Is it Love, or Hate, that Lives Here?

Whitefish City Council Meeting

Whitefish City Council Meeting

I recently read the Whitefish Pilot’s story, “Whitefish rallies for ‘no hate’ ordinance.“According to the story, 100 people, led by a group known as “Love Lives Here,” packed into Whitefish’s small town city council chambers demanding our local government pass an ordinance prohibiting Richard Spencer and the National Policy Institute (NPI)  he represents from  doing business or having offices in Whitefish.  It appears Richard Spencer  and NPI hold views many believe promote hate.  Because I  never heard of NPI, and the Whitefish Pilot  didn’t mention any specific acts of hatred perpetrated by them, I spent some time perusing  primary source material  I found on the internet in the hopes of learning more about them.  In my incomplete research I discovered this group to be no more or less troubling than the plethora of other culture-centric organizations that flourish in America. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume the worst of Richard Spencer and the NPI and suggest they are looking to create a separatist white society. Is it against the law to hold or express such views? Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was once a member of the National Council of La Raza, and the man who married President and Mrs. Obama preaches black liberation theologywould we respond to news of them moving to Whitefish with fear and loathing?

I am troubled by the intensity of Love Lives Here’s actions.  In fact, I might even say I am alarmed and unsettled by it. The mob rule reaction to Richard Spencer’s mere existence in Whitefish reminds me of the old Frankenstein movies where the townspeople gathered with pitchforks and torches to round up and kill Frankenstein  without due process. This is not a healthy community response. I am ashamed of the behavior of learned men and women who know better, but seemed to have forgotten we are a community ruled by law, not outrage.frankenstein-mob

We have a moral dilemma on our hands. On the one hand, we have a fellow citizen who has broken no law or harmed anyone; however, he holds a worldview a majority of us find offensive. On the other hand, we are a citizenry who theoretically respects the rights of others to freely express opinions-so long as they don’t harm others.

When faced with moral dilemmas, it is often helpful to look into our moralist tool bag for assistance.  When I reach in mine, I find  Immanuel Kant’s  Categorical Imperative:

“Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should be a universal law.”

By using Kant’s Categorical Imperative, we can universalize the actions of Love Lives Here to see if they are morally acceptable.  Do we want to use the authority of municipal government to prevent others (like Susan Cahill, the abortion practitioner,  or the Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association, which attempts to shut down Christmas concerts and remove the Jesus Statue from Whitefish) from residing and earning a living in our community?  If it is appropriate to demand city council action to prevent Richard Spencer from living and working here because we find his worldview offensive, then it should be appropriate to use municipal government to ostracize ANYONE the majority finds offensive. When I use Kant’s Categorical Imperative and universalize Love Lives Here’s behavior, I find the medicine more distasteful than the ailment.

My understanding of tolerance is we are to allow others to hold and express ideas and opinions, even when a majority of citizens dislike them. This means we can disagree with our neighbor if he is a Republican, argue with our Kiwanis buddies over the danger and necessities of labor unions, or even get in heated discussions with our church friends over the topic of traditional marriage.  But, at the end of the day, we are to allow others to coexist with us even when they hold  diverse and opposing views. Under no circumstances are we to  prevent  citizens who do no harm to our bodies or property  from living and working in our community.

We don’t have to like what Richard Spencer believes, but he is  an American citizen created in the image of God.  His civil rights are every bit as valid as those who proudly belong to Love Lives Here. Rather than shun Richard Spencer, we would do well to debate him, to probe his intellect, and attempt to find the genesis and authority of his positions. From what was reported of both parties in the recent article, Richard Spencer appeared to present himself more thoughtfully, and his positions more articulately, than the aroused  horde attempting to run him out of town.

In  Alexis de Tocqueville’s  Democracy In America, Volume I, Chapter 15,  Tocqueville speaks of the irony of America’s free speech tradition:

        In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them. Not that he is in danger of an auto-da-fe, but he is exposed to continued obloquy and persecution. His political career is closed forever, since he has offended the only authority that is able to open it. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused to him. Before making public his opinions he thought he had sympathizers; now it seems to him that he has none any more since he has revealed himself to everyone; then those who blame him criticize loudly and those who think as he does keep quiet and move away without courage. He yields at length, overcome by the daily effort which he has to make, and subsides into silence, as if he felt remorse for having spoken the truth.”

Tocqueville observes that although the law protects every American’s right to freely express themselves, woe to the citizen who attempts to present a minority viewpoint.  While the Constitution may guard the citizen from persecution, the presenter of an idea outside a community’s preference should keep his silence lest he suffer the condemnation of his neighbors, the abandonment by his customers, and the disparagement of his good name.   As a resident of Whitefish, I am ashamed that Tocqueville’s observation of America, as presented by Love Lives Here and its supporters at the Whitefish City Council meeting, was accurate.mlk

I encourage the membership of Love Lives Here and  those who support them, as well as our city council members who seemed to have lost themselves in the moment,  to reflect on Martin Luther King’s six steps of nonviolent social change. We would do well to gather our facts before picking up our pitchforks and torches. Prior to engaging, we should go through a process of self purification to ensure our own hatred, prejudices, and biases don’t filter into our direct actions. Finally,  we should always strive for reconciliation as our final outcome.

