Militias and the Culture Wars
Terry H. Schwadron
June 16, 2022
With heightened attention on white nationalist group militias as major contributors to the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt, there’s been less focus that these same groups remain as committed to culture wars as on political upheaval.
News of two militia-sponsored confrontations this week in Idaho and California — one stopped and one that dissipated after shouting — were noteworthy for their ordinariness as well as for their targeted venues.
In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, police arrested 31 masked men wearing Patriot Front tags who were enroute to a gay pride even in a town park. Police found riot gear, a smoke grenade, shin guards and shields inside the truck in which the militia members were traveling to disrupt a peaceful gathering meant to express joy. The disrupters had traveled from 11 states, according to news accounts and were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to riot — and are out on bail, another normally conservative bugaboo. But then local police started getting angry calls even from faraway sympathizers about having made the arrests altogether.
In San Lorenzo in northern California, a handful of Proud Boys showed up at the public library to disrupt a children’s story hour called Drag Queen Story Time. Kyle Chu, also known as drag queen Panda Dulce, had been hosting a story hour meant for preschool-aged children in celebration of Pride Month. Before the gathering broke up, the disruption resulted only in a lot of yelling of “homophobic and transphobic remarks,” police said, with no violence.
One can only wonder what preschoolers made of all of it. We can only hope that any adults at the library joined in wondering why if the Proud Boys realty cared about the children, they didn’t volunteer their own time to read stories as a positive influence rather than offering a lesson about hate, yelling and confrontation.
OK, police thankfully intervened in these incidents, no one got hurt, and authorities are considering additional hate crime charges in both.
But isn’t the bigger issue here the very “ordinariness” of what prompted a response by militia members whose world view appears to eliminate Americans whose views, lifestyle choices, race and gender identification preferences don’t comport with their own. Haven’t we been through enough of this?
What happened to If-you-don’t-like-it, don’t go. Just go to another park or another story hour or sit by yourself. Why do our personal values have to mean squashing those of others?
Haven’t we been hearing for years now about a rise in anti-Asian-American hate, increases in anti-Semitic incidents, the constant, continuing pattern of issues arising for Black citizens who dare to walk in the wrong park or neighborhood.
Whether it is through militia confrontation or state-sponsored legislative prejudice as we have seen expressed in state book bans, curriculum overstatement and limitation, anti-teacher and “anti-elite” expression, we’ve landed quite firmly in an era in which hate is being celebrated.
Worse, Aldous Huxley-like, the offense in the culture wars is expressed and justified in language about the need to defend our students from preschool age through their university years.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to use the power of the state to harass parents who see drag performances as family entertainment, threatening to use child protection service powers against parents who bring children to a “Drag the Kids to Pride” show — even though a video he saw had been from an event in Texas.
Public pride events are decades old by now, and we have may have beclouded ourselves by seeing mayors and police chiefs joining colorful annual parades as well as seeing more gay life choices reflected in our entertainment, schools, and the law.
Since 2015, Drag Queen Story Hour has been just what it sounds like — volunteer drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores to capture imagination and expose kids to role models they may never otherwise meet. From young people in our own family, kids easily recognize costuming and a world of pretend rather than seeing it as indoctrination.
Just this week, a study based on federal health surveys, estimated that nearly 1.64 million people over the age of 13 in the United States identify themselves as transgender. Isn’t it time to stop the denial that transgender is an American identity choice reflecting fluidity about gender and lifestyle?
Hate as a Shield
Proud Boys describe themselves as a fraternal group spreading an “anti-political correctness” and an “anti-white guilt” agenda. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies white nationalist groups, says the actions of The Proud Boys belie any disavowals of bigotry. Members and leaders regularly spout white nationalist slogans and have organized sizeable public gatherings to denounce Muslims, Jews, gays, and transgender people.
After Charlottesville and so many political progeny events, after the constant repetition of conspiracy theories about the need to constrain the non-teaching of Critical Race Theory in our schools and the insistence that Jews and elites are bringing about a Great Replacement in the country, it hardly seems worthwhile to have to talk about truth.
It is never too late to talk about hate, however, particularly in a time when there also are millions arming themselves and courts are allowing concealed carry laws. It is never too late to tackle the expressions of fear from Americans who perceive that a white, Christian nation should crush anyone who does not fit at a time when the Supreme Court is on a campaign to roll back rights to abortion and promote religion-over-all principles.
It is never too late to defend an America that some want to exist without Americans.