“And Here We Have Idaho, Winning Her Way to Fame . . .”

Idaho is a wonderful state, with many good people working together to overcome the anger and division of our time and to promote love, respect and compassion for others.

When I decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, I met with friends in New York City.

“What are you going to do about those Idaho Neo-Nazis?” my friend Jon asked.

He was thinking of the Aryan Nation that once held a hateful compound near Coeur d’Alene.

“They were driven from Idaho long ago,” I stammered, surprised by the stain on our state that lingers after almost two decades.

Unfortunately, deserved or not, Idaho’s reputation for hate was reinforced on Tuesday last week with news of a 24/7 Wall Street report ranking Idaho second in the country, after Montana, for hate.


The Idaho “Hate Index” is based on our low population (1.7 million), the number of “hate groups” active here (12), and the percentage of the Idaho population that self-identifies as “white” (91.7%).

Based on these statistics, there are 7.1 hate groups per million people in Idaho.  Number one, Montana, has 9.6 hate groups per million.  Just behind (or ahead?) at number 3, Mississippi has 6.0 per million.  Virginia is on the list at number 8 with 4.6.

This is damnable and damning calculus.  Damnable because, whether or not accurate, it has been advertised to the nation (and world) that Idaho is a frightening, hateful state.  This unjustified ranking has ramifications:  among other things, it brings more haters and hate groups to Idaho and turns companies, investors and tourists away.

Want jobs?  Stop hate.

Damning because even one hate group is too many and 7.1 per million suggests by comparison to Virginia that a Charlottesville is more likely to happen here.

The horrifying Charlottesville weekend should be a reminder of the urgency of constant and on-going vigilance.  We must stave off hate  learning, communication, empathy and increased advocacy for human rights.

Happily, among the many individuals and organizations engaged in such efforts in Idaho, two were especially active last week in the aftermath of Charlottesville.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Tuesday last, as images of Charlottesville and stumbling political leaders filled the news, Idahoans gathered at the Anne Frank Memorial to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary and to break ground for the Marilyn Shuler Classroom for Human Rights to continue Marilyn’s inspiring legacy of teaching respect for others.

The Anne Frank Memorial is a peaceful and profound human-rights teaching park maintained by the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, appropriately named after Bill Wassmuth who, even after his home was bombed, did not shrink from the effort to peacefully drive the Aryans from our state.

“Idaho is too great for hate!” Dan Prinzing, the Executive Director of the Wassmuth Center, declared from the podium during the ceremony at the Memorial.

idahoblackhistorymuseumOn Thursday, the Black History Museum, led by its director Phillip Thompson, hosted a cathartic post-Charlottesville community forum to discuss issues of race and strategies to overcome prejudice and bias.

The museum hall was packed, with a standing room only crowd.  The image of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. hung prominently over our heads.  The crowded room warmed quickly and the air was heavy with post-Charlottesville anguish.  The discussion was highly-inclusive and animated.  When it was over and as we filed out of the building into the cool of the night, we felt comforted and inspired.

Organizations and events like these speak well of Idaho and the vast majority of Idahoans who love and respect others, regardless of color, race, gender, sexual orientation or economic status.  The majority who are willing to focus what makes us the same—our shared humanity, values and purpose–rather than on what makes us different.

Sadly, since November 2016 election, both the Black History Museum and the Anne Frank Memorial have been targets of racist and anti-Semitic vandalism.  Closer to home evidence of the need for vigilance.

We will fight these forces of darkness and exercise the muscles of our better nature by participating with and supporting the Wassmuth Center, the Black History Museum and the many other organizations and groups in Idaho, sectarian and non-sectarian, promoting love, respect and compassion for others.

Thank you, Dan.  Thank you, Phil.  With your help, for human rights, Idaho will win her way to fame.

People of Good Will Unite!

We must overwhelm the attitudes of white supremacy, nationalism and insularity that take us backward and harm us all.

