A demonstration of Free Speech in the USA
Nations, a white separatist religious group that is headquartered
Hayden Lake, Idaho, held a parade through the center of Coeur d'Alene Idaho this
morning to champion their cause for the formation of a white separatist homeland in the Inland Pacific Northwest. I attended this parade with Alex Moskalyuk, our guest student for the summer who is visiting us from Ukraine, to show Alex an example of free speech in practice in the United States.
The parade took place on schedule at 10:00 am with ninety-two marchers for the Aryan Nations. Most of them were carrying flags and following behind their leader, the Rev. Richard Butler, who was leading the parade in his jeep. The marchers' stated intention was to simply march without reacting to the crowd, and they appeared to be fairly successful in this. The vicious verbal attacks were coming from the spectators. Clearly, the locals were feeling threatened by this motley group as they cleared the streets of all vehicles, closed most of the businesses, lined the entire parade route with crime scene tape, and brought in 125 policemen to defend 92 marchers. The combination of police in riot gear everywhere, the news crews from all over the globe, and the roar of the helicopter in the air overhead produced an atmosphere resembling a movie version of a police state.
Before the parade started I found myself standing next to two young men who said that they had driven over from Seattle to march in the parade, but were denied the opportunity to do so without abandoning their backpacks. Thus, they were standing on the sidelines. I could not avoid hearing the interview of one of these men by a newsperson from a Moscow Idaho radio station. It was clear to me that they were taking a separatist, not supremacist position on the racial issue. When the marchers came past, the two were standing in silence with the Nazi raised arm salute.
I also had the opportunity to listen to a television reporter that was live on camera describing the activities. It seemed to me unfortunate that the reporter did not just report the facts of what was happening, but felt compelled to put a subjective spin on it by adding phrases such as "this madness."
The Nazi supremacist ideas combined with religious zealotry become pretty scary to most folks. The "Silent Brotherhood," which the news media called "The Order," was a spin-off from the Aryan Nations into crime and assassination plots in the past, so these folks must be taken seriously. Please note that Butler and his church did not approve of the crime spree and assassination. Yet, based upon the behavior of the protesters and others in the crowd, I found the folks that were protesting to be even scarier than the marchers. Clearly the bulk of the protesters did not subscribe to the theory that "I disagree with everything that you have said, but I will defend your right to say it." Seems that their theory is that if you disapprove of someone, it's OK to indulge in a shouting match and prevent them from being heard. One group chanting "Butler you're a liar, we'll burn your butt." People with signs saying "Smash the Aryan Nations," even more vicious threats, and ironically, some Gay/Lesbian types chanting "White Power Sucks."
Please understand that I do not support or applaud the Aryan Nations. But, many brave Americans have sacrificed their lives in war to assure that the Aryan Nations, and any other group has the right to free speech in this country. Surely, we are clever enough to figure out that in a hate contest, matching hate with more hate results in unending evil such as that which we have seen in Northern Ireland and Palestine. Yes, I understand the sobering fear that is launched by "hate crimes." The difficulty is, where do you draw the line between "hate crime,"... "really don't like" crime, and just plain old "crime" crime? It seems to me that most of the protesters' intention was to ratchet up the level of hate, not to end it.
I was somewhat astonished when a Coeur d'Alene policeman informed a woman in front of me that if she used another swear word she would be arrested. Her offense was having called one of the Aryan Nations marchers an "asshole." Excuse me, but I thought that the asshole an essential part of the human anatomy was a fairly apt and colorful appraisal of her sentiment. I was sort of hoping that she would use the expletive again so that I could see if she really would be arrested.
I am reminded of the time during the Vietnam War when Vice President Spiro Agnew came to Spokane to speak at the Parkade Plaza. A college student in the crowd shouted out the words "war-monger" and was immediately hustled off to jail by the police for disturbing the peace. At the time I thought that war-monger was a label that was appropriate to the occasion. Later actions by Agnew led me to the conclusion he was perhaps the most corrupt Vice President the US has ever experienced.
So, the police departments spent $125,000.00, so that a rather motley religious group with Nazi ideas, could march down the street in safety. Good! I'm pleased to report that no matter how nutso or bizarre your political or religious ideas may be, you still have the right to express them in this country. If your skin is black, brown, red or white if your religion is Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or Tasmanian devil worshiper its OK. You will be safe in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and you will be free to express your views using our constitutionally protected FREEDOM OF SPEECH! --