Nazis Right Here in Middle Tennessee

This coming Saturday, a bunch of racists/nazis are coming to the place I think of as “my little town,” though it is no longer the little town it was when I moved here in 1973. And because we’ve seen what these scum can do, our sweet, small-town Saturday has been canceled in favor of their agenda, which they are calling White Lives Matter. I am so angry.

  • This is the last Saturday farmers market of the season—always festive with vendors dressed in costumes—and it’s now canceled. The farmers will lose a lot of revenue (and some of us planned to stock up).
  • The market is held on our historic town square. Now all the downtown merchants are boarding up their windows and staying closed for the day. They also will lose revenue.
  • The marching band competition at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), called Contest of Champions (COC), is going on as scheduled, but I’m told local parents are concerned about safety. And who knows how many COC fans will stay away? COC is usually good for local restaurants and other merchants, but probably not this year.
  • Oaklands Mansion has canceled Flashlight Night (Friday and Saturday) after after consultation with law enforcement, city officials, and other agencies. This is a loss of $10K to them.
  • I am certain local law enforcement costs will rise this weekend, and that affects local taxpayers—not the nazis.

I am sure there is much more I’m not accounting for in terms of how it affects our community. The locals have been asked to stay home, to not engage with these bigots. A group called Murfreesboro Loves has planned activities all day away from the downtown square. I have other plans already, and that’s probably best, since I’m already angry.

UPDATE, Thursday, 26 October:

  • Oakland High School moved up its football game from Friday to Thursday.
  • COC was canceled by MTSU, and the Expanding Your Horizons science event was postponed.
  • MTSU is preparing for the strong possibility of a nazi torch march on Friday night.
  • The Harvest Days Festival at Cannonsburgh Village scheduled for Saturday was canceled, and the Cannonsburgh grounds will not be open to the public at all.

So MTSU cancels the Contest of Champions and the list of lost revenue and lives upended goes on. As one of my friends commented, I have no words for the rage this brings out in me.

Here’s what makes me mad:

  • the waitress at City Cafe who needs those Saturday tips
  • the farmers who don’t get their last sale of the 2017 season (and the customers who don’t get the good stuff)
  • all the downtown merchants who have to spend time and money boarding up
  • the high school kids disappointed because MTSU (rightly) canceled a big marching band competition that’s been going on for 2+ decades and is the highlight of the marching band season in this area
  • Oaklands Mansion having to cancel one of their big annual fund-raisers, which will result in a net loss of $10K to their education fund
  • the cost to taxpayers for all this extra security.

And all because some asshole decided to wave his tiny little penis and his big confederate flag on this day in this town.

Yes, obviously, these horrible people existed before the horrible president was cheated into office, but Trump’s actions and his behavior have encouraged these lowlifes to come out from under their rocks and ruin the day for so many kids and grownups. I know I’m being urged to love the nazis by people who are better humans than me. However: I. Do. Not. I despise them.

Note that while I generally think love is a good idea, I personally do not love nazis and could not be counted on to behave in a loving manner toward them. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. I am undisciplined when it comes to speaking my mind, and I’m too old to start now.

UPDATE, Friday, 27 October:

This same group is planning a demonstration in downtown Shelbyville in the morning (the “event” on our square is due to start after lunch). The local paper has let us know that no firearms, purses, or coolers will be allowed at the downtown “rally.” Police will turn away anyone with purses, backpacks, bats, helmets, and many more items. Good. Because the most awful thing I can remember seeing in a long time was all those men with their big firearms walking silently to the rally in Charlottesville.

UPDATE, Saturday, 28 October:

On my way across town to my mid-morning commitment, it seemed like traffic was up a little. I saw more out-of-state plates than I’d normally see in the middle of town—Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas—and a few of the Tennessee “Don’t Tread on Me” vanity plates. (And yes, I’ve researched that. The symbology of what is called the Gadsden Flag—a coiled rattlesnake—which originated in the Revolutionary War, has been co-opted to convey angry messages by the Tea Party movement, gun rights activists, white supremacist groups, and racists who like to wave Confederate flags around. Much of this started, oh, around 2008.) Neighbors, do note that if you have that Don’t Tread on Me license plate—and I can pick it out doing 70mph—I know who you are and you disgust me.

