Bookends, Part 2Somewhere in Georgia halfway between Macon and Atlanta (on the way home to Knoxville) we made a pit-stop at a gas station. Nice little town, nice Texaco or whatever. I stayed in the Windstar (passenger seat) while the rest of the family went inside to, well, whatever.
Another car pulled up ahead of me on the other side of the front door, and two young men got out. Both seemed to be in their early-mid twenties. The first had on a black muscle shirt/T-Shirt-with-sleeves-ripped-out that sported a Confederate flag on the front, plus some other pictures and writing I couldn't make out. The other had on a similar tank shirt plus numerous menacing-looking tattoos.
Oh, and he was bald.
A third chap stayed in the back seat as the first two ambled into the store.
Leaping to Conclusion Time - they're going to rob this convenience store, shoot my family and drive off laughing into the sunset. Well, that didn't make much sense because the guy was in the back seat - hardly get-away-driver position, although my experience in knocking over gas stations is limited. So that theory went nowhere.
There was a bumper sticker stuck to the top of the rear window - a website address, somethingsomething.com, but it was too far away and too small to make out. So I waited, keeping one wary eye on the car and another on the door to the market. A couple of times I almost got out and went in to check, but eventually everyone came back safe and sound. As we drove away the two gentlemen returned to their car - six packs in tow - and got it. I was able to read the bumper sticker as we passed their car: www.panzerfaust.com.
Ok, a German tank in common usage; I'm sure it actually has a German definition. And faust too.
Well, look kids - you've seen your first for-real, in-the-flesh skinhead.
When we got home I looked up panzerfaust.com on the web (I'm not linking to it). It's a "racial pride" record label, with bands sporting dark names that would make MegaDeath look like the Bay City Rollers, and an online store sporting goodies that made Maurice's seem as tame as your neighborhood garage sale.
Nazi flags, Aryan nation paraphernalia. White power. The whole 9 meters.
My wife said the gentlemen behaved themselves in the story - she had no idea who they were at the time - but that the clerk behind the counter was black. She hadn't noticed them acting different toward him, although living in Georgia near Atlanta I'm sure they're forced to make do every day.
What made my skin crawl was suspecting very heavily that I was looking at people who would very likely work a black man over if given the opportunity. Depending on the level of their commitment, maybe even kill him. And only for the crime of being black.
These were probably the real deal - no silly states-rights controversy here, just hate. Now, to be truthful there were no black employees at Maurice's when we stopped there the week prior, and I didn't notice any black customers, but I don't have any real feeling they would be made to feel anything worse than uncomfortable coming in there.
That's mostly play-acting - trumping up a political cause to give oneself the excuse to discriminate. But with the two gentlemen from Georgia, that puts it into perspective. There are evil people in the world, people who would kill to achieve supremacy of the white race. Or Communism, or Fascism, or Islam.
On a cool lovely day in September we saw the threat that exists from the outside, and on a warm humid day in July I remembered that threats exist everywhere.
What's ironic about this is: myself, being white, was more than likely safe from these gentlemen (at least from a hate-type crime). Not being black, they likely wouldn't have thought twice about me as a threat.
Hey, but as a good man once said, "That which you do to the least of them, you also do to me." Racial and religious fanatacism are wrong, and we must feel the pain of those wronged as sharply as if it were done to ourselves.
We are one.