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A few weeks ago, as autumn faded and the frigid weather of a Maine winter crept ever closer, I returned to the suburbs of the American city where I was born and raised. I left Baltimore in 1971 and, except for brief trips back to visit my family, lived and worked in areas of America, the Middle East, and Europe where the beast survives and thrives, yet has never attained the cold fury of hate residing in the hearts and minds of white, racist suburban Baltimore.
I am inside the belly of the beast.
It has been a gut-retching experience. In addition to numerous slurs against Jews, and constant references about coons and niggers that I remember from my early years living in the suburbs that surround Charm City like a noose, I now also listen to comments about evil sand monkeys planning to take over the world. The racist, bigoted anti-Semites living outside Baltimore have not changed; they have just added a new target of hate, placing a bull’s eye on Muslims.
I have been swallowed up inside the mouth of the beast, a maw filled with razor-sharp teeth. But, since my own mouth remains shut, I feel only the gnawing at my soul. I remain mute, and I remain safe. If I speak out, I would be the enemy, another target of hate waiting to be devoured. If I don’t bite, neither will the beast. I am white, male, and American. I am accepted; my silence savory enough to be gulped down into the belly of the beast.
From my location deep inside the beast, I cannot find the mind, so I listen to its heartbeat.
* * *
“How many blacks are in your school?” asked Randy. He was speaking to his nine-year old daughter. The girl thought for a moment, chin buried in her chest. She had long blond hair, and a racist father.
“Three, or four, maybe”, said the daughter.
Randy frowned. “Three, or four, maybe” was three or four too many “blacks” to be palatable to a daddy desiring to segregate his child from the horrors of “race-mingling”. Randy is a hard-working man, a loving husband, and a resident inside the beast. He used the word ëblacks’, instead of his usual term ëniggers’, to avoid the problem of a fourth-grader repeating what she hears when attending school. Randy is a concerned father.
“I want to move to where there are no niggers”, said Randy, forgetting for a moment his caution concerning tender ears. “And I want my daughter to speak with a twang.”
Randy wanted to move to the American South. He believed he could find an oasis in a southern state, a place where he could raise his little girl to be free and white. When informed that there are more blacks in the South then currently living in the suburbs of Baltimore, Randy’s face clouded over.
“Yeah, well, I’ll figure that out,” said Randy, gnashing his teeth, perhaps pondering the dual difficulties of both race- and twang-mingling.
* * *
Randy wants to ethnically-cleanse his family, moving south from the suburban bellies of the beast choking Baltimore, to a fanciful asshole of America. Randy wants to segregate white from black.
Matt, though, wants to “eradicate” the entire Muslim world. Ethnic cleansing is not dirty enough for Matt; he wants to use all the power of America’s arsenal to destroy every living vestige of Islam from the face of the earth.
“We should just nuke them all,” said Matt.
A former Catholic, Matt now embraces evangelical Christianity. He can quote chapter and verse from the Bible, but has difficulty with the meaning of the message when a sentence includes the word ëlove’. The teachings of Jesus are the Gospel, according to Matt, and they do not include loving a neighbor who might share a God, but should not share life on Earth. (651)
“Muslims want to destroy America,” said Matt. “They are nothing but evil. We need to get rid of them. We have to kill them all”
Matt was a collegiate wrestler, and is currently employed by the state of Maryland. He has never encountered a Muslim terrorist, and lives in an area quite safe and secure from any potential terrorist attack. However, he grapples daily with fear. Matt is a Republican, educated, a staunch supporter of President Bush, a Christian, and a hater of beastly proportions.
* * *
During the previous decade, I spent years reporting on the wars in the Balkans. I observed the damage caused by hatred, guns, ignorance, and a broken society. The former Yugoslavia is filled with men like Randy and Matt. They hated, they cleansed, and they killed other men, many women, and thousands and thousands of innocent children. Yet, although genocide might have been contemplated, none of the ethnic communities were able to “kill them all”.
I am in the belly of the beast, and I’m listening to the heartbeat of Americans who are contemplating genocide, as did the Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Muslims living in the Balkans during the 1990’s. The Americans, though, have an arsenal of weapons, and a clique of leaders, capable of killing them all.
“We should just nuke them all,” said Matt.
It is cold in the suburbs of Baltimore.
JAMES T. PHILLIPS can be reached at: email@example.com