Friday, April 12, 2024

EDITORIAL: Plague isn't banished after all

| March 27, 2024 1:00 AM

The revved engines of thugs’ vehicles and their venomous shouts of racist hatred are mere mouse mutterings compared to the sound-barrier breaking fury drowning them out from sea to shining sea.

Once again, sadly and oh-so-sickeningly, Coeur d’Alene has grabbed the nation’s attention — and not from any of the tremendous number of good things coming from this community.

The horrific racist incident last Thursday night perpetrated against University of Utah women’s basketball players and cheerleaders in downtown Coeur d’Alene made it seem like the Aryan Nations plague has only been in remission for the past quarter century, not cured. 

The illness — white nationalism — survived. And now we have proof that it’s spreading.

What happened last week might be an isolated incident, but the shifting nature of our community probably made it inevitable. As our county’s population has boomed from about 110,000 in 2000, the year a legal judgment of $6.3 million bankrupted the Aryan Nations, to an estimated 190,000 today, the vast majority of newcomers have been healthy, hearty, happy community contributors.

But our region has also become a base for white nationalists and white Christian nationalists, some of them recruited by residents who would have fit seamlessly inside Richard Butler’s tent. 

Even though their numbers are still relatively few, they have an outsized impact because of the large social media megaphones through which they spread their sick and hateful messages. The racists who assailed our visitors are reprehensible and should be held fully accountable, but they’re not alone. Their accomplices, the malignant voices in local right-wing podcasts and alternative media, also bear the blame.

The question now is, what do we do? What can conscientious, peace-loving, pro-active citizens of all faiths and political positions possibly do to purge this disease before it spreads further?

For one, the next thing out of the mouths of every single local political and religious leader should be righteous condemnation of this kind of behavior. If it takes pressure from their parishioners and supporters, so be it. And that would be just the start.

That should be followed by direct conversations with the culprits — because some political and religious leaders know exactly who these people are — and let them know clearly that they are not welcome here.

While that would be passing the plague along to some other body rather than curing it, any resident who lived through the Aryan Nations nightmare will readily attest to this truth:

You need to get rid of hatred before it kills you. 

And you pray to God you’re not too late.