The antidote for extremism: You, voters

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For those like Kathy Verburg who see danger on cliffs to the far right and to the far left, have hope. You’re far from alone.

Verburg’s letter to the editor today will resonate with those who feel alienated or even threatened by the radical ideologies of liberal and conservative extremists. Take heart. Better still, take action.

Pay attention. This age of alleged digital enlightenment has made life more hectic than ever. Between work and family obligations, it’s a challenge to find time for anything but the bare necessities. And with the deafening noise from social media, it’s hard to hear the voices of reason. But they’re there. Silence the madness long enough to absorb important information from reliable sources, avoiding the propaganda from the far left and the far right.

Speak up. Express yourself as Kathy did. What extremists count on is the complacency of others. It’s the extremists on both sides who roar relentlessly, trying to intimidate the conscientious and perpetuate the false impression that legions think as they do. When extremists win it’s because they’re passionate, not because they’re right.

Take action. And no, we don’t mean punching people in the nose, as far-right bloggers advocated Sunday in angry reaction to an article in The Press. We mean writing letters to the editor. We mean wading through the morass of gutless hate-spewing on social media and offering a voice of reason, of compassion, providing an antidote to the poison that proliferates there. Or turn it off completely, because audiences are like oxygen to extremists. Take the eyes and ears away and most extremists can’t breathe.

Of course, the very best action you can take is to vote. Those on the far left and the far right, the people most unhappy with the way things are and, therefore, perhaps the most motivated, will vote every time. Give them some credit because they will also outwork the complacent. Right here in Kootenai County, for example, the far right is working hard to fulfill its mission of getting its acolytes elected to every board, even nonpartisan positions like the Kootenai Health Board of Trustees and local highway district boards.

The Kathy Verburgs among us hold the real power of providing balance. They can mitigate the extremism by paying attention, keeping informed, speaking up and voting for people who lead with wisdom and courage, not fear and fury.

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