Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Am So Proud of John Day

Oregon is not exactly a racist hotbed, but there are some areas that tend toward that direction. When I think of Aryan Nations territory, I tend to think "the south" and Idaho. I'm also uncomfortably aware that there are enclaves of this group and other like-minded groups right here in my own state. So I was sorry to read over the weekend that the Aryan Nations group was looking at property for a headquarters in the town of John Day.

John Day is a rural community of a little under 2000 citizens. I have spent some time in the area, though not much in the town itself. My experience is that these people are hard-working, honest, and simple- not in the sense of intellectually, but in the sense of not expecting or particularly tolerant of pretension. I presume that I most often disagree with their politics, but I didn't spend much time talking about politics. From that perspective, I didn't meet any folks in that area that weren't polite, likable, and fun to chat with. Still, when I heard the AN news, I was afraid they would be greeted with open arms, or at least tolerance.

I am so glad to report that I was wrong, wrong, wrong!
The white supremacists who wandered into John Day from northern Idaho last week looking at downtown properties for a national headquarters for their hate group apparently expected to find like-minded racists in the remote eastern Oregon county. Instead, they discovered that Grant County is as repulsed by them as everyone else.

On Monday, scores of Grant County residents marched through downtown John Day in opposition to the Aryan Nations. As The Oregonian's Dick Cockle reported, log truck drivers honked their horns in support of the marchers, who carried signs that read "Say No to Hate and Violence!" and "One Race: Human." On Friday, hundreds of people are expected to gather at town hall meetings in Canyon City to express their concerns and hear two Idaho attorneys who won a landmark judgment against the Aryan Nations in 2000.
Good for you, citizens of John Day and Grant County! I should have trusted my experience with you and known better.

Followup, 2/25: The self-proclaimed National Director of Aryan Nations is named Paul Mullet. How... apropos.

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