One notable aspect of our nation today is the ever more prominent role that “activists” of every type play in our increasingly fractious national conversations.
What is an activist, by the way?
These are people who are apparently much purer of heart than their fellow Americans, hold implacable beliefs in the righteousness of their causes, and are wholly uninterested in opinions other than their own. This translates into a tendency to sneer, expressions of anger at any suggestion their opinions might be mistaken, and a readiness to engage in cruel insults instead of reasoned debate.
In short, activists are right and everyone else is wrong. End of discussion.
We see this dynamic played out every day in every way, and the sickening similarities of the courses of these faux discussions, regardless of the specific issue at hand, are as predictable and enlightening as paint drying. Whether we are talking about the controversies swirling around race, gender, immigration, policing, economic policy, public schools, higher education, healthcare, gun control, or any of a nearly infinite universe of disagreements, we can be certain that strident activists will do their very best to ensure that the possibilities for civil conversation and functional compromise are poisoned beyond repair.
The “my way or the highway” mindset that goes hand in hand with our perpetually aggrieved brand of media-driven 21st century activism does little to actually solve the problems identified.
Activists demand attention, but take no responsibility. Activists insists on blaming, but accept no blame. Activists love to hear themselves talk, but are completely uninterested in any conversation.
Shouting down those whose values and ideas are different from your own while refusing to acknowledge the inconvenient realities of constrained budgets, deteriorating public safety, and unintended consequences is a recipe for arousing emotions and creating discord, a mode of discourse most of us leave behind in middle school, However, it is useless for the hard and tedious work of long-term negotiation and frustrating compromise that is the wonder and the woe of our American democracy.
Responsible adults listen and learn in order to better understand how to develop solutions that are durably crafted in a manner designed to gain broad support, reasonably implementable without the creation of a new bureaucracy, and sustainably designed in terms of monitoring and enforcement that will make more friends than enemies.
Loud and proud activism, unfortunately, tends to flop when it comes to the hard business of implementing change because those with implacable views are inherently unable to validate any idea that is not their own, so any dialogue involving a self-proclaimed activist is typically both unpleasant and unproductive.
Therefore, although we might choose to listen to an activist (or be forced to listen to them because of the media attention they inevitably garner), we should never, ever put them in a position of trust or authority. The high-profile but amazingly unproductive legislative career of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a perfect case in point. She is a media darling because of her “activism” regarding many progressive political and social causes, but her legislative record in Congress is so thin that it cannot even cover a cracker.
Because activists find the complexities and contradictions of human life and actions to be insulting to both their personhood and their causes, a long list of difficult issues that beg for common sense compromise are stuck in the mud of unrelenting extremism that demonizes all opponents of the supposedly irrefutable beliefs of activist groups.
Gun owners, for example, are often at pains to explain to those who believe all gun owners are evil cretins that so-called assault weapons are actually nothing other than a semi-automatic rifles with some military looking doo-dads tacked on as a marketing tool, but few seem interested in this vital information.
The advocates for what is considered to be a humanitarian open border policy fail to recognize that a deliberate lack of law enforcement also is an invitation to human trafficking and the smuggling of incredibly addictive fentanyl, both of which are destroying lives on a daily basis.
Asking whether those advocating for surgical and chemical gender changes for children are actually encouraging criminal child abuse produces only huffy denials and charges of bigotry and transphobia that end any discussion before it can even start.
Building bridges is less emotionally satisfying for many than burning them down, but we need to stop enabling our nation’s many media-savvy societal arsonists who love money and attention—but not America and Americans.