COMMENTARY: Going to extremes

by Mar 28, 2021OPINIONS



One Feather Editor 


We live in a chaotic society. It seems like there is a prevalent split between two very different life philosophies in America. Surely, most of us are somewhere along the spectrum between the polar extremes of these philosophies, certainly not radically one way or the other. 

Political stances, religious dogma, and sometimes even sporting disagreements illicit some emotional and extreme responses. Reason and logic will be put on hold or given lower priority if one of our sacred beliefs are challenged, whether that is a philosophic or religious belief. And in the battle of wits, nothing seems to be off limits for attack. Pushing the right emotional “buttons” has become a valuable tool in our world. 

Marketing experts have known and played this game for years. Marketing includes studying psychology to determine what buttons to push to illicit that emotional response to help you want to buy whatever is being marketed. With the advent of social media, emotional manipulation is at an all time high. I routinely see posts on Facebook that are crafted to tug at your heartstrings to get you to click “like”, or “share” or “copy and paste to your status”. The author typically has no connection to the subjects of the posts. They are simply using those subjects to get you to click and spread the message, pass a long some sort of malware, or simply getting their jollies from watching their engagement tick up. 

And the authors of these deceptions have very little shame. They will find a picture of a child on a ventilator, a mangled puppy, or some other graphic or tragic event, then create a post with it and then they coax you to repost it with comments like “I bet this won’t even get a share” or “share if you support (fill in the blank).”

Thousands of people have been fleeced by scams on the Internet – people creating fake accounts that are cloned from a friend list, then using that account to con friends and family members of others to invest and send money to a non-existent charity or some get-rich-quick scheme. Some of the most level-headed, safety-conscious people will drop their guard if they see what they think is a friend or family member offering them a chance to earn big money or benefit someone in need. 

A tool of extremists is also to tug at the heartstrings to push along their agenda. The agenda is paramount to these people and they too have little shame when it comes to truth and using people to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, our news media hasn’t done a good job of maintaining its distance from the issues and the extremists. Objectivity is critical to a news organization.  Particularly when it comes to political extremism, media and government has ceded honesty for ratings and votes. There seems to be no sacrifice too great regarding life and limb for the cause of advancing a particular agenda. One side’s extremists will propagate a position based on half-truths and the other side will reciprocate. And with each statement, emotions rise, hatred bubbles to the surface, and physical and mental abuses follow. From local to national reporting, we are in a truth crisis in America and it is costing stability, health, finances, and lives. 

We have been in varying levels of isolation for the past year and it has taken a toll on families as well as our personal sensibilities. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then close, long-term periods of not being able to be with people outside the home make for some strained relationships. Media pundits and psychologists have discussed the stress that relationships experience in this environment. On top of that, spouse and partner abuse that is already occurring is magnified by the necessity of isolation orders. 

In a paper titled “Domestic violence and COVID-19: Our hidden epidemic”, Jennifer Neil states, “The ‘stay home, save lives’ mantra, which protects the public from COVID-19 infection, becomes a paradox in the context of domestic violence. As a result of the lockdown, survivors may be forced to spend more time with their abusers, creating an opportunity for increased abuse through surveillance, controlling behaviors and coercion. Social distancing measures also prevent survivors from help-seeking and reduce their ability to leave. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that domestic violence has expanded into new spheres. Across the world, there have been reports of perpetrators withholding necessary items such as hand sanitizer, providing misinformation about the pandemic to prevent survivors from seeking medical care, and telling their partners they have COVID-19 to ensure the survivors must remain quarantined at home. This occurs in the context of increased household stress through unemployment, financial difficulty and home schooling.”

According to the National Institute of Justice Journal, a study specifically targeting Native Americans found that “American Indian and Alaska Native women and men suffer violence at alarmingly high rates. More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women and men have experienced violence in their lifetime, and more than one in three experienced violence in the past year.” 

And this study was performed prior to the isolation protocols of COVID-19. “This includes 56.1 percent who have experienced sexual violence, 55.5 percent who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, 48.8 percent who have experienced stalking, and 66.4 percent who have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner. Overall, more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime.”

In these chaotic times, it is important to be honest with each other. It is critical that we, as they used to make you pledge in court, tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We must do what we can to lower the temperature of our discussions and actions. Where compromise is not possible, then compassion must prevail. 

Compassion for those who agree with us and for those who do not. We must stop intimidating to get things to go our way, because we ourselves will be subject to intimidation if we do not change the way we think. Regarding domestic violence, important legislation like the Violence Against Women Act must be passed and allowed to work to reduce the damage to women and families. Funding for programs to provide support and protection for survivors are important, and so are funds for educational and treatment options for the perpetrators. Honestly, we have a difficult time feeling like we should do anything to help someone who abuses his or her mate. But, in helping a perpetrator to change, we not only help them. We help the survivors and reduce danger for our entire community. 

For our community, if we insist on staying away from the extremes in either direction and refuse to participate in divisive behavior, we are taking steps to unify our community, our Tribe, and the country. We must reject the “if it bleeds it leads mentality” that is pervasive with some mainstream and even local media. If we stop rewarding them and their advertisers for their divisiveness, they will have to start providing the news instead of entertainment cloaked as news. We must be willing to talk to each other, not at each other, if we want to achieve the unity that we say that we want. Even if we cannot agree on an issue, we can agree to live and let live. We must learn to talk civilly and respectfully, even when others are not civil and respectful. Even in argument, we learn. A utopia isn’t everybody being the same. It is everyone living with and celebrating our differences. And it starts with you and me.