When thinking turns extreme, there is little room for nuance or aberration from the narrow mindset deemed acceptable. People become programmed to hear what they want to hear and tortured by cognitive dissonance when their own dogma does not stand to reason. When groups become so extreme in their thinking that they fail to realize the merits of an opinion from outside their “tribe” or when partisan fealty fuses into one’s identity, one’s values ultimately suffer.
When terrorists or violent extremists cross the line, the only recourse is to forcefully stop them and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. For society at large, independent thinking and even avoiding partisan fanaticism can be antidotes to unruly tribalism in the future. Embracing the middle space characterized by critical thinking and nuance gives us a pathway for avoiding absolutist and hateful thinking that preys on societies from both the outside and within. While extremists are passionate, moderates overwhelmingly outnumber them. We can seize back the agenda for reason by recognizing our individual power and duty to stand up, particularly against the sort of violent extremism and domestic terrorism we witnessed in our nation’s capital.