Another reason to love John Day

Charlie Burr

Have you been following the story of Grant County's efforts to keey white supremacists out of their community? The community's response has been decisive and swift. I've always loved John Day--beautiful, friendly--but I'm especially proud to see neighbors rally like this and stick up for their values. 

From the Oregonian:

Grant County residents turned out in force Friday morning to send a message to a white supremacist group: Stay out.

About 375 people -- in a northeast Oregon county of fewer than 8,000-- attended a town hall meeting to fight a plan by a group calling itself the Aryan Nations to plant a national headquarters in John Day.

"Never have I been to a community who reacted so quickly as you have to say no," civil rights activist Tony Stewart of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, told a standing-room-only crowd at the Canyon City Community Hall just south of John Day.

At least 100 others were turned away because of fire code restrictions. About 300 more watched a live stream on the Internet, said Scotta Callister, editor of the Blue Mountain Eagle newspaper in John Day, which sponsored the meeting.

"It gave this community a chance to put a voice to its values," Callister said. "That's powerful."

The community was reacting to a visit last week by Paul R. Mullet of Athol,  Idaho, who told townspeople he is the leader of the neo-Nazi group and is shopping for John Day property for a new headquarters.

At Friday morning's forum, Stewart was joined by Coeur d'Alene attorney Norman Gissell to offer encouragement and advice. The pair have battled neo-Nazi groups for 29 years and helped win a landmark judgment in 2000 against Idaho's original Aryan Nations, leading to the group's downfall.

Many in the crowd, unmistakably rural in jeans and cowboy boots, said they've never dealt with white supremacists and neo-Nazis and aren't sure what to do.

"I'm worried about my children," said one woman, fearing the group might try to recruit her 14-year-old stepson.

Others asked Stewart and Gissell how they could recognize hate-group members, how to interact with them in chance encounters at the grocery store or post office, and what their rights are if they have land for sale but don't want to sell to members of the hate group.

Some fretted about potential damage to the economy and the county's image. One man asked whether media coverage is likely to encourage the neo-Nazis or keep them out.

Stewart assured him the attention will work in the community's favor.

"Evil can grow in darkness," he said. "The greatest danger is ignoring them and letting them grow."

Gissell told the gathering that supremacists have sought a racist homeland in rural America since the 1970s on the mistaken assumption that rural people are racist and would join them.

Stewart advised vigilance because, he said, the presence of a hate group inevitably leads to violence. "They won't stop with just literature," he said. "After a period of time, they will go over the line."

Read the rest here.

Discuss.

Comments

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    These demonstrations will hopefully counteract the tendency of so many people to stereotype people in Eastern Oregon as hide-bound conservatives akin to their predecessors in the Deep South.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Kudos to John Day and eastern Oregon! I heard yesterday that folks in town even refused to show property to this group.

    Bill, racial discrimination has nothing to do with whether a person is conservative or liberal; from the South or Boston. Sheesh man, talk about sterotyping.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Kurt: Conservatives in the South, like most conservatives trying to maintain the status quo, were responsible for much of the racism in the past, but, unfortunately, they didn't have a monopoly on that evil practice. I keep forgetting to elucidate on general statements to preclude people from nit-picking some of my comments.

  • LT (unverified)
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    "These demonstrations will hopefully counteract the tendency of so many people to stereotype people in Eastern Oregon as hide-bound conservatives akin to their predecessors in the Deep South."

    Once I heard a sermon by a minister who had graduated from the same seminary as Andrew Young. He told this story about one of the first places new Rev. Young lived.

    One day there were reports the KKK were headed towards the small southern town. The mayor called and said all local clergy were invited to stand on the courthouse steps to make a stand against the KKK.

    Young went to the courthouse steps and stood with other local clergy, local government officials incl. police chief, and the owner of the largest local employer.

    KKK marched in and encountered the gathering. Mayor said they were not welcome, and the local religious community agreed with him. Police chief said any crimes (assault, vandalism, etc.) by the KKK would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Owner of the largest local business said "if any of my employees are among you, I had better not find out, or you will no longer be my employees".

    KKK got the message, left, and never bothered that town again.

    The sermon I heard was about standing up for what you think is right.

    I thought of that when I heard the John Day story.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    This almost restores faith in humanity.