Although I don’t question their intentions, Love Lives Here and those supporting their efforts to ostracize Richard Spencer handled this situation incorrectly. In Whitefish we don’t condemn first and ask questions later. We are a better community than this. By treating Richard Spencer and his organization with the same rights all citizens enjoy, we can ensure spectators from outside of Whitefish will know that love, not hate, lives here.

12 thoughts on “Is it Love, or Hate, that Lives Here?

  1. Gosh Joe, after looking at Patriot Action Network’s postings on Facebook, I’d say you and your friends certainly are experts on hate.
    I don’t recall seeing so many hateful and vile postings in one place in a long time. No wonder you like Spencer.
    Even though he is all dressed up in a tailored suit, and is “articulate” as you say, Spencer is no different than the guy who hid in the bushes outside Medgar Evers house in June 1963.
    Pitchforks are pitchforks no matter if people you don’t like are holding them, or you and your “patriot” right-wing friends are holding them.

    • Monte, You will have to remind me of what I posted on PATRIOT ACTION NETWORK which could be described by anyone as hateful. Secondly, you will have to point out in my recent post where I stated I like Spencer. Finally, I am interested in any evidence you might have that suggests Richard Spencer murdered someone as part of a hate crime.
      Your comments are red herring attempts to steer readers away from the main point: all Americans have a right to express their viewpoints, and it is wrong to use government force to prevent minority viewpoints from being expressed.

      • Joe, My dear mother , who is now passed, God rest her soul, used to say that if you lie down with dogs, you’re gonna get fleas. I did not see anything on Patriot Action Network’s Facebook page that you personally posted , but I did find many things that others have posted that I would certainly call hateful, including a statement from one, Toni Anna Dicario, in which she stated, “If you impeach Obama, I’ll bring the rope”, a clear reference to a dark time in America’s past. Also a quote from NRA darling Ted Nugent, in which he refers to President Obama as “a sub-human mongrel”. And on Spencer’s blog, you must read his musings on Martin Luther King day to really understand the depth of this man’s hatred. He even calls out Glenn Beck for admiring Dr. King.
        I am not suggesting that Spencer “murdered someone as part of a hate crime” rather I am making a comment about the mindset of this man and the influence people like him have on society and it’s less stable members. I am reminded of the Right To Life bloggers who coyly posited that they didn’t advocate the murder of Dr. Tiller, but it would sure be a good idea if somebody stopped him.
        As far as bemoaning the possibility that Spencer will “suffer the condemnation of his neighbors, the abandonment by his customers, and the disparagement of his good name”, isn’t that how the free market works? Don’t people vote with their voices and their purses?
        Let’s be clear, people like Spencer and other “white European heritage” advocates, (sounds so much better than White Supremacists) like this part of the country because we have so few black people here.
        Your final comment in the piece relating to ” spectators from outside Whitefish” and your concern about what they will think of us is exactly why LLH is important.

  2. I have had this exact debate recently. I’m asking America: When did freedom of speech become “say what you want as long as you say things I think you should”? When did tolerance and acceptance become “tolerant and accepting of only what I think should be tolerated and accepted”? When did religious freedom become “free to participate in any religion except Christianity”? When did racism become ok as long as you are racisist against the white European heritage? When did any culture except traditional American culture become important? When did it become ok to come to this country because if it’s opportunities and freedoms and then be offended by everything American including white Christianity? When did equality become “preferred treatment of minority”? Think about it people. It’s not surprising groups like this are still around and very active. The hate spewed at them from all the facets I mentioned above only reinforces what you’re spewing hate at. You don’t embrace them (him) because they’re different? You don’t love them because they don’t believe as you do? You don’t think they have equal right to live and practice business in your community because you don’t like what they believe? Shame on you!

  3. Monte, In argumentation, one of the 3 principles of critical thinking is relevence. In your latest comment you violate this principle. The main point of my blog was to argue that all citizens have a right to 1st Amendment protections; and, that it is wrong to use government force to prevent minority viewpoints from being expressed. In spite of my spelling out the main point for you in my first reply, you continue to avoid it, and instead attempt to “poison the well” with your red herring remarks about people neither of us even know. By linking my character and viewpoints to things other people have said, you are trying to cast dispersions on my credibility. As Aristotle taught us, “pathos” and “ethos” are effective rhetorical tools for persuading the unenlightened, but as his mentor Plato taught us, appeals to emotion or attacks on character hardly lead us towards truth. To arrive at truth we must use reason. Your fallacious attempts to link me without evidence to ideologies I don’t promote is irrelevant.
    When we universalize LLH’s excessive use of democracy to override the rule of law, it becomes self evident we don’t want a majority mob stifling minority viewpoints. My goal is to arrive at truth, not victory. If you have evidence that NPI’s messages are more inflammatory, more hate-filled, and more odious than remarks promulgated by the Montana Human Rights Network or the Southern Poverty Law Center, please share them with us. If you can’t produce evidence that indicts Richard Spencer or NPI, then please refrain from commenting, as your present style of argumentation merely distracts the conversation away from the main point and makes it difficult to arrive at truth.

