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Accelerating Extremism: Our Humanity is Our Escape Hatch

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Master Sgt. Dustin Garneau shows Brig. Gen. Stacey Hawkins part of a KC-135 Stratotanker brought in for repair at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. (Illustrative photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Taylor Shelton)
Master Sgt. Dustin Garneau shows Brig. Gen. Stacey Hawkins part of a KC-135 Stratotanker brought in for repair at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. (Illustrative photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Taylor Shelton)

The accelerating extremism in the United States in the weeks after George Floyd’s murder projects a grim portrait of the future. Most of us have shifted from being worried about what the future will hold for our children, to being worried about what the future holds for us five weeks from now.

There is very little that is certain, and certainly a great deal of noise around the uncertainty of our times. It’s enough to make one’s head spin, but more importantly, it’s enough to lose hope.

When the problem seems so astoundingly grand and beyond our ability to solve, it’s very easy to feel we have little to no agency over our situation and give up.

Yet, it is important to remember that every extremist movement needs us to feel this way in order to advance their own cause. Moreover, while the situation can appear overwhelming, it is not greater than us.

The first step in sorting out the chaos we feel encircled by is to remove the noise and look at what is the most unified, simple grain of truth beneath the static: Our shared humanity.

Reorienting ourselves to what it means to be human is at the core of stabilizing ourselves and our society during these very turbulent times. We have to be able to see each other as humans, especially those we dislike or stand opposed to.

Despite the disheartening narratives of violence and destruction, stories of our shared humanity are still a very real part of the unfolding news.

In Israel, many think the Arab-Israeli conflict is beyond solving. Yet, just recently, the Dan Jerusalem Hotel saw people constantly pitted as enemies (at least by the media) suddenly quarantined together and forced to share a common space.

Almost 200 COVID-19 patients — Jews and Arab citizens, Palestinian residents, religious and secular — spent two and a half months together recovering from the disease. What actually happened in what has been dubbed “Hotel Corona?” Sunbathing, rooftop yoga and singalongs by a grand piano amidst lots of laughter and budding new friendships.

This week, another story of hope made the headlines when a protester carried a counter-protester to safety in London, where anti-racist and Far-Right protesters were butting heads. When Patrick Hutchinson saw someone fall to the ground, he chose to recognize the “other’s” humanity and not see him as the enemy. Hutchinson scooped up the fallen man and moved him away from the clashing crowd.

Whether on the battlefield or at a protest, a space can become radically transformed not because of the space, but because of the intentions we activate within ourselves. If we can change, a space can change.

The best of who we are isn’t in our identity markers, it’s in what we rise to become when we can see some piece of ourselves in another. Compassion, empathy, dignity, respect — these aren’t qualities that fall on our laps. They have to be cultivated and practiced, especially during the hardest of times when it would be so much easier to slip into simplistic narratives that divide the word into a binary of black and white.

 

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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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