    Bill, imho, like all real progressives- but more so- you are hugely under-appreciated here. "Evil can grow in darkness," he said. "The greatest danger is ignoring them and letting them grow."

    Could we remember that next time someone wants to squelch un-PC speech? I think it was Andrew Young that said that he'd rather have them talking racism to his face than plotting behind closed doors.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Bill, you are so full of yourself it pains otherwise intelligent people. Racism knows no geographic locale nor political idealology. The most rampant, damaging and lethal race riots in the U.S. have occure north of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Mississippi.

    Of course that inconvenient truth doesn't fit your trite rant; but forge ahead.

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    I'm so proud of the people of John Day. These are my home town peeps. I love how they've pulled together.

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    I just got back from John Day. It was inspiring to see people crowded into the meeting room last night to hear Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel talk about their experiences and what can be done. It was wonderful to hear people in Grant County talk about what their community means to them, and how there is no room there for hate groups. Light green ribbons (to signify their opposition to the Aryan Nations) are everywhere. Businesses and homes have signs denouncing racism, and cars are festooned with light green ribbons and signs in the windows. A Grant County Human Rights Coalition is in the process of being formed. Stewart said that he has never seen a community organize so fast. Thanks Grant County, for reminding us that we're proud to call Oregon home.

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    Thanks for that, Wayne - very inspiring!

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Kurt: I don't know what your problem is except you appear to be what is generally referred to as a conservative and you seem to get upset when anyone criticizes conservatives. Conservatives come in all degrees of quality. John Dean is a conservative that I admire and learn from. Ron Paul is a conservative that I agree with on some occasions but not on others. Then there are the other kind like Strom Thurmond and his ilk and the people who kept voting him into office when he was recognized by countless people as a conservative Democrat and a rabid segregationist, which I believe most people would agree is synonymous with racist. They were representative of the "hide-bound racists in the Deep South" I was referring to. Now, are you going to deny that the likes of Strom Thurmond and Bull Connor were conservatives and racists? Or, are you programmed to take offense if any conservative is criticized?

    Before you try to trump me with the later version of Strom Thurmond, I'm well aware that he shed much, if not all, of his former racism. But he remained a conservative.

  • John Silvertooth (unverified)
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    Scotta Callister is doing a great job! And from the Blue Mt. Eagle at that. Keep up the good work.

    During the Rajneesh encounter it was the Dalles Weekly Reminder that blazed the trail for the so-called major media.

  • Rob (unverified)
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    We are one state, all of Oregon. In each place, we have deep knowledge of the locale. John Day is home to the Kam Wah Chung Museum, not only historical, but memorial to Chinese and Oregonians working together. I believe it will, in time, become a destination for tourists from China and Taiwan, and their descendants. It would be tragic to have a white supremacist group shatter that, and shatter opportunity for John Day.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Bill I think it's worse than that. He (and most) are programmed to react whenever you make a generalization involving people. It's a kind of enforced ignorance. You can note that only your Mexican friends have velvet paintings, but you can't say, "Mexicans like velvet paintings". You can note that every time someone has done something batshit crazy, behind the wheel in the last month, that they were Asian, but you can't say that "Asians are bad drivers". That extends to compliments too. I actually had to take an employer to court, that insisted on trying to discipline me for saying, "women have a higher tolerance for boredom than men". In that case I was citing a study, related to the task, in my capacity as someone with an advanced degree in experimental psychology (and the contention is supported by the data). That case really proved that it can't be framed in anyway that doesn't inspire rage. When the event happened, I was aware of the forbidden construction, so I added, "they should be; probably nature's way of helping them deal with boring male problems". Instead it was kerosene to a fire; "he said 'they'!" It's also informative that never did anyone question the generalization about males.

    Intelligence is the balance between assimilation and accommodation. That's another reason why PC speech is dumb. Like a bunch of borg, all they do is assimilate.

    BO seems to have taken the principle to a new level. Here you can't even speak to personal experience. You can't say, "I have known 13 Tajikis in my life, and every one of them was a thief". Which is interesting, because if one of the Tajikis had an impression, it would be accepted unquestioned.

