Our reach should exceed our grasp

Extreme ways are back again,

Extreme places I didn’t know,

I broke everything new again, Everything I had owned,

I threw it out the window, came long,

Extreme ways I know move apart the colors of my sea …

- Moby


Extreme ways are indeed back again and, as awful as it has been in some respects, it is necessary if we are going to see change for the better. Revolution is upon us and the U.S. of A, the “greatest country in the world,” is the appropriate epicentre.

I’m not just talking about the huge protests that have taken a confrontational, chaotic turn in Portland (and coming soon to other cities that President Trump has deemed in need of federal soldiers’ intervention). That storm, arising from systemic racism and violence, is just one face of a two-headed monster.

The other extreme ways that are back again also deals with racism, at least partly, in that it speaks to systemic inequality. But it also speaks to the larger issues of global warming and the environment. That’s right, I’m talking about (cue the cool 70s TV cop show music) … The Squad!

The Squad is the nickname for a group of four Democrat U.S. congress representatives, all women, who have simultaneously excited and pissed off a lot of people. You may have heard about a recent incident where one of them, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka, AOC) was accosted in the halls of congress by Republican congressman, Ted Yoho, and called disgusting and a “f-king bitch” because of her opinion on crime and policing.

AOC is noted for her eloquence and she was in top form in reviewing the disrespect that women regularly endure from men and responding to Yoho’s non-apology, in which he didn’t even admit to what he said. He didn’t even mention her by name, and then added that he wouldn’t apologize for his love of “my God, my family, and my country.”

I know. Don’t bother trying to make sense of it that last part, a limp-wristed red herring. Yoho also offered the fact that he had a wife and daughter as proof that he respects women. For good measure, he might as well have added that he has dark-skinned friends.

I’m sure that there were male Democrats who have said much worse things than AOC said, that pissed Yoho off, but he didn’t feel compelled to accost them in the hallway and call them assholes. It was sexist at the least. I suspect racism factored in as well. After all, his boss, Trump, previously said that AOC and her fellow Squad members should “go back to where they came from,” even though all but one was born in the U.S. And it’s not just vitriol they face but death threats as well.

The other Squad members are Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. And they don’t just stand for women. They stand for social justice and equality. They call for changes to a capitalist system that has created a massive wealth gap, where you have a few super wealthy vs widespread poverty in the richest nation in the world.

The Squad has made a bold proposal, a “Green New Deal” that calls for big changes that spook even members of their own party because it has tenets of (quickly glancing both ways, and in a hushed voice) socialism. I’ll let you Google it for more info, but the basics of the Green New Deal are: renewable energy, believing in and reacting to climate change, making buildings, infrastructure, and transportation systems more energy efficient, guaranteed work, some public ownership, free higher education for all, honoring treaties and requiring consent from indigenous people, and Medicare for all.

Absolutely bonkers, right?

The Green New Deal is radical. A friend of mine on Facebook called it “stupid” and “out to lunch.” Well … for the U.S., yes, it is extreme, but some of the Deal’s proposals are being suggested or have already taken hold in many developed countries.

Virtually all Scandinavian countries, led by Social Democratic governments, have strong economies while consistently placing at the top of Standard of Living/Best Countries to Live In lists. But not business-friendly, right? Guess again. Forbes Magazine ranked Denmark as the top country for business in the world for the second straight year.

Canada’s system falls somewhere between Denmark and the U.S. It has many social programs and our most famous socialist, Tommy Douglas (voted top Canadian of all time in a CBC poll), is responsible for us having national Medicare and the charter of rights. You can still get rich in these places. They just take better care of those who aren’t – and they care more about the environment.

Many are portraying the Green New Deal as a bogeyman agenda that will bring ruin and communism to America. Let’s be serious. This is the U.S. we’re talking about, the world flag-bearer of capitalism. It fought a cold war against communists and demonized socialism to the point where there is no way all of the Green New Deal gets accepted. Anyone who thinks that is the true goal of the Deal’s advocates, haven’t written a proposal or negotiated before. I have written proposals, and I always added some goodies that the funder I was applying to could reject.

And the Democrats are capitalists too. For the same reason that there was no need to fear a Bernie Sanders presidency because his plans would all be watered down, Americans shouldn’t lose sleep thinking that a Biden win will mean the Squad and their followers will get carte blanche.

People should be thankful for the Squad, and groups like them. Without them and those that came before them, our world would be an even bigger shit show. Extreme ways have always been needed to stop us from destroying ourselves. Unions. Human rights activists. Greenpeace. PETA. They have all done some “crazy” things and, as a result, they got our attention and at least some good things got done.

If the Squad just asked for universal health care and free post-secondary education, it probably wouldn’t happen. But, by swinging for the fences, they can settle for a double and still improve life for a lot of people and make the U.S. a more responsible world citizen. That would be quite an achievement.

And the fact that it is a group of women leading the cause makes it that much better. The time is long overdue for men to move over, to share the reins, and stop reacting angrily to strong women who assert themselves. I mean, really, it’s hard to imagine women screwing things up more.

When asked about the "team," member Ayanna Presley said that “anyone who is dedicated to building a more equitable and just world is a member of The Squad.” Sounds like a pretty cool club to me.

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