We had a Dixie Highway farm before roads were paved. My ancestors homesteaded on the western edge of the northern everglades where Illinois becomes Indiana. An oak grove across the meadow hid Chief Yellowhead's Potawatomi village wherein his headstone resides. In the 1830s ours was reported to be the only civilized homestead between Chicago and the Kankakee River ford at Momence.
The Momence Chapter of the KKK conspired in the basement of the First Baptist Church. They considered anyone who did not belong to their secret society an "evil doer" which made him a target. One June night in 1923 Klansmen set fire to a wheat field. When Dad ran out to extinguish that fire they set fire to the barn. Dad was able to save the house. When I asked for details Dad said
"Nothing good ever came out of the basement of the Momence First Baptist Church. Its best to let it lie". He knew the incendiaries and some still lived in Momence. In his words "There's nothing to be gained by embarrassing them now".
Dad was right. Holding onto a grudge in one's head harms the person trespassed upon as much or more than it hurts the trespasser. But why are people so cruel?
Everyone wants a slightly better life for their children than what they had. Humiliated by having lost the Civil War Defeated Confederate soldiers sought solace and safety amongst their tribe.
They launched the KKK in 1866 to control freed slaves. Most were farmers so their immediate goal was to keep former slaves laboring on their farms so they could restore their previous country-gentleman life style. Their grand strategy was to have sycophants elected to political office as a way to gain back the power and position they had lost, to institutionalize their world view, and to gain access to the public treasury.
Being dark skinned made most former slaves easy to identify. The KKK spread stories about them being dumb, subhuman and dangerous. KKK terrorists hid in white hoods and sheets as they terrorized freedmen by burning their homes and farms and lynching anyone who opposed them. To keep them, and their offspring subservient they made it impossible for former slaves to exercise their basic rights to read and write, own property and live with equal protection under the law.
They succeeded. According to Timothy Egan "In 1880, 50% of Black men in the former Confederacy voted. By 1920 less than 1% exercised this fundamental right".
Once reconstruction ended former slaves were locked into subservient status by passage and ruthless enforcement of Jim Crow laws. The unintended outcome of keeping a significant percentage of the population subservient was that doing so not only stifled realization of personal human potential it also stifled economic development within all former slave states for more than one-hundred years.
Humiliated losers promoted the "Lost Cause" myth. The myth that before the Civil War everyone living in slave states prospered under the benevolent leadership of cultured gentlemen and ladies, and that life for everyone was better for everyone before the Civil War. The Lost Cause myth became ingrained across much of America.
The Lost Cause myth was believed even though it was obvious to anyone who paid attention that most people living in former slave states, and the entire region, was much poorer in almost every way than were people living in states wherein it was possible for everyone to develop their full human potential.
During the late 1890s to the 1920s an influx of darker skinned immigrants, who spoke languages other than English and worshipped slightly differently, immigrated to America. Most newcomers settled in heartland states where there were jobs to be had. D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" motion picture triggered revival of the KKK at Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1915 but most growth occurred in heartland states instead of in former slave states where enforcement of Jim Crow laws stifled economic and cultural development.
Societal change always creates winners and losers. Heartland state losers reinvigorated the KKK by expanding the list of people to blame for their being less successful than they hoped to be. The list of scapegoats was expanded to include Jews, Catholics and immigrants in addition to African Americans.
Heartland KKK believers promoted their paranoia in white protestant Christian churches, and staged political rallies, to promote purification of white protestant nationalism. By 1923 the KKK controlled the Governor's Offices of Indiana, Colorado and Oregon. Many local elected officials, ordinary citizens and civil servants and police were "card-carrying" members of the KKK resulting in it having complete control in many local communities as well.
KKK ideology leaked across borders into nearby states. It was members of the Momence, Illinois chapter of the KKK that incinerated our Dixie Highway farm.
It was the KKK's Grand Dragon's brutal rape of a young woman; her carefully validated "dying declaration" about her own gruesome rape caused her death, and relentless pursuit of that truth by KKK threatened lawyers, newspaper reporters and publishers that finally led to his arrest. A jury of Indiana farmers found him guilty and a judge sentenced him to prison.
Eventually enough Americans became so disillusioned with KKK extremism that, that banner became discredited by all but the most radical extremists. However millions of Americans, many who have not prospered in today's world of rapid economic change, are attracted to a very similar paranoid nationalism ideology. MAGA (Make America Great Again) is their new banner.
Fear of losing one's place in society is coin of the MAGA movement. Messages always include some version of "Evil Doers are out to replace you, perverts to groom your children, socialists to bankrupt the economy, slackers to steal your jobs and employers and families by giving taxpayer collected funds to persons less worthy than yourself". The implied closing is always some version of total loyalty to dear leader is the only way to save you and your family from a fate worse than death.
MAGA's "evil doers" list has been expanded to include anyone not a member of the extreme far-right Republican party, Democrats, college teachers and graduates, anyone who promotes government funded health insurance or public health mandates and traditional public educators that teach a "common core" of academic knowledge and skills.