    I don't know why I'm bothering with this. It's becoming pretty obvious that the number of bona fide discussions on here is approaching nil. I hate it when I have to change blogs. Unfortunately, it's become obvious that people like you and I should take stock of waste of time trying to have a legitimate conversation on here is.

    Could we remember that next time someone wants to squelch un-PC speech? I think it was Andrew Young that said that he'd rather have them talking racism to his face than plotting behind closed doors.

    I guess not.

    Oh, for a sitting example of a "Thurmond", look at Byrd.

  • William Tare Fox (unverified)
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    Does anyone know a resource about the percentage of houses that use AC? I haven't been able to find one. I wanted to compare John Day and Portland. Tells you a lot about a place.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Bill, my 'problem' as you so gallantly put it is broad generalizations by people in general, but particularly progressives when it comes to racial/Southern stereotypes. As one raised in the South I believe that your particular generalizations about southern conservatives and racism are way off the mark.

    Strom Thurmond is an excellent example of your lack of knowledge and understanding. He was way more a state's rights politician than a conservative and had a healthy distrust of federal governments and the North. He was also from a racist past and what today might be broadly considered a blue dog democrat.

    However, for pure conservative racism he was no different from John Daily the senior, a Northern democrat and leader of the Chicago corrupt political machine. Look carefully into the politicians of Boston and New York circa 1890-1935 and you see no difference between them and the South. Heck delve into Oregon's own shameful dealings with the immigrants from China and other areas up to the 1950's.

    For a healthy dose of more modern racisn check out the wholesale devaluation of immigrants from Japan under the 'liberal' government of Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor, lasting well into the 60's.

    No Bill, my 'problem' isn't one of being a conservative who bristles at broad generalizations regarding conservatives; it is a 'problem' of being from the South and having to put up with progressives, liberals and others such as yourself who look down their noses. you speak of the racist past as a Southern idealology without understanding or even acknowledging the racism on your own doorstep. That Bill, is my 'problem'.

  • Cara (unverified)
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    This is crazy! I just cannot believe the fortune of many. There is a group of us in La Pine who is slated to take a quick trip to John day to look at a large piece of property so that we can all move and now this!

    I can't imagine the farmers ever sitting down for this and this really puts a crink into our plans...if these people move into John Day we won't move there not when we have Indian and German ancestry and kids.

    I wonder what these people's answers would be if they were individually asked about their names and where they are from and I can guarantee their answers would give indication that they too hold something that is "impure" thus they would be just like everything they try to fight...

    I thank John Day and the friends that I have there for standing up for their rights, beliefs and together against this hate. It is a sad day indeed when several years worth of families and the community must endure this.

    Just how many escrow accts can we put together for $1 that says sale pending meaning oops no property for sale or hey...maybe all owners can take their property off the market and then there would be nothing for them to buy.

    My heart, hope and love go to this community and my friends there and I don't even live there. I am looking at coming over in a few days nonetheless and then again in later March or April. Maybe I'll come and look up some of you in City Hall.

    All in all know that you have support even from those of us in La Pine!!!

    Hey Airheads what good reason is there for you to thrive off of making people outcry...dang wannabe bullies.

  • Bill Ryahn (unverified)
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    It's good to see Oregonians stand up to the far-right.

    Now if Oregonians would just stand up to the far-left, instead of electing them to public office...

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Kurt: Zarathrusta has said it well with nothing left for me to add.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Last time I can chip in, probably. I have to take some time off to recover from a particularly nasty case of mal de blog. Guess you're the last progressive standing, Bill.

    The cell phone thread and the arrogance one pretty much prove that we can't have any positive effect. Don't have a cognitive critical mass to work with.

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    Z, this is sloppy thinking:

    You can note that only your Mexican friends have velvet paintings, but you can't say, "Mexicans like velvet paintings". You can note that every time someone has done something batshit crazy, behind the wheel in the last month, that they were Asian, but you can't say that "Asians are bad drivers".

    Let's leave aside the question of thought police, a particular red flag for conservatives. Let's just look at these kinds of statements baldly. You want to be able to say "Mexicans like velvet paintings." Do they? Do they all? Does your sample of friends represent all Mexicans? Does your sample of non-velvet painting-owning non-Mexicans represent all non-Mexicans? You're talking about your quite limited experience and extrapolating on one data point about two groups of people.

