My friend John Miller recommended an excellent book: Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson. Tyson, a historian and professor at University of Wisconsin in Madison, was the ten-year-old son of a white Methodist minister in Oxford, North Carolina in 1970 when an African-American young man was murdered. Tyson spent years seeking reasons and looking at the effects of the crime. His true story captures very well the times, and probably speaks again to us as we look at the emotions surrounding the Trayvon Martin death last month. Tyson's comments about moderation are a warning. "We cannot address the place we find ourselves because we cannot acknowledge the road that brought us here."
We congratulate ourselves that own views are moderate, but maybe we need to be more willing to understand the views of "The Other." They think they are moderate, too.
"In politics, eveyone regards themselves as a moderate, because they know some other sumbitch who's twice as crazy as they are. The man who blockades abortion clinics considers himself a model of restraint because he does not bomb them; the fellow who bombs them after hours thinks he's a moderate because he didn't bomb them at rush hour like his cousin Elmer wanted to do; the White Citizens Council member who assassinated Medgar Evers in Mississippi undoubtedly regarded himself as a moderate, since he didn't kill the whole family. Nixon felt that a lesser man might have used atomic weapons on North Vietnam, but he displayed the statesmanlike restraint to use only conventional ordnance--albiet by the time Nixon signed a ceasefire agreement in 1973, America had dropped three time the tonnage unleashed on Europe, Africa, and Asia during World Warr II--all of it on a country the size of Texas. And in the fire of the black freedom struggle, there were always people on both sides who were willing to crank it up another notch, claiming moral authority over the cowards who wouldn't go that far, and thinking of themselves as "moderate" for not taking it still further." p. 205-206
--Timothy B. Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name, NY, Three Rivers Press,2004.