IT’S LIKE FINDING A GROWTH someplace on you body. Was it there before? Does it have a diagnosis? Should you make an appointment and have it seen? But that takes such a long time and by then it probably will have fallen off leaving no trace. Or it threatens to kill you.
It’s not exactly the same thing but the medical metaphor does provides a way to consider the ways that hateful, antisocial propaganda infects our everyday lives and what to do about it. Take the way the local chapter of White Lives Matter (WLM), which every few months emerges from its nest to exercise its constitutional right to make people uneasy if not fearful. The first that we had heard of them was when small adhesive-backed posters showed up attached to traffic signs. This “sticker militia” campaign asked that people contact them and join their effort to do… what, purify the nation’s gene pool? You don’t want to pretend to debate anyone who suggests that eugenics is a good idea. It’s probably better to refer that person to Vladimir Putin.
There have been other small efforts by WLM to leave its scent but which accomplished very little. And that’s also what their latest outing seems to have achieved: nothing.
But don’t count on it. Failure can be a terrific teacher.
Maybe the group’s attention has tuned into the insurrection trial in Washington, D.C. Perhaps members of WLM are watching that courtroom in Washington to learn how much the government knows about what the rioters have been up to.
Whatever they’re doing it doesn’t seem to involve many of them doing it. Last Sunday night’s non-event, which involved anti-Semitic screeds stuffed into Baggies and some dried beans (?!) couldn’t have required more than a dozen white lives, and probably far fewer than that.
Their crime was littering and maybe that’s how they will continue to express themselves: just an occasional bit of naughty behavior; expressing a shocking insensitivity to the horrors of the Nazis. And of course there was no accident about the date chosen for the littering, a few nights ahead of Yom Kippur. I don’t welcome WLM members to my neighborhood.
In a democracy like ours it’s every citizen’s duty to be vigilant when there’s hateful language or images, let alone activities. We have a duty to face down hateful communications and to alert local state and national elected officials that groups like WLM are menacing even if their behavior is petty violations for now.