    This type of sloppy thinking is dangerous because it is persuasive to the individual. PC codes are a terrible solution, but they arise from a level of awareness that you lack: namely, that one's own biased experience isn't a valid source of data. You may feel slighted when PC police shut you down for blithely saying Asians are bad drivers and Mexicans have bad taste, but at least the PC police see what you do not: that those are relative assessments. When those relative assessments come from people in a dominant cultural position (white, made worse when it comes from white males), it's all the more troubling.

    This post of Charlie's cites an incident that is so inspiring because it records the reactions of a group of people who reject the relative judgments of the white supremacists.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Jeff: You seem to be following the same route as Kurt demanding specificity instead of accepting a general statement that is essentially accurate.

    This is like, for example, saying there are lots of Chinese people living in Vancouver, BC. That is true. As I understand it Vancouver has one of the largest Chinatowns outside China. Now, is it necessary for the likes of you and Kurt that we have to go into some explication and add that there are lots of Chinese living in other cities in Canada? Do we have go go beyond and list all the likely places were we will find Chinese? Also, would it be necessary to explain that there are people of other ethnic groups in Vancouver? If so, would it also be necessary to give a breakdown of those groups so we wouldn't leave someone out and violate someone's overwrought sense of political correctness?

    And, just in case someone misconstrues the above as being critical of Chinese, let me say that I spent several years sailing in the Far East and enjoyed friendly relations with several Chinese people of whom I have very fond memories.

    Z: You have a point taking a break. I think I'll join you; although, I hate to think some people on BO will be getting away with talking so much crap.

    And, Jeff, when it comes to sloppy thinking, you are in no position to be self-righteous. As I recall you once thought Obama was the answer to America's problems. Change? What change?

  • Linda Densmore (unverified)
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    Hey I don't know what several of you are fighting about on this blog but I just wanted you to know that I think you should stick to fighting the Aryan Nation. I live in Eastern Oregon and I'm so proud of what you are doing. I imagined progressives and conservatives joining together to fight hate and that brings tears to my eyes I'm so happy. There are so many things we can do together to keep Eastern Oregon the wonderful place it is. I watched the meeting on line and was really impressed by your concerns and will to fight. Keep it up and let us know how we can help!

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    I hate to think some people ... will be getting away with talking so much crap.

    Which is the twisted thread that we share with the editors of BO!

  • Arthur Pendragon (unverified)
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    I read the article about it. It is interesting from the perspective it appears to be a catch 22. By that I mean I wouldn't want them in my community either, but…If I understand the current Federal Law's, they can not be legally denied residence, lawfull business (if any), or opportunity to purchase any realestate based on their beliefs. Any entity attempting to deny them without LEGAL cause would be setting themselve's up for a Civil Rights violation law suit. (Town Hall incl.) A somewhat similar situation occured here in the Tonto Village community some years ago. The existing residents did not approve of a new age religious group buying up homes, setting up a school etc. Some of the long term locals there chided the group for being a “Cult”. The group sued some resident individuals because of it. It went to Court here. After some unusual tesimony by the groups leader, they dropped the suit. It was my understanding the group is now in the majority in Tonto Village, but all are getting along now. They also owned a business, an ice cream & sandwich shop as I recall. I thought it was quite good. Secondly, I would bet the demographics of John Day and it's County are pretty lilly white and I suspect they like it that way for now. Hard for them to legally justify keeping out the Aryan Nation group I would suppose. John Day just needs to be very careful in what they say and do, especially their Town Officials. Don't make it a national dog and pony show for the media.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "I imagined progressives and conservatives joining together to fight hate ..."

    That depends on who you have in mind when it comes to progressives and conservatives. Bush and Cheney and about half of the electorate are generally considered to be conservatives. So could about half of the Democratic Party. The other half of the Democratic Party can claim in varying degrees to be progressives, but they were outnumbered by the "conservative" Republicans and Democrats who gave us the war on Iraq, boosting the war in Afghanistan and are now threatening Iran.

    Jeff and Kurt: I know you'll find something in the above to nit-pick, but I don't have time to append an explication. Nor do I give a shit.

