Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Memorial Day Ku Klux Klan Defacement Condemmed by Community

Many Americans celebrate Memorial Day as an uplifting break from the routine of work that both honors those who have given their lives in service to this nation and also heralds the arrival of summer.

In one of the latest examples of a sharp rise in hate-crime activity across the nation, Medford, Oregon residents Gary David Ross, 37 and Devan Grant Klauseggar, 28 decided to express their patriotic fervor by using some kind of propellant to burn the shape of a cross on the lawn of Sol and Jonathan Whyte's home, they also took the time to spell out the words "KKK" on the lawn and ignite it as well before fleeing the scene around 11pm with a third suspect. The Ku Klux Klan is a long way from the their nightmarish hey-day in the 1920's (Klan members pictured above in the infamous KKK march on Washington in 1926) when over 4 million members were registered in the United States and brutal lynchings of African-Americans were at their peak.

These ignorant fireworks enthusiasts selected the Whyte's because they are a mixed-race couple with two young children who are multi-racial as well.

Kudos to the South Oregon Mail Tribune's Anita Burke for reporting this story; Most of the mainstream network news broadcasts were typified by familiar images of picnics, scenes from the beach and picturesque small-town parades.

Both suspects were arrested and are being charged with a variety of offenses, but to me the most important part of this story is the overwhelming response of support by neighbors.

Strangers left flowers, gifts, and notes of support. Local high school students brought letters and gifts from the student body; a landscaper stopped by and offered to repair the lawn.

The Medford City Council voted to unanimously condemn the act in a resolution.

"By making members of specific groups fearful, angry and suspicious, hate crimes polarize communities and damage the very fabric of our society,"
the resolution said.

That's the real America, strangers and neighbors, politicians and police all coming together to douse the flames of ignorance and bigotry. That's the fabric of the culturegeist, love will always conquer fear and ignorance no matter what some may say or write.

In the community of Medford, Oregon we've seen a true celebration of Memorial Day; one that truly honors the spirit of what thousands of veterans died fighting for.

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