MAGA personifies anyone slightly different from themselves as dangerous. Message accelerants include social media, for profit cable news networks and nation-wide broadcast of Inflammatory televised and radio propaganda designed to stoke fear and hatred of "evil doers". Entire television networks devote most programming to promotion of MAGA slanted news. Nation-wide most rural radio stations belong to one network that does the same.
Constant fear-mongering works. Almost half of all voting Americans have adopted MAGA's paranoid nationalist ideology.
MAGA's lead continues to swell in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, even as the four-time indicted, twice-impeached, ex-president faces 91 felony charges. It was rape of a young woman who brought down the Grand Dragon of the 1920s KKK. While more than twenty-five women have filed credible sexual abuse claims against the leader of MAGA he has so far avoided serious consequences for all but one rape.
The original KKK stifled development of everyone living in former slave states for more than one-hundred years. A second MAGA presidency might damage the entire United States of America.
From 2016 to 2020 MAGA controlled the Presidency. Almost all Congressional Republicans were more loyal to the MAGA Leader than to The Constitution of The United States of America. Federalist Society vetted Catholic Judges, some of whom are MAGA sycophants; control The Supreme Court of the United States.
A very slight majority of Americans voted the MAGA leader, and almost all MAGA followers, out of office in 2020. That should have ended MAGA's influence but for the first time in this nation's history MAGA refused to peacefully transfer power, as prescribed in The Constitution of the United States of America, to the legally elected new President. Instead he fomented and led an attack on the Capital of the Congress of the United States of America in an attempt to remain in office. He did this while Congress was in session certifying election of incoming President Biden.
MAGA's attempted coup failed because Department of Justice Officials stated their intent to resign rather than support his coup, because secret service drivers refused to drive him to the Capital so he could lead True-Believers into the Capital. The coup failed because United States Military leaders made it clear they would not enforce the Insurrection Act which would have allowed him to declare martial Law and order the Army to use force to keep him in power and quash the rebellion that would certainly have followed.
Most successful coups occur after the mistakes made during a failed first attempt are corrected. Castro, Hitler, Pinochet, Stalin and many other dictators failed at first, perfected their strategy and then led a successful second coup. Having failed in his first attempt Hitler wrote the Nazi Party manifesto while in Prison.
MAGA has made it clear that if he becomes President in 2024 he intends to remove all appointed government officials who constrained his wildest impulses from 2016 to 2020. He is planning an all-powerful presidency that would trample over the guardrails of the law and the Constitution, and to use any means at his disposal to remain President for life, because that is what he must do to stay out of prison.
What MAGA is fomenting is very much like what this nation faced in 1860. In March 4, 1861 Abraham Lincoln said
"I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
We all know what the United States of America endured from 1961 to 1965. Three quarters of a million Americans dead, immediate destruction of critical infrastructure that it took decades to replace, destruction of homes, farms, businesses and industrial assets. Aftermath of the Civil War stifled human and economic development for more than one-hundred years.
People can change and unconditional forgiveness is a Christian virtue. I have one remaining cousin living along the Dixie Highway. Her Father shared with her what happened in the basement of the Baptist Church. She shared a story of one of the miscreants' redemption. According to her it was one of the still living KKK incendiaries who provided comfort care to her Father as he died of old age.
Dad was right that nothing would be gained by embarrassing the men who incinerated The Dixie Highway Farm in 1923. Personally forgiving the men who incinerated our farm helps us reunite.
Separation of church and state
Separation of church and state was included in the Bill of Rights for a reason. There is nothing racist or socialist about wanting a slightly better life. But there is nothing virtuous about fomenting and leading an organized insurrection in an attempt to overthrow the constitutionally defined democratic republic government of the United States of America.
An old-fashioned traditional conservative I am very aware of how well our protestant work ethic based democratic republic has served us. We live in the most free and wealthiest country in the world. A nation immigrants risk everything to reach. In the words of a traditional friend "While we are not perfect we have it pretty darned good,"
Our borders must be protected but in humane ways that admit the immigrants needed to keep this nation strong. Native born Americans do not birth enough children to maintain population. Paranoid nationalism inflicts a self-caused limitation on our ability to thrive.
We need skilled craftsmen to build homes and infrastructure, field workers to pick our produce and we need scientists. Between 1901 and 2021, immigrants have been awarded 35%, of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in chemistry, medicine and physics. It was Hungarian immigrants that invented the MRNA Vaccine that stalled the Covid-19 Pandemic saving millions of lives.
Currently it is immigrants attempting to escape terrorism and oppression, by crossing the southern border into America that are most viciously targeted. Children have been taken from their parents, immigrants have been beaten, robbed, jailed and even drowned. Thousands have died trying to walk across the desert.
Like the KKK terrorists who destroyed The Dixie Highway Farm in 1923 MAGA followers incinerated two churches in Douglas, Arizona in May 2023.
I also know this democratic republic form of governance exists hardly anywhere else across earth, that we came within a few minutes of losing it during a coup and that a second better executed coup is a definite possibility. September 18, 1787 a lady asked Ben Franklin "Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy" "A republic" replied the Doctor, "if you can keep it."
Failure to hold MAGA accountable for trying to destroy our way of life, that has benefitted us so well, and is the envy of people around the world, is societal suicide.
May better angels prevail.