A few years ago, 2007 to be exact, a group of neo-Nazis announced plans to staged demonstration along the main street in the small Southern Oregon town where I was born and raised. The news quickly spread to communities throughout the Valley, and everyone I spoke to was up in arms about the event.
The evening before the planned demonstration, I called my then 80 year old mother who lives just a few blocks from the site. She informed me that she would be attending a counter-demonstration that would take place across the highway. We also talked about my father who had passed away just a year earlier. He was an airman in World War II and had been shot down becoming a POW. Like Mom, Dad was a life-long liberal Democrat who took civic duties seriously.
On the day of the event, Herself and I arrived to the site along the four-lane highway that runs through town.The highway serves as the main north-south corridor in the Valley and is busy at all hours of the day and night. I was surprised to find less than a dozen neo-Nazis standing with their flag on the east side of the highway They were, for the most part, clean-shaven young men in their early twenties. They looked like mildly conservative college students.
On the west side stood several hundred people, several waving large American flags. Most were town locals. There were no taunts from either side. Passing cars honked encouragement to the large group of counter-demonstrators and largely ignored the neo-Nazis. The city police, backed up by a couple of county sheriffs, had little to do but stand and look official.
Seeing that there was very little possibility of danger for my Mother, I wondered off to take a few photos of the event.
I was about 25 yards from where I had left my family when I heard someone scream my name. I turned to see Herself pointing towards the highway. As my eyes followed her gesture, I saw my mother walking across the middle of the busy highway towards the neo-Nazis. Ignoring the oncoming traffic, I sprinted towards her as she approached the men standing on the east side. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see several officers rapidly moving in her direction as well.
I reached her just as she stepped over the curb. She confronted the leader of the group and politely but firmly explained to him that his right to speak his fascist ideals openly was bought and paid for by men like her husband who suffered and in many cases died at the hands of men like him.
Having said her piece, Mom, surrounded by myself and four rather large policemen, walked to the end of the block to cross back over the highway to rejoin the family. As she reached the corner, the Chief of Police looked at her and said, “Dorothy, next time please use the cross walk when crossing the highway.”
Why do I tell you that story? Because Friday, January 20th, the nation will swear in a bigoted, misogynist, fascist, white man as President of the United State. I tell you this because the majority of the people who ten years ago stood on the west side of the highway in decrying a few sorry young neo-Nazis, the same people who cheered for my Mother, happily voted for the narcissistic fascist who will in less than 24 hours become the leader of our once free nation. A man who is unable to construct a simple cogent sentence, let alone lead the country.
They thought fascism would come dressed like an SS officer sporting a bad German accent and a monocle. It came wrapped in the stars and stripes, holding a bible and telling them everything they wanted to hear. They ignored the obvious lies, they ignored criminal sexual behavior, they ignored the fact they he has cheated thousands of hard working people just like themselves. And why? Because he is a rich, white male.
It behooves all artist to resist the incoming administration with every gift at their disposal. Will the nation survive? I do not know, and honestly, I have my doubts. What I do know is we writers and artists must take our place at the forefront of the resistance if we are to prevail.
Featured image by illustrator Matt Stefani