Martin is down with respiratory flu, so we’re re-posting one of his columns from September 2015, which sadly, was prophetic.
It was good to get out of the Central Valley. Smoke from fast-moving and destructive fires in northern California is giving the skies an orangish hue. But when I reached the closest campground, at about 1000 meters in the mountains, I found that it had been taken over by a local Klan group flying a huge Confederate flag on 25-foot black pole.
When I first circled the encampment after driving in I didn’t see the flag in the middle of the site, so I thought it was just a big gathering of good ole boys. It looked a too organized to be just a bunch of rednecks out to have a party however.
I picked a site at the other end of the campground. Wondering if it was far enough away to stay, I walked down to the encampment. That’s when I saw the Confederate flag flying over the little Klan nation, looking like the one taken down in South Carolina.
Smoke and hate blotted out the sky even in the mountains. I had intended on sleeping under the stars, but that no longer held much appeal. I walked down to the surprisingly full stream, and for a while at least, the clear waterway lined with towering pines and firs seemed a world away from the world I gone up to the mountains to get away from.
Returning to the site, I spread out a tarp, put down a sleeping pad and tried to take a nap. As much of a pall as the Klan group (confirmed after I returned to Chico, since they weren’t wearing sheets) put over the place, I looked for a reason to stay. This was a seriously deformed group of men however, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a burning cross instead of a bonfire was on the agenda that night.
How utterly stupid it all looked—the flag, the trucks, and the potbellied, shirtless white guys. They had declared a sovereign nation, and you had to wonder if they were prepared to defend it with arms, just like nearly all countries do (the only exception I know of being Costa Rica).
You couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if a black family set up a tent on the other side of the campground before they realized Klan members were holding a rally there. The Klansmen were encamped just 45 minutes from Chico, whose sister city Oroville has long been known, absurdly, as a Confederate hotbed of racists.
Klan members are of course deep haters, but what is below their hate, driving and sustaining it? Fear. What do they fear? Their own ignorance, and their own sense of inferiority. Fear drives them to project onto Blacks, Jews and Hispanics the self-image they refuse to see.
They think that banding together gives them strength, but it actually reveals their weakness. Unchecked hate in an individual is ultimately pathetic; unchecked hate in a group is ultimately prophetic.
These Confederate flag-wavers are among the hardest core of Donald Trump’s supporters, just the kind that want to deport all 11 million Hispanic ‘aliens,’ build a 100 foot wall and “make Mexico pay for it.”
The cable media has become complicit in Trump’s outrageous demagoguery. The media, and Americans in general, need to be reminded that some of the worst tyrants have been elected. Trump’s “make America great again” jingoism is very dangerous. The Donald is a clown, but his campaign is no joke.
So shame on CNN for painting Trump, spouting his vicious hate, as a normal candidate in a normal campaign. They’re milking the debate on Wednesday for entertainment, in order to get every rating point they can.
Alienated individuals and groups wreak havoc and generate immense suffering in people who are impacted by their violence. But who isn’t alienated in this culture and world today? We’re all adrift on an unidentified sea of unaddressed grievances and grudges where inferiority and superiority are roiling the waters more and more.
What can one person do? In recent years there’s been a lot of talk about tipping points, positive and negative. Clearly in America, and beyond, this is one of them.
Things are heading in the wrong direction, but they can still go either way. Look within, question with others with the intent to grow in insight and understanding, and speak up. Now, before it really is too late.