My poker face -- honed over almost 30 years of interviewing twerps, crooks (corporate and otherwise), political midgets, charlatans (religious and otherwise) and just plain old dumb fucking morons -- almost failed me.
This guy who styles himself "Pastor" Jonathan Williams, the Supreme White Guy of Aryan Nations, was explaining how Jews are the children of Satan. He was deadly serious (and by "deadly" I mean "murderously").
I'd dropped in to hear what the Aryans had to say at their "world congress," held last month in Laurens, S.C. It was a battle to restrain, alternatively, guffaws and tears at what I witnessed from the we-love-to-hate folks.
My internal voice No. 1 told me: "Maybe this First Amendment thing has gone a little too far."
No. 2 responded: "Nah, either defend the most loathsome speech, or give George Bush and Faux News an opening to declare dissent as tantamount to treason. Actually, they've already done that, so First Amendment-wise, we're on the defensive. You gotta tell this jerk he has a right to say what he wants."
So, in my conversation with Williams, I gagged out: "I disagree with you, but I sure as hell defend your right to say it."
Then, while Williams cheerfully explained that blacks, Asians and Hispanics were subhuman, and that a race war was his most cherished goal, one of my voices piped up again.
"Yo, John," the voice intoned, "you realize these guys aren't too far outside the mainstream. After all, fringe extremists, our own versions of Iranian Maximum Loon Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have seized the control levers of this country."
I always listen to my voices since, like George Bush, I'm sure it's the Lord speaking directly to me. And that last epiphany made sense.
Racism doesn't exist in a vacuum, whether ranted Hitleresque from a podium or conveyed with a Dick Cheney wink. We hate others of our species because we're in competition with them for land or oil; or we need a scapegoat to blame for our own miserable existence. Often we claim the Celestial Mystery Being has commanded us to commit atrocities in his name.
We come up with fantasies of superiority, myths about the nobility of my ancestors and the degeneracy of yours. In order for me to smite you, I must believe with God-almighty fervor that you're inferior. You're a raghead, a slant, a kike, a nigger, a spic, a white devil, a fag or a bitch -- and if I torture and slaughter you, it ain't really murder. No, sir.
If a whole segment of society agrees with those racial assessments, they become part of the cultural conversation. That's why recently defeated U.S. Sen. George Allen (R-Uptown Klan) is a veteran at employing the "n" word, although still rather a novice at denigrating folks of South Asian ancestry.
Those sentiments ooze like fetid sewage into what should be the crystal-clean water of public policy. In America, we lived through generations of statutory enforcement of the belief that one race has the right to dominate the other. And, if you conclude such thinking is "history," you're a fool.
It's not just that a few ignorant rednecks believe, in their illiterate confusion, that they're somehow "superior." Rather, it's that we still make laws based on such assumptions. The Republican Party since 1964 has consciously made a "racism is OK" pitch to unreconstructed Southerners.
Even scarier, millions of Americans go to churches where racism is part of the catechism, whether blatantly stated or masked by theological mumbo-jumbo.
Pastor Williams' creed is called Christian Identity. It's only a short step from Christian Identity to that ol' time religion in America. One of the groups that manipulates the religious right is called Christian Reconstruction. It's often confused with Christian Identity -- so much so that the main Reconstruction think tank, the Chalcedon Foundation, posts an article titled "Christian Identity: Its Beliefs Are Bizarre But Its People are Normal."
Normal? Aryan Nations?
Both groups, by the way, have factions that target South Carolina for the creation of a "Christian state." Maybe that's not such a bad idea. They move there, we build a wall around the state and keep out the illegal aliens attempting to get back in to America.
Identity and Reconstruction are both anti-Semitic. One prominent Reconstruction theologian, David Chilton, parroting Identity dogma, has written: "The god of Judaism is the devil." Of course, the "mainstream" religious right can be equally anti-Semitic -- Jerry Falwell has said the Antichrist will be a Jew.
Reconstruction dominates many ultra-right Presbyterian congregations and has incredible sway over Southern Baptists and other conservative denominations. It's behind Sadie Fields and the Georgia Christian Coalition, Roy "The Ten Commandments Judge" Moore, and Tom DeLay.
Both Identity and Reconstruction revere the antebellum South as "God-directed." Slavery was sanctioned by the Bible and, therefore, should be reinstituted. "The last vestiges of Christian society were lost in the Civil War," Chalcedon spokesman Chris Ortiz wrote me last month.
That is the theology of many Republicans -- those who believe, for example, that blacks can be excluded from the voting booth via laws such as Georgia's unconstitutional voter ID legislation.
Bushite bomb-thrower Ann Coulter arrogantly conceded the point, recently writing: "Way too many people vote. There ought to be a poll tax to take the literacy test before voting."
Coulter is saying ballots should be reserved for right-wing white folks. And that's almost exactly what Pastor Williams believes.