Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Or at least I'll try not to let it controal me.

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

From Dune by Frank Herbert.

Well, this isn’t exactly Miss Manners, but it does tie into how we treat each other.

This may end up being more than one entry. This is, in a way, a skeleton of an idea. I’ve got a frame, but the picture isn’t finished yet. And this does not address groups that are not only willing to use violence against the innocent to achieve their goals, but are willing to ask their own people to die to achieve it. That requires a different response.

Pieces of this puzzle have been kicking around the old brain box for a several years. I just haven’t been able to string the words together in a way that makes sense. Lisa’s post last week started them tumbling again. We watched Cry Freedom and Cry the Beloved Country again this weekend and things started tumbling faster.

Some puzzle pieces start looking for homes every time a group such as the American Nazi party or the Ku Klux Klan wants to hold a march. Usually in a very carefully chosen venue where they can be guaranteed the maximum amount of exposure for the minimum investment of party funds. Skokie Illinois in the late seventies is a great example  

An offshoot of the American version of the Nazi Party wanted to hold a rally/parade in Chicago in the late seventies. The city priced the liability insurance so high the nice people with the pretty banners (so not) were forced to look elsewhere and settled on the suburb of Skokie. The decision may have been influenced by an unusual demographic; a large number of Holocaust survivors had made their new homes in Skokie. A publicists’ dream come true.

The request for a permit to gather ignited a firestorm of protest. The ACLU ended up defending the National Socialists right to parade in court. And under our beloved, but largely unread, constitution groups like this do have a right to gather in public. Even if the rest of us are grinding our molars down to powder when they do it. The story spawned a fairly good TV movie, Skokie. The party finally got their gathering. In Chicago. In 1981. And Skokie? Their sister city is Porbandar, the birthplace one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. AKA the Mahatma.

News of a controversial gathering usually sets a familar pattern in motion. Crowds gather to hold counter demonstrations at the office that issues the permits, at the courthouse, or at the parade. Usually there are more counter demonstrators than there are party members or Klansmen. And they are just as loud, if not louder and just as angry.

Other puzzle pieces look for mates when I consider the level of violence we’re surrounded with in this country. Sometimes I feel like the frog that was put in a pot of cool water over a low flame. If I’m not careful, I’ll end up cooked.

 I’ll be the first to admit that trying to preach non violence to the tiger isn’t going help when his teeth are already in your throat. You can no longer speak and the tiger is past listening. Choosing a non violent response doesn’t mean there won’t be confrontations or that you won’t find the tiger at the door. It does mean that you try to choose your confrontations. When you open the door to the tiger it’s as much on your terms as his.

Whether it’s Anne Coulter, Alexander Cockburn or the Klan, their goal is to provoke a reaction. Granted, the Coulters, Krauthamer’s, and Klansmen seem to be better at it. They poke, those who don’t agree react. They poke harder, we yell louder. They haul out the heavy artillery, we jump over the moon and the whole show is played over and over on every news channel in the country. It’s a strange and twisted dance we have going on here in this battered world.

But, what would happen if we didn’t react to the provocation. If we didn’t act the way we were expected to. A different, disciplined confrontation. What happens when the Nazis hold a parade and nobody comes? How do you provoke a crowd that isn’t there? What good are parade banners and white hoods when no one is looking at them? These actions don’t ignore what these groups stand for. It’s a confrontation of what they believe and why you oppose it. It may involve small groups gathering away from the route or demonstration with information and the strong suggestion that even watching these people act like the fools they are plays into their hands. Gives them a power they don’t deserve

What if? What if the National Socialists had been allowed to march in Skokie? March down streets or gather at a park lined with people holding placards with the names of the lost and camps where they died? Or even better, placards proclaiming “I survived.” Just picture it. A silent parade route or park lined with nothing but black bordered placards. It is a picture, isn’t it?

Being absent, turning your back, or refusing to speak unless you choose to do so on your terms does not imply consent. Far from it. It puts any violence or provocation squarely on the shoulders of the person or persons who set out to use the situation for free publicity or to serve an agenda. They poke, we don’t react. We say no to their power play. They have no power over us if we don’t concede it to them.

It doesn’t matter which band of the political rainbow you live in. Our reactions grant the professional provocateurs power over us. Power that they have no right to hold and, I coming to believe, we have no right to concede.

Cross posted in Cottage by the Hedge.


mlraminiak said...

Were you, by any chance, watching Sci-Fi channel last night?  ;)  Lisa  :-]

mutualaide said...

Ah 'Dune', an all time favorite of a recently passed friend.  He did a 'Dune' word search puzzle for me just this time last year.  

I am with you.  Send me to the quiet, away from their noise, violence and intent, demonstration on the other side of town.   I do believe in free speech, but I wonder, at what cost to others.

I have the right, the obligation, to turn off that disgusting coverage when blaring from the screen.  I have the right, the obligation to turn the page of that newspaper ... but first I must read of it because I would be ignorant to their 'cause' if I did not.  Forewarned is forearmed, so I am told.

I will not concede my right to quiet protest ... whether it is quiet at home by ignoring 'them' or quiet by participation in a see of black bordered placards.  Which ... I believe ... would be a magnificent sight to see.