Little Known Fact: Out of all the things in the wide green world to study, out of all the phenomenon worthy of expending words, I studied the rhetoric of extremist organizations, namely, the Ku Klux Klan. There have been several waves of Klan activity, but I was mostly interested in the Klan from 1915-1927, or, the 2nd wave.
Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I wanted to understand how a movement based on hate could take such hold in a country that claimed to be a Christian nation. The Klan at this time was mostly Baptist and Methodist churchgoers, aligning against hyphenated Americans, blacks, Jews, Catholics and even Episcopalians (because bigots can’t be bothered to tell the difference).
I have written no fewer than three academic papers on the 2nd wave Klan and I keep studying, because I still don’t get it and because I see how it could happen again.
Anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism — all on the rise since 2008- has led to an increase in hate groups and hate group membership of 54% over 2000. Recently, Kansas State Rep Virgil Peck went so far as to suggest that we shoot illegal immigrants, likening them to feral hogs.
In the 1920s, there were auxiliary Klan organizations for women and children. They literally baptized new converts and babies into a family of hate.
And, you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
Where do children learn to hate? I’m afraid my children learn wrath from me. I have taught them by example how to react to those who persecute me – regrettably. I have shown them anger up close and personally. I have hated those who hate, and expressed aloud my discontent – illustrating that it is okay, even acceptable, to rail against those who despise us.
They imbibed abhorrence through the umbilical cord. Once born, they drank the milk of enmity through me. I have been too often quick to take umbrage, thought and spoken violence.
It’s still the sin I encounter most in the darkest places of my heart. I might as well dress them as klanswomen and recite accursed orthodoxy for all the good my pique has produced.
Maybe I’m so interested in the Klan, not because I fear it could happen again, but because I fear I could be capable of just that much hate myself.
What historical phenomenon do you have trouble understanding? Why does it bother you?