David Duke, KKK Imperial Wizard was correct in his weekend Tweet to @realDonald Trump:  White Americans put Donald Trump in office.

david duke
KKK’s David Duke in Charlottesville, Virginia -August 12, 2017

By “White Americans,” though, he surely refers to members of a distinct minority for whom whiteness and white privilege is essential to identity.  They cling to it desperately as they watch their whiteness diluted and dismissed as cultural and historic artifact.

Charlottesville is evidence of this virulent white minority and the sad fact that the fight for civil rights in America is not over.  As hard as it is to imagine in this modern era, there are young, khaki-clad white Americans, wearing MAGA hats, who cling to a past of confederate white supremacy, anti-Semitism, slavery and segregation.

Don’t they see their mindset holds them and the rest of our society back?  Overcoming such attitudes and practices has been essential to cultural and economic progress.  Watch the movie Hidden Figures and wonder if we could have been first in space and sooner to the moon if American society had not committed the crimes of slavery and post-slavery segregation.

Even the Neanderthals intermingled with Homo sapiens and gave up their “big brow” identities.

Charlottesville was an odious clash between progress and those willing to do violence for their identities of color, race, religion and nationality.  For what purpose?

Return to slavery?  Segregation?  Closed borders?  Travel bans?  Trade wars?  All these hobble progress and diminish economic activity.  The only modern hypothetical I can think of is a Walmart closing its doors to customers and allowing only its employees to do business within its walls.  Its “economy” would shrink and failure would loom quickly.

Historic examples include the many failed “utopian” experiments where groups of people walled themselves away from the of rest society, “drank the Kool-Aid” and otherwise spiraled into dysfunction and self-destruction.

Diversity, acceptance, inclusiveness, respect, open doors:  These are not just long-accepted American values, they are essential to American economic progress and prosperity.

Add smart investments in education, job growth and upward mobility, and the economy can soar—for the benefit of everyone.


Coming Soon:  Dragging the Anchors of Economic Inequality

Charlottesville: Shadows of Darkness

The eclipse came early.  The insanity abroad has been eclipsed by insanity at home.  White nationalists invaded Charlottesville this weekend and the country is bathed in darkness.

When the president attributed blame for Charlottesville to “many sides,” he demonstrated an alarming moral emptiness and intellectual vacuity.

We need presidential resolve and encouragement at such a moment of national crisis.

Much has been said about this overnight, including a retributory Tweet from the “Grand Wizard” himself, David Duke.  Among all the critiques, this one is perhaps the most gut wrenching.


Duke attacks the President for his ambiguity, for being an ingrate to the White Nationalists “taking back America” in Charlottesville, for his failure to take their side and for failing to condemn instead the counter-demonstrators who opposed their efforts to “preserve” White History, White Culture and White Identity.

And it was not just about color, these white boys flew and wore both Confederate and Nazi symbols, spewed anti-Semitism, pulled down rainbow flags and rejected every individual and collective quality of a diverse, pluralistic society.

This is White Darkness indeed.  It expects to be unleashed from “political correctness” and “in control” with the license and leadership of a bouffant-blond, Aryan-looking White President.

These defenders of White History are the “spiritual” and intellectual descendants of the white American immigrants who, among other things, robbed the indigenous peoples of their land, killed them off with guns and disease, stole Africans from their homes, pressed them into the holds of ships to be transported like animals from Africa, and precipitated the death of millions in a civil war fought over the abominable practice of slavery.  They evoke the Nazi crimes of World War II, defend the Holocaust and justify other nationalist horrors of the modern era.

Yes, Mr. President, please do look in your mirror.  These people voted for you, echoed your words this weekend and proudly wore your absurd MAGA hats while they hissed their hate and wreaked their havoc.  You have enabled them and by your example and, by your silence, you have left them unshackled.

I hope these White Americans represent just a small number of the white Americans who voted for you.  But every white American who did, should also look in the mirror, especially the mirror of history.