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65 MIN READ TIME

Once Upon a Time

BY TINA DUPUY

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE RADICALIZED? IN A RARE Oval Office address in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, President Barack Obama described the killers as having “gone down the dark path of radicalization.” It used to be extremists. We were fighting extremists in the equally nebulous War on Terror. Then someone found a thesaurus and now we’re battling radicalization. “[It] is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization,” urged Obama. What are these ideas exactly?

Every group of radicals nee extremists—from ISIS to the Klan to the House GOP’s Freedom Caucus—all have the same lure: Today is chaotic, unpredictable and worse than it was, so we must return to a time when things were better. A wellproven formula for radicalization is to take the disoriented, disenfranchised and disappointed; add a universal yarn about the Good Ol’ Days and stir.

Let’s examine some backward reasoning about the past: “Back to basics,” you’ll hear. Back to the values of the Founders! Original intent! Back to the peacefulness of ancient times. Back to the core of the Koran. Back to the tranquility of our ancestors! Paleo diet, anyone? Fundamentalists use this concept in their own moniker; they’re going back to fundamentals. Even New Agers peddle this idea. The site SacredEarth.com says, “Once upon a time—not too long ago—the ancient craft of midwifery and the art of herbal healing were intimately linked.” Yeah sure, back in the good old days when women had a 50/50 chance of dying during childbirth. Just a quick Google search of “alternative medicine” will land you in a sea of alternate history. As one site touting amber as a pain reliever puts it, “For many centuries since time began, people have used nature’s bounty for traditional medicine.”

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