Extremism in all of its many forms is a problem for all of us to face together. Be it far right, far left, Islamic terrorism, domestic terrorism, anti-Semitism, etcetera… it affects each of us in some capacity. A quick look in the news will yield proof of extremism being on the rise in America;

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/interactive/2021/domestic-terrorism-data/

https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/UnclassSummaryofDVEAssessment-17MAR21.pdf

https://www.rand.org/topics/violent-extremism.html

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/target/etc/modern.html

https://www.counterextremism.com/content/extreme-left-groups-united-states?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5uWGBhCTARIsAL70sLLa9qxa1uljIuLHBDPJ1ZdlOgCLFAHBJEjnk5IgreIlEUnSmQSPqVoaAoKpEALw_wcB

No matter the flavor of extremism, there will always be collateral damage left in its wake, from tightened security and freedom encroachment to the loss of innocent lives. Extremists are not the majority and in fact, they sit on the fringe of the societies they inhabit, each feeling like a victim of a perceived enemy greater in scope than themselves and obscured or ignored by society at large. In this way of thinking, the extremist sees themselves as a heroic figure willing to do what others will not, and viewing the ends as justifying the means. This perpetual victim mentality leads them to place the blame for all of the ills in their life as the fault of someone else, neglecting any and all accountability for their own shortcomings. 

Knowing this, how can the average individual help in the fight against extremism? What can they do to protect their kids from being dragged into an extremist mindset? What can they do on a community level to prevent extremism? 

To begin looking into this, I will state first and foremost, don’t engage with extremists, don’t argue with them, don’t counter-protest them, don’t “Fight fire with fire,” because in all honesty, you’re emboldening them and giving them the reaction they want. This might sound counter-intuitive but as a former extremist myself, I can tell you emphatically that when counter-protestors were at rallies, when Antifa knew where our hotel was outside of the rally, it ramped us up, it gave us fuel that manifested into tighter kinship and made what we felt all the more real. Extremists want a reaction, they want their beliefs justified, they want protestors there at their rallies, and they want you to give that to them. When there are protestors at rallies en masse, a common statement we’d make to one another is, “Yeah there were a lot of protestors but half of them looked like they might be there supporting us in the crowd.” 

If there was no crowd and only 10 people (that’s a liberal estimate of supporters) showed up to a massively planned rally that cost time and money, how would the extremist morale take that? Even if 25-50 showed up, you’d know exactly who was there supporting such a heinous ideology, while not giving extremists the reaction they desire. This is a tough one, especially when so many college kids have just the right juicy beats on their bongos and a megaphone to yell chants to show the extremists what’s up. This does nothing but emboldens extremists, it fuels their ideology, in some ways they use it to substantiate their ideology altogether, and at the end of the day… they win!

Instead of playing into their ideology of you being their enemy by protesting in large numbers and them being the victim of a larger conspiracy, give them nothing. A recruitment tool often used is, “Look at the number of protestors brainwashed by [insert invisible enemy here] this is our war,” and it has proven to be highly effective. This works especially on disenfranchised youth, who are looking for their cause, who recognize something is wrong with society, but cannot put their finger on it, or who are looking to belong. 

Ignore them, laugh at them, making comic strips about them, give them nothing substantial; don’t waste an iota of your time protesting, these are much better directions to combat them. This is just one way we can all combat extremism together…

Education and cultural experiences are the best way to keep kids from entering into or even considering extremist ideologies. Helping kids focus on what important at their age, finding themselves, getting good grades, figuring out what they want to be, and forming a path to them achieving it is one great way to help keep them from the ideology of extremists. Exposing them to various cultures via cultural centers, museums, events, meeting new people of various cultures, are powerful ways to fight extremism. The youth are our future, their education and exposure to varied cultures are paramount means to making their generation the one that fully ends extremism. 

Coming together as a community to promote diversity and cultural diversity, forming neighborhood groups and meetups to promote unity and understanding of one another, is a powerful means to combat extremism together within your communities. A strong community based around diversity and communal unity is a community that is in effect, fighting extremism. Change begins at home, in our families, in our communities, and it spreads out into our cities, states, and soon enough into our nation as a whole. Become the change you want to see in the world, and let your light be seen so it can illuminate others to do the same. Communities across the United States need this unity, they need this acceptance and feeling of belonging more now than I can ever say in my lifetime. 

There are plenty of community centers, recreational centers, half-empty and yet with kids running around the streets… the streets are where extremist ideologies are taught and flourish. It’s high time that we stop doing the same ole same ole and expecting different results, and instead try a new approach to combating extremism wherever it may come from. The best way to combat extremists is through unity, education, and cultural exploration, turning their rallies and ideologies into a farce and showing that their hate doesn’t trump our love, and by bringing these things into our communities around the nation. We can do this, we can end extremism, but we’re going to have to work together…

One people, one heart, one cause… unity!