Coming back across town around lunchtime, it was a different story altogether. I saw several groups holding up signs (“Jesus says all lives matter” and “Murfreesboro Loves” and so on) and as I got close to the edge of town—you can look south and but for some rolling hills could see Shelbyville twenty miles away—incoming traffic was extremely heavy. There was a large crowd of folks holding up signs (Murfreesboro Loves again) and shouting at the steady stream of cars coming up from Shelbyville (whether they were nazis or not). There was a cop sitting in the median right at my turn-off.

I heard later only a few nazis showed up on our square. Most of them chickened out and ended up at local restaurants and hotels, eating and drinking and generally trying to look like they hadn’t driven all the way from Arkansas to cause trouble in a town not their own. So I guess we can call this a victory for the good folks, but I’m still mad.

Ken Burns and Me

Lots of people have been asking me about this new multiepisode documentary from Ken Burns. Have I watched it?

No, I have not. I like Ken Burns’s work. I’ve seen some of his documentaries, and I know he’s a talented storyteller. But I’ll need to be in a really happy place before I sit down and watch The Vietnam War, which aired in the last half of September 2017. Because, you know, I lived it.

Have I said this before? My father never carried a gun; he had a government-issued one, but it stayed on a high shelf in my parents’ closet. He was not a gun person; he was born in the city (St. Louis), raised in the city. He hated guns (because he knew what they could do), and was vocal about it, and about war in general. (He’d studied military history in college. He didn’t think war solved much.) He was a guy who loved people but thought humanity could think up some pretty bad stuff.

My father was a US Air Force pilot (he enlisted during the Korean War, to avoid being drafted into the army). He went in as an enlisted man but was noticed as officer material and went first to OCS (Officers’ Candidate School) and then to pilot training.

My mother, who was crippled from polio when she four (one gimpy leg, always walked with a limp) was diagnosed with MS when I was six or seven (this would have been ’59 or ’60). When I was ten, she could no longer sign her name (too shaky to write). They barely knew what MS was back then, much less how to treat for it. So I became the joint signatory on my dad’s checking account and wrote out all the bills. Why? Because Daddy was on-7-off-7, because he was in SAC (Strategic Air Command—the guys who run to the planes when the sirens go off). He wasn’t always there to take care of those things, so I, the oldest child, did. I did the family grocery shopping and wrote checks for them. (Another ordeal, since in theory little kids don’t write checks, right?)

At that time Daddy was flying KC-135s. (These planes are for in-air refueling; I did not appreciate how dangerous a task this was until years later when I saw the movie Air Force One, such is the innocence/ignorance of youth.) But he had flown helicopters when he was—and we were—younger. Now, the Vietnam conflict had been going on for some years and they had lost a lot of helicopter pilots. Helicopters are hard to learn (longer training period), hard to fly—much, much harder than a plane. So Uncle Sam started rounding up people like my dad.

Jim Clarke. The best there ever was.

The year I was thirteen we learned he was to go to Vietnam—a thirty-nine-year-old with a sick wife and three young kids—so I had to get an emergency driver’s license, because by that time my mom couldn’t drive either (too shaky). This was unheard of; it was a MAJOR ORDEAL for that to happen. But it did happen, and I began doing all the family driving at thirteen while Daddy was in Vietnam the first time. I carried a gasoline credit card.

Daddy did a second tour, right near the end of the war. He took photos (slides, Ektachrome) during both assignments. A few years ago G took all our family slides—40+ magazines of 36 slides each—back to Dublin to put them through a professional-grade scanner, then color-corrected them and loaded three sets for each of us kids. Lots of these were growing-up family stuff but there were a few magazines from Vietnam. We’d seen the family stuff many times. We’d never seen the Vietnam stuff. It was eye-opening. Heartbreaking. He wrote captions on the slide-carriers, like “Sometimes I just cry.”

He was stationed in Thailand and flew into Vietnam, low, under the radar, at night to pick up downed pilots. Extremely dangerous. He also evacuated women and children from active war zones. It is a miracle he came back to us, twice. But after the second time he was done. He’d intended to stay in the Air Force longer, but he left after twenty-three years. He was never the same after Vietnam. (Although as a human, he was magnificent.) That first year after his return, he sat in the living room and stared at the walls a lot. He cried sometimes.

Meanwhile, of course, those of us back home got to see “live from Vietnam” reports every night on the six o’clock news.

Anyway, I have not yet looked at the slides, much less the Burns documentary. Vietnam profoundly affected my family, and I have been burdened with the unpleasantness of it my entire life. Maybe later.