Monday, November 21, 2016

From my corner of the world...

A post from still small voice, from up in North Idaho

Here, in North Idaho, an active, progressive faction of our community worked hard for many years to rid this corner of the world from white supremacists like the Aryan Nations, Ku Klux Klan, and Christian Identity adherents as well as the Militia of Montana, the Posse Comitatus and Holocaust deniers. Members of these various groups used to gather every April at the Aryan Nations compound to celebrate Hitler’s birthday, and to talk about their shared dream of an Aryan homeland.

North Idaho, eastern Washington and Western Montana were seen to be a perfect place to break ground for this movement, due to the lack of diversity. The Aryan Nations compound was razed to the ground and turned into a “Peace Park” in 2000-- after they lost a lawsuit filed against them by the local human rights organization with the help of Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty law Center.

I thought the concept of a white homeland was bulldozed over as well. Tonight however, I was driving home listening to NPR and heard an interview with Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who coined the term “Alt-Right.” Trump’s newly appointed chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, used to run the website Breitbart, which he called “the platform for the Alt-Right.”

Spencer exulted that with the election of Donald Trump the Alt-Right had entered the mainstream, where it will continue to grow. The end goal of this movement, Spencer stated, would be the formation of a “white ethno state” described as a safe place for Europeans. When Kelly McEvers of NPR asked him if he thought only white people should be citizens of the US he said that wouldn’t be something that could be changed right away but that …”European people were the indispensable central people that defined this nation socially and politically and culturally and demographically obviously. I care about us more. That's all I'm saying. But I respect identitarians of other races.” He went on to suggest that immigration be limited mostly to Europeans--“who are going to fit in-- who are more like us.”

Chilling. But I’m wondering if this time around there will be a broader section of the community who will find this idea not only ludicrous but repulsive.

The day after the election our local human rights group received 4 calls from people wanting to become members. That’s never happened before-- not even in a week, not even in most months. They want to be able to help protect those among us who might feel the most fearful and threatened at this time.

On Tuesday I received a call from a friend I had worked with closely on the human rights task force who since has devoted himself to environmental activism. He attended the Paris summit and started a 350 Sandpoint group inspired by the work of Bill McKibben. On Monday he’d been on a conference call with Bill, as well as other social justice activists in the fields of immigration, racial and ethnic as well as LGBTQ issues. They concluded that the best thing to do at this time was to begin to work together and support each other--So he called a meeting that night of people he knew were active in our community.

There were about 20 of us-- several people had just returned from Standing Rock, helping to support the protest there-- and others represented other organizations in the community. I don’t know what will come of it, but the energy is definitely there to reach out beyond the boundaries within which we all have been working and embrace a broader mission.

One thing that was mentioned was starting a “Safety Pin Campaign.” I had to look that up-- but found that after the Brexit vote, people in the UK started wearing safety pins to show solidarity with immigrants and refugees and others likely to become victims of harassment. If a person wants to be known to others as “safe” or someone to whom they could turn if they feared for their safety, that person wears a big, visible safety pin. Sometimes we need a symbol to rally around-- and this seems to inspire those who would be allies to members of the various groups who have been marginalized by Trump during his campaign and now are fearful of their future.

I will bring it up in a meeting I’m attending tomorrow of another group that has come together to prevent teen suicide, and counter bullying and harassment in the high schools. Perhaps it might take hold in the high schools as well as in our community at large -- and increase awareness of the fact that we have the power to stand up for others.

In some ways it seems like we are moving backwards-- but perhaps we are only going back over the same ground we had only begun to plow, to break up clods, and better prepare the soil so that the seeds we sow will have a chance to grow. And it appears as though many more people are gathering to share in the work, driven by the urgency that comes from a sense of imminent disaster.

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