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October 16, 2007

KKK's Spirit Marches On

Roy Meachum

The bigotry and racial hatred oozing out of Walkersville remind me of the hate and blind stupidity prevalent when I first moved up the turnpike.

Twenty five years ago, the county's good people made every effort, including public praying, to emphasize their differences from the Ku Klux Klan.

The efforts were necessary, in community leaders' eyes, because the reborn Klan was descending on the city for annual demonstrations, attempting to whip up further conflict between races.

As much as they tried to prove otherwise, the new Kluxies were not the post-Civil War guys in the dirty bed sheets that hanged a slew of Blacks and Jews.

Surprisingly, the original Klan's other nemeses, Catholics, were prominent in the late 20th century bed sheet gang. Going to a north county rally that featured a burning cross, I was surprised to discover several leaders carried names out of Ireland. What would their 19th century predecessors think?

Frederick's improbable impasse was solved when a posse, led by African-American attorney Willie Mahone chased Kluxies out of Baker Park, forcing them to scurry to cars, soiling their precious bed sheets. But they left behind the legacy of bigotry and self-hate that prompted their appearance, in the first place.

The two current examples consist of a crusade against Latinos disguised as objections to the presence here of "illegal immigrants." The mere sight of men, women and children, dark of eyes, skin and hair is enough to provoke some residents into breaking out with irrational behavior. They justify their actions on the unproven "fact" that "they" are in Frederick chiefly to cash in on governmental largesse.

It is a demagogue's dream exploited by new Commissioner Charles Jenkins and his veteran colleague. John "Lennie" Thompson has long fished in the waters of racial hatred and fears, as far back as his successful attempt to deny the Frederick Islamic Society's proposal to build a mosque and school in the Jefferson area.

Appropriately, Mr. Thompson's home town is in the news these days because Walkersville faces the same question. The Ahmadiyya Muslim sect wants to buy what The (Baltimore) Sun describes as "242 acres of farmland."

Revealing nothing so much as their bigotry, opponents say repeatedly the proposed purchase lies "smack down in the middle of town, along a congested highway." The particular quote belongs to Walkersville Commissioner Chad Weddle. Not hardly, as the Southern expression goes.

Mr. Weddle introduced a measure that demands the town's approval of every purchase based on proposed uses. His move to make his proposal apply to past dealings could easily put citizens into a costly lawsuit. Never mind; his money would not be at stake. He's grasping for votes and not seeking reality.

The sect plans to put up four buildings, including a pair of gyms. Opponents claim they mean to build bombs and weapons; they want to bolster their mistaken belief that all the world's Muslims are fighting a holy war (jihad) against Americans. In fact, the Ahmadiyya have been outlawed by much of Islam.

In Pakistan, the sect's birthplace in 1889, Ahmadis, as they call themselves, are subject to jail for their affiliation with a group that believes Jesus is dead and the true Messiah was their founding leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He chose to remain within Islam because of his interpretation that the Prophet Muhammad's teachings had been worn down and altered.

There are, incidentally, an estimated 15,000 Ahmadis in the United States; about 10 million in the rest of the world. They are rejected by both Sunni and Shiites, which makes them free of entangling alliances with the so-called jihad. They might prove of value to the U.S. war on international terrorism. Has anybody asked?

With blood in their eyes and mush for their brains, many Americans toss all Muslims in the same pot, and dumped with those few who have violated Islamic teachings, assassinating not only a few foreigners but thousands of fellow Muslims.

And that, dear readers, is exactly the same attitude that remanded Italians and Jews on the outside of this society, left to only look in. I can recall from my childhood when "wops" and "guineas" were the usual way for "real Americans" to describe Italians. Jews were awarded labels even worse.

Do not suffer illusion that I truly believe anything said here will affect bigots and those prejudiced - that word means, incidentally, someone who passes judgment in advance of learning anything at all.

Based on my columns, the Kluxies banned me from all their functions. The anti-immigrant crowd blasts back when reminded we are all immigrants, including the people who traversed the Bering Straits from Asia to become "native Americans." Not hardly, but the label sticks.

The first Meachums showed up in Virginia before 1700; they were subject to discrimination because they were Scots in an English colony. When I was born, not a single part of my family had emigrated after the Civil War. There is no proof that the blood that flowed into creating me was shed in the Revolution. It could have happened, but maybe not.

I cite these personal facts by way of answering the self-appointed guardians and spokespersons who want to keep this republic free of any and all foreigners; whatever their reasoning, they are dead wrong. We remain a society built by many born elsewhere into a single nation. That's what "E Pluribus Unum" means. (Literally: Out of many, one.)

Before fatigue overcomes our spirit, as happened in most one-time great countries, we desperately need the enriching diversity that comes from all our segments, including Blacks, Latinos and Muslims.

Welcome! Bienvenidos! Maharba! We are all "real Americans."

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