Why Do I Go to Extremes

When I was a high school teacher, the biggest rivalry were between the pom line and the spirit line. The pom line said the spirit line girls were ugly, couldn’t dance, were sooo lame, etc. The spirit line said the pom line were a bunch of hoes, they couldn’t dance, were sooo lame, etc. The second biggest rivalry was between the newspaper and yearbook students. The newspaper people said the yearbook staff were all lazy, didn’t know how to write, etc. The yearbook staff said the newspaper staff wrote hacky stuff, didn’t know what to report, etc. The problem I had was when I went to a football game, I didn’t know who was who in the cheer squad; when I read the yearbook or newspaper, they both contained the same broken language that is the hallmark of 16 year olds trying to write (and maybe 40 year olds as well).

The point is from an outsider, they are exactly the same people. However to them, there are as different as Gary Cherone and David Lee Roth (look it up, it’s a great reference).

And you know what? They are the same people. The pom line and the spirit line were the same girls. The newspaper and yearbook staff were the same people. At least they were the same TYPE of people; girls that liked to dance and cheer, students who liked to write and report. So why did they hate each other? Eh, they are just kids, who cares.

But this started me to think a little bit more…..globally. There are many times people deeply hate others that are very similar in mental makeup and general interests. Crosswords vs Sudoku people, REI vs Bass Pro Shop customers, midgets vs dwarves, and the main event….Muslim vs Christian extremism.

From an outsider’s perspective, there are many similarities; monotheistic, have a main prophet they really really like, pray a lot, believe in heaven, want a religious state, the list goes on. From where I see things, their aggressive form of piety may make them friends; a shared belief that their ‘my way or the highway’ approach is the way the world should go. I know there are differences in their dogma; Jesus is the ‘pen’ultimate prophet and messenger of God in Islam while he is the ultimate prophet and messenger of God in Christianity. Wow, the ‘pen’ is mightier than the sword. And yes, there are other differences, but I don’t want to cut and paste all of the Wikipedia stuff in this blog.

Yeah, I know I’m wrong. These extreme factions do not care for each other. However I cannot help it is less to do with the differences in their scripture and more to do with the aforementioned human nature; we tend to hate the people that are most like us. I feel most of this religious extremism germinates from very poor and hopeless people that need…well…hope. These disenfranchised people are the easiest to control, manipulate, and organize into a common cause. Opium of the masses…I know. And why does it seem like the primary mobilizer of these extremists is someone who has more means and connections to the wealthy than anyone I’ll ever know?

I won’t prattle on too much longer on this; it is a sensitive subject and I have a real job. But my main message is not that religion is bad or the people who believe in a higher power are foolish or even wrong. It is that extremism in many forms can turn into hate; a hate that is rooted in a commonality that both ironic and dangerous. Maybe if we learned that sometimes our enemy is more like us than not in many ways, we can solve issues as opposed to throwing more fuel on the fire.