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Covid-19 Experiencing an anti-Racism rally

June 12, 2020
My boughten tee shirt from the rally. Color me “confused.”

June 8, 2020

My teenage granddaughter gave me a hug today, so all is well.  Teenagers are difficult, but not as difficult as grandparents.  Or especially as difficult as my own grandmother was.  Whoa!  She was tough.  Do you know what I mean?  Grandma didn’t just nod her beautiful head at me.  No.  She told me I was rotten to the core!  Why? Because she gave it straight from the shoulder!

She was Norwegian, angry, depressed, a woman sparing of words.  I think she was sad because her son was killed in WW II.  She was orphaned early on, when she was still a teen.  She worked to raise her siblings, a brother and a sister.  She took over her mother’s sewing business in Valley City, North Dakota. Her toddler daughter died in her arms from scarlet fever in 1918 in Kalispell. Who wouldn’t be bitter?

Grandma’s son Carl had turned 21 in September, 1944, after he had been drafted into the army.  Then, while deployed to England, then to France, he died Christmas Eve, 1944, when Oberlutnant Gerhard Meyer of U-boat 486, fired two torpedoes at his troopship, the SS Leopoldville.  The first torpedo missed, according to a friend of his, but the second pierced the ship’s compartment where Carl was trying to get comfortable on a pile of duffle bags.  Some of his buddies, who told me they had gone topside to watch for the lights of Cherbourg, said Carl died instantly.  Several of these survivors noted that the torpedo detonation made a distinctive burnt gunpowder smell.  It stank of Nazism, I thought.  Remembering the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front,” by Erich Maria Remarque, the survivors always say the loved one died instantly without pain.  I take it all with a grain of salt.  I sure hope my uncle died quickly.

The American soldiers I interviewed who survived the torpedo jumped or climbed down to safety, or were picked out of the English Channel by rescuers.  Like that.  Books have been written.  Movies made.  

When I was a kid at my grandparents’ house in Kalispell I found the purple heart medal of my uncle Carl.  Also his flag.  I have a 48-star flag downstairs in my darkroom, but no medal.  I’ve gone to some lengths to learn Carl’s story, still incomplete.  I’m learning.

None of the adults told us about Carl when we dug out the memorabilia in Kalispell in the 1950s.  We also found a chess set and a couple of photographs of soldiers, packed into rows, they all looked alike, nearly.  We knew which of the soldiers was Carl because his face had been circled by a pencil.  You had to tilt the photo, just right to see it.  

My mother doted on Carl, her little brother, a very good soldier, she said.  Private First Class. My mother told me this when I was ready to go to sleep in my bed upstairs.

War is never over.  The Nazis have not been vanquished once and for all. I fear the current president is pro-Nazi.

Witness the recent occurrences in our own country.  Things couldn’t be weirder, could they?  We see marijuana legal in a list of states, and we have a fascist president.  Well, he claims to be a nationalist, if not a white nationalist, or racist.  We could quibble about definitions.  I was interviewed on television a few years ago when Trump visited Billings.  The interviewer, an asian man, asked me on camera why I protested his visit.  The question seemed ridiculous.  I thought it was self-evident that everyone should be against a fascist, a racist, so I said so.  I guess everyone didn’t learn history as I had. A friend of mine, Charles Lechner, phoned me to ask me about my labeling Trump as a racist. I affirmed my labeling.

Blacks are being lynched, same as they have been for many years.  George Floyd was murdered by a grinning policeman who strangled him with his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes while three other police officers watched.  Like that.  This provoked great sorrow throughout our land.

The national, even international, outrage inspired many protest rallies, including one in Billings yesterday.  Our fascist president threatened to shoot people, then tear-gassed and sent riot police to clear an area so he could pose with a Bible.

Our daughter in San Diego has been protesting and marching with other concerned Americans who value justice.  

We had a mass protest here in Billings yesterday.  However, now we have an odd wrinkle, the appearance of heavily armed people who mingle with the protesters.  Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Trump warned that “Antifa” would be designated an enemy terrorist organization.

“Antifa” is an acronym, or maybe it is a portmanteau(?), for “anti-fascist.”  Supposedly “antifa” is a militia that would oppose … well, fascists.  Sort of like, but not quite like, the people who showed up at yesterday’s Billings anti-racist rally with military assault rifles and big handguns.

Kind of murky, isn’t it?  Near as I can tell, “antifa” is a fabrication, a straw man or fake adversary that the gun-lovers among us can use as a reason to show up armed at regular people’s rallies.  To “protect.” ???

In Minneapolis, the mayor said outsiders came to protests to wreak havoc, break windows.  Same thing in Washington DC.  The AFL-CIO headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue was broken into and swasticas were spray-painted on the tile in the lobby, according to my son Bob, who is a regional representative for the AFL-CIO.  Racial equality protesters would be unlikely to leave Nazi graffiti, he said.  

Our experience in Billings was decidedly non-violent.  Because it was in Montana, where almost everyone knows everyone else.

I wish I could reassure my grandchildren. Truth will win! You will win! Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that white people are better than any other people. They are not. We are all wonderful!

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