In what I think is a very important post titled “Ideological War Spells Doom for America’s Schoolkids,” Zombie touches on an issue near and dear to my heart which I have ranted about for many years. That is the way the culture war tends to be exacerbated by increasingly extreme ideological positions at both ends.
As I keep saying, they fuel each other, and drive normal people away, leaving the playing field to themselves.
I won’t live forever, and because of the nature of repetitive blogging, it sometimes feels as if I am preaching to a choir consisting of myself. (See my long collection of posts in “Sinners and scolds, feasting together in a cornucopia of collusion!“) So nothing makes me happier than seeing an articulate blogger like Zombie saying what he is saying:

In one camp are conservative Christians and their champion, the Texas State Board of Education; in the other are politically radical multiculturalists and their de facto champion, President Barack Obama. The two competing visions couldn’t be more different. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Unfortunately, whichever side wins — your kid ends up losing.
That’s because this war is for the power to dictate what our children are taught — and, by extension, how future generations of Americans will view the world. Long gone are the days when classrooms were for learning: now each side sees the public school system as a vast indoctrination camp in which future culture-warriors are trained. The problem is, two diametrically opposed philosophies are struggling for supremacy, and neither is willing to give an inch, so the end result is extremism, no matter which side temporarily comes out on top.
Both visions are grotesque and unacceptable — and yet they are currently the only two choices on the national menu.

Please read it all.
That this is happening in America is just awful. I have tried to joke about how the obsession with things like condoms on bananas serve as a distraction from whether children are getting a basic education.
The process is fueled by the unbearable old “you are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem!” meme. Here’s Zombie:

Innumerable liberal critics condemn the anti-science and partisan revisionist lunacy coming out of the Texas school board meetings. And you know what? The criticisms hit home. It’s next to impossible for a sensible person to defend the TSBE’s often ridiculous proposals.
On the other side of the fence, you’ll find countless conservative pundits and angry parents increasingly outraged by the ever-escalating political correctness and equally egregious (but mirror-image) historical revisionism which dominates public schooling away from the Texas sphere of influence. And you know what? They’re right too. Left-wing activists have basically taken control of the educational system and have for years been brazenly transforming it into a training ground for young radicals.
But what you won’t find is anyone willing to say that BOTH sides are unacceptable. (Until now, that is. I’m saying it.) Either you’re on the left and you bash the Texas standards, or you’re on the right and you bemoan the progressive curriculum. Each published criticism only tells half the story, so the argument never goes anywhere, since each side refuses to even acknowledge the points made by the opposition.

The worst part is the way the two sides help each other win, by freezing out everyone else. So they end up engaged in a ridiculous tug of war, and the result is mutual enablement — in this case a hodgepodge of Foucault multiculturalist drivel and Falwell anti-intellectual idiotarianism. Hey, but if those are the only “choices” because no one can stand being in the same room with shrill advocates, then the result is a triumph of the combined forces of authoritarian idiocy.
Another example of the way the shrillest of culture war nuts drown out common sense is over the gay issue. And I do not mean the debate over gay marriage.
For many years, I have tried to point out here that here is something that the gay left and the anti-gay right very much want in common:
anti-gay bigotry in the Republican Party.
Yet the majority of Republicans (and the majority I have seen in the Tea Party movement) are by no means anti-gay. Sure, they don’t support the gay left and its ridiculous demands, and many disapprove of gay marriage, but where it comes to basic lifestyle tolerance — simple acknowledgment of gays as citizens with a right to be left alone in their bedrooms, the overwhelming majority of conservatives have no argument with that. However, an increasingly noisy group of anti-gay conservative activists does have a major argument with that. They do not believe in tolerance for gays on any level, and they think gay conservatives are a “fifth column.” They shrilly attack conservatives who disagree with them and call them “RINOS” not for being RINOS — but simply for being insufficiently anti-gay, and for not toeing the line of the anti-gay right. Even Ann Coulter — who is about as conservative as it is possible to be — has now incurred their wrath. Why? Simply because she agreed to speak to a group of gay conservatives. Anti-gay leader Brian Camenker was apoplectic, and WorldNetDaily retaliated by canceling her appearance at their “Taking America Back” conference — but Coulter didn’t exactly take that lying down.
The mechanics operate in the same manner that Zombie describes in his post about education. Just as you’re given the choice of being an anti-gay bigot or a homo-loving RINO, you also have to be either a Darwin hater or a Marxist multiculturalist!
Ditto abortion. The more extreme the activists get in their demands, the less likely reasonable people are to be heard. But I am repeating myself. Again.

I am hardly alone in noticing that like-minded, single-issue activists often associate with — and tend to exclusively surround themselves with — other like-minded, single-issue activists. The result is what many call an echo chamber — or “the choir.” But I think “echo chamber” and “choir” are less than accurate terms, because the implication is that people are simply getting together and agreeing with each other in groups. When group dynamics are factored into single issue fanaticism, a lot more happens than mere group agreement. Because people are naturally competitive, many activists want to prove to the group that they are not only devoted to the cause, but more devoted than the others. This leads to extreme hyperbole, and the taking of positions which normal people would consider laughable.

So the normal people tend to leave these people to have the playing field to themselves.
This is a big mistake. Normal people possessed of common sense need to be speaking up. But few will dare cross an ideologically extreme activist.
Which is why my hat’s off to Zombie.
UPDATE (9/02/10): Wow, thanks everyone for all the great comments! And thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post!
(I’ve been outa comish the past couple of days, and I guess the title of this post reflects it….)