14 August 2017     home | more politics

Pathos in Charlottesville

In the early 1960s in Los Angeles in a largely Jewish neighborhood a handful of young men in tan Nazi uniforms were demonstrating their favor for white supremacy. A loud and angry crowd was around them, and an enraged woman spit on one of the pathetic-looking Nazis. I didn't fault her. She was rocking with rage, and how damaging is a little spittle.

The Nazis held their ground, benefitting from the police presence, looking less than triumphant. The Nazi movement in Los Angeles wasn't going anywhere. This was when Norman Rockwell was head of the American Nazi Party. Rockwell had been generating media attention. He had been talking up the anti-communism of the Cold War era, but Marxism-Leninism would not be diminishing to any degree because of his added hostility.

In 1967, when Rockwell was assassinated by a disgruntled fellow Nazi named John Patler, a boy named David Duke, age 17, called Rockwell (according to Wikipedia) "the greatest American who ever lived." Duke has learned a few things since then, but the media today has the "former KKK leader" tweeting twice to President Trump:

So, after decades of White Americans being targeted for discriminated & anti-White hatred, we come together as a people, and you attack us?
I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.

I'm white and as German in heritage as the president, but I haven't felt any of the anti-white hatred of which Duke speaks — except a couple of times in the early sixties when some blacks were feeling free to express their rage against whites in general. Race relations have improved since then, and Rockwell's Nazi movement went nowhere.

David Duke is not about to take off politically. The Ku Klux Klan has between 3,000 and 6,000 members, we are told, down from 1925 when my father at age eighteen in Los Angeles was a follower. The white nationalists at yesterday's rally in Charlottesville looked to me like people searching for a respect they never experienced when students. They didn't like the smarter members of their class in grammar or high school. They were not admired as students. They haven't made it in professional athletics, nor are they successful at business — while being told that worthy people succeed. They may find some pleasure in rooting for a team that they hope will win, but even if their team wins its fleeting comfort. What they were looking for yesterday was a little status because they are white. straight and Christian — socially correct among that group of people they were hoping would agree with them and that they were calling to unite.

Their demonstration in Charlottesville was a response to a statue of Robert E. Lee about to be torn down. They see this as another attack against their white heritage. The divide among United States citizens that existed during the Civil War is still with us, but it has been fading and it will continue to fade.

Yesterday a Nazi at the Charlottesville rally murdered a good person and injured many others. Aside from this tragedy they made a lot of noise. We know they exist. Racial biases, anti-Semitism and political naivete are still with us. What's new for me is the word tyrannophobia. It's my view that we should not panic and that we should view with patience and give quiet explanation to these injured strutters who feel that their status and culture is under attack. Change can be hard for some, and they have enemy enough in themselves. Nothing productive comes from our going to their rallies, shouting insults, getting into fist fights and getting them more riled. Instead, let them and their noise fade away.

President Trump did well by calling "the KKK, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups repugnant to what we hold dear as Americans." Their attempt to gain from any association with Trump is diminished.

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Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.