant who funds it, to the demon who practices it by committing terrorism in its service. That’s our enemy. Not extremism, but jihadist islam.
When a viewpoint is right and good, extremism in its service is admirable. This nation was built by extremist patriots, extremist businessmen, extremist Christians. If a little good is a good thing, then a heck of a lot of good is even better. Our Founding Fathers were extremists, in support of God and economic freedom, in support of the protection of man’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. Extremism can be the best of attributes.
The Resident of the White House – an extremist himself in so many things, in socialism and rhetoric, in class warfare and abortion advocacy – has become an advocate of Moderation in one thing only: standing up for good against evil.
What a shocking and shameful fall, for an office once so noble as the Presidency of the United States.
Half a century ago, a great United States Senator was a candidate for President, and he called for the country to remember exactly what is expected of a politician who swears an oath to support our Constitution. In his view, an American politician has a duty: to vigorously support the freedom of his constituents, and to oppose the injustice of oppression by government. On that long-ago day in 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona addressed the nation and so memorably declared:
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice… And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
How right he was… and how desperately we need a president who respects the cause of liberty again.
2016 cannot come too soon.
Copyright 2015 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance lecturer. His columns are found regularly in Illinois Review.
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