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    Reading some of these posts could make someone wonder if there was a prize for Most Insufferable.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Jeff, as a professional statistician, I certainly appreciate your points why the statements are not reliable, consistent, or valid, as it happens. My point was about a different kind of stat, the kind that is a major component of how humans experience the world, though it is seldom statistically valid.

    The point was that the construction "all xxx whatever" has been taken to be an automatic no-no, rather than asking the kinds of questions that you did. I'm a data maven. There's no bigger red flag to me than effectively saying, "you can't say it that way, no matter what data you have". That attitude then gets extended, where any attribution based on demographics is taboo, even if supported by data. The people that were up in arms about my saying "women have a higher tolerance for boredom than men". weren't asking the question you posed either. Bottom line, I was saying that Bill was getting the reaction he was due to the linguistic construction he was using, not because the point was invalid. Yes, it was about sloppy thinking. Sorry if I argued the case too convincingly.

    Posted by: Wayne Kinney | Feb 28, 2010 6:41:38 PM

    Reading some of these posts could make someone wonder if there was a prize for Most Insufferable.

    That's certainly an excellent point, and I'll put my hand up and take a share of the blame, but the alternative is not immediately obvious. Too often those making the situation insufferable have used the civility of the opposition to continue the abuses. It's the "Measure 66/67" problem, experienced by this very blog. You have to answer accusations in kind, but when does continuing do to so constitute adopting that style? And, yes, "insufferable" is exactly the word I would use to describe the effect on readers of having crossed that line.

    I have a theory that people only post when they don't see their POV being represented. At least it answers the blog editors' despairing cry, "why don't the 'nice' people ever post"? Which, if true, means that, by definition, you are going to be reacting to an extreme position, which promotes extremism, just to reach a reasonable mean. If that's all accurate, the best defense is for those less extreme folks to join the conversation. (And yes, it's been established that I am hopelessly idealistic.)

  • Cara (unverified)
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    I had hoped that this forum would bring together people who have ideas on how best to approach the Aryan Nation ordeal instead I see alot of nit picking and bickering and that is the last thing John Day needs and the first thing the Aryan nation wants...can we get back on topic please?

  • Joshua Welch (unverified)
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    "Racism knows no geographic locale nor political ideology."

    If you don't think racism is more concentrated in certain political parties/ideologies and geographic locales your kidding yourself. There's a reason the GOP is the party of old white rural southern men. It's because conservative ideology and the GOP are closest to their values.

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    I'm a New England Yankee, and proud of it. I have ancestors who supported the Underground Railroad and fought for the North in the Civil War. I am proud of them. But I have some difficulty with comments like Mr. Welch's. There is truth to them, but they don't take into account how far some people have come and how much farther all of us have to go. None of us have clean hands, and we will always have to be washing them.

  • Joshua Welch (unverified)
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    "But I have some difficulty with comments like Mr. Welch's. There is truth to them, but they don't take into account how far some people have come and how much farther all of us have to go. None of us have clean hands, and we will always have to be washing them."

    did you want an essay on the evolution of racism in america? sorry but i don't have the time.

    i was responding to commentary which clearly attempted to skew reality. what you should have difficulty w/ is when people make ridiculous claims to provide cover for political groups. Let's not forget, dem and republicans, liberals and conservatives, etc. are what they are because of different principles, and different values. Let's not act like we are all the same, especially on issues as important as racism. I have "some difficulty" w/ that.

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    By that I mean I wouldn't want them in my community either, but…If I understand the current Federal Law's, they can not be legally denied residence, lawfull business (if any), or opportunity to purchase any realestate based on their beliefs. Any entity attempting to deny them without LEGAL cause would be setting themselve's up for a Civil Rights violation law suit.

    I believe this is incorrect.

    This morning on NPR, a law professor on property rights from Willamette University was on discussing this very thing. There is no legal standing if one is denied the purchase of property from a private party based on political beliefs. It's possible that the potential buyer might have legal standing if a purchase is scuttled from a public entity based on political beliefs, but even that is thin, according to the prof this AM.

    http://news.opb.org/article/6812-can-you-refuse-sell-property-based-political-views/

  • Jimbo46 (unverified)
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    <h2>I believe you are correct Carla. I'm no lawyer (he says proudly ;>), but right-wing racist is not a protected class. We can, and should, discriminate against them at every opportunity.</h2>

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