Not Just Ignorant and Annoying

Photo by Sasith Mawananehewa on

I posted a blog yesterday about an ill fated camping trip and the humor that I used to describe my terror inside a tent on a particularly stormy night. Once I thought about that experience from the perspective of time I began to reconsider yet another blog that I had composed at that time as well. It too was meant to be humorous, but now I wonder if there was anything to laugh about with the topic. 

I wrote about an event that occurred before the storm, when all seemed bright and beautiful about the camping trip. It happened one night when we were settling down for a comfortable sleep. Out of nowhere came a group of young people on motorcycles with their engines roaring, making no attempt to enter the quiet of the after hours silence with as little noise as possible.

They were chatting loudly and constantly as they set up their tents with loud bangs and clinks. One would have thought that it was the middle of the day instead of a time nearing midnight when most of the folks were slumbering. I peeked from inside my own abode to see who was making such a commotion and saw that it was two young men and a woman who seemed to be clueless that they were waking up people all around. I don’t think that they could have possibly sounded louder if they had tried. 

Once their tents were finally hoisted and they had climbed inside the raucous exchange of comments continued with one among them laughing like a crazed hyena at every word that was shouted from one tent to the other. The chorus went on and on and on for hours but I dared not make a fuss in the dark. I had no idea who these people were nor what their state of minds they may have been. Besides now and again their crude language, racist remarks and jokes warned me to keep a wide berth from them. I just quietly hoped that they would decamp and be gone in the morrow as I lay awake until they finally ended their little fascist convention in the wee hours of the morning. 

When I awoke they were still sleeping which was fine with me because I had no desire to interact with them. I noticed that they had erected a strange looking flag that caught my attention so much that I went online to see what it possibly represented. I was stunned to learn that it was a modern rendition of the old Nazi flag. It certainly explained the crude comments that its owners had made the night before as they regaled the entire campground. 

A nice minority family that we had previously met was furtively packing their car and quite obviously hoping to leave as quickly as possible. I was surprised because they had indicated that they were planning to stay much longer. I nodded in their directions as they hurried to get away and noticed that they seemed somehow worried. I suspected that they did not want to spend another sleepless nigh like I had done. It did not occur to me until later that they may not have wanted to have to greet the people who had made such crude remarks about people like them. Perhaps the new Nazi flag frightened them as well. Whatever was the case they seemed to be in a panicked hurry. 

I wrote about that incident much as I had written about surviving a big storm inside my tent. I used humor to describe my uncouth and ignorant neighbors. At the time I simply thought of their behavior as an unfortunate anomaly and little more. They were more funny to me than scary. 

Time has changed my view of that brief encounter. I have witnessed the rise of neo-Nazis and fascist ideologies in our American society as well as other parts of the world. I have become more and more disturbed by their brazen fascism and the public’s willingness to accept them as harmless fools much as I did on that camping trip. I cannot help but wonder if the nice family that rushed from the campground felt threatened by the obnoxious campers who arrived in the night. I have been asking myself if the looks that I saw in their eyes resulted from other interactions with such people in the past. Did they feel that they were somehow in danger or did they simply want to shelter their children from the hideous remarks that the self proclaimed neo-Nazis had made during the night. Either way, thinking of that moment and putting it into context with both the past and the present gives me the chills. 

I have been deciding of late that these kind of people are no joke. While their numbers are still rather small, I am reminded that so were the original followers of Adolf Hitler. Inattention and silence set the stage for the horrors that happened in Germany during that dreadful era. Can we be certain that such things will not arise again when we witness a growing boldness in attacking minorities based on race, nationality, sexual preference, religious beliefs and the like? How can we not be complicit with their rants when we look the other way and just laugh as I did? Assuming that such people are harmless and silly is not the right response. History has proven that we must take their proclamations seriously and make certain that they are unable to follow through with their threats. 

We’ve been far too permissive when it comes to calling out those who would call for racial purity or who would deny the rights of those who are different from themselves. It is a slippery slope that becomes more and more dangerous the longer we allow such poison to seep into our politics and beliefs. When I remember the fear on the faces of the family who left the campground so quickly I see clearly that neo-Nazis are no laughing matter. We must be aware of what they hope to accomplish and put barriers to that in their way. They are not just ignorant and annoying. They are a threat to our democracy. 


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