  4. Joe, Thanks for taking to time to respond to me yet again. Of course I agree with your assertion that all citizens are entitled to 1st Amendment protections, and I think that if the ACLU gets involved in this, they will see it that way as well.
    My feeling is that the actions of LLH will result in a statement or proclamation rather than anything with real legal teeth, since anything more would be indefensible in a court of law.
    As far as me casting “dispersions”, I think you meant aspersions, on your character by linking you to comments by other people on Patriot Action Network, all I can say is that we are known by the company we keep and that if I were associated with a group whose members routinely spout hate-filled and even treasonous statements, I would think seriously about distancing myself from them.
    Returning to your original piece, I find your referencing of Justice Sotomayor’s past membership in the National Council of La Raza to be a bit of a false eqivalency. In view of the history of the mis-treatment of non-white people by the white majority in this country, a condition that still exists and is due to get worse since the repeal of section 4 of the voting rights act of 1965, do you really think the comparison is valid?
    I don’t remember hearing of a single incident in which a white person was lynched by a latino for whistling at a latina. Nor have I heard of white people being prevented from voting by latino politicians, have you?
    Finally, I just have to ask if you would be ok with a statue of Mohammed next to the statue of Jesus on Big Mountain?
    This will be my last post as writing takes a lot of effort on my part and I just don’t have the time, and besides, my herring are the wrong color.

    • Monte, Thank you for correcting my use of the word “dispersion.” I also appreciate you agreeing to the importance of protecting 1st Amendment rights for all citizens.

      If we are known by the company we keep, then you may want to distance yourself from the Montana Human Rights Network. Their inflammatory language and hate-filled rants against pro-life groups, conservatives, and NRA members identify them as a scary organization sympathetic to the use of Ferguson-like democracy to achieve their goals. From what the MHRN puts on their own website to disparage those with whom they disagree, you may want to reconsider your affiliation.

      I don’t think my reference to La Raza is a false equivalence. La Raza is a culture-centric movement whose purpose is to advocate for Hispanics exclusively. Whether Hispanics have suffered at the hands of excessive democracy in the past is not relevant to the analogy I was illuminating. If we are going to label NPI a “hate” group for advocating for culture-centric reforms, then it is only fair Love Lives Here label La Raza the same. If you can find primary source material provided by NPI that demonstrates their rhetoric is more inflammatory than La Raza’s, I will accept your charge of false equivalence.

      To your final point. I don’t have a problem with a statue of Mohammed; however, I suspect putting a statue of him up next to Jesus would result in Muslm outrage. There are sects of Islam that find depictions of Mohammed offensive; therefore, Love Lives Here may want to refrain from putting a statue of Mohammed in Whitefish if a positive community image is important to you.

      I bid you farewell. It is disappointing you are leaving the discussion just at the point where you chose to replace emotional appeals and character attacks with logic in your rhetoric. Should you find time to reason again, void of demagoguery and fallacies, I would enjoy further discourse.

  5. Hello again Joe,
    Just a couple more points to set the record straight. I am not now nor have I ever been connected to the NHRN, although I may be in the future.
    Also, I did a quick survey of La Raza’s web sight and and didn’t find anything hateful, but as I say, it was quick.
    I did the same with NPI and didn’t find anything overtly hateful either, which is the brilliance of Spencer’s approach. He presents his arguments in such a clear-eyed and logical manner that you come away thinking, “huh, this segregated separate but equal thing really makes sense”.
    Please read his piece “The God of White Dispossession” about MLK and you get a taste of his style.
    By the way, I am a lifelong gunsmith and antique gun dealer and restorer and have been doing this work full time since 1971 when I turned 18, making me 61 now. I travel 8 to 10 times a year to gun shows from Tulsa to Las Vegas to Denver. I try not to engage in any political discussion because my business would suffer. I see many things at gun shows that I find offensive including, but not limited to, tee shirts portraying Obama as a monkey, a bear trap for sale fully set with a watermelon as bait, en- titled “Obama Trap”, a poster with Obama hanging by the neck from a tree, a silhouette target of Obama in profile running, and on and on.
    I have watched the NRA transform from a firearms safety and education organization into a political organization that is an extension of The Tea Party. I support closing the Gun Show Loophole because I see guns being sold at gun shows to people who should not have them.

  6. Monte, I am speaking in defense of 1st Amendment protections, not Richard Spencer or the organization he represents. I am also not attacking La Raza, I was merely pointing out both La Raza and NPI are culture-ecentric institutions. By your own admission, you found nothing on NPI’s site that you could use as evidence for taking away their 1st Amendment rights.
    Until Love Lives Here provided free publicity for Richard Spencer, I had never heard of him. At your request, I read Spencer’s blog: “The God of White Disspossession. ” You will have to direct me to those passages that are so dangerous that Spencer’s 1st Amendment rights must be suspended by city ordinance, but MHRN’s 1st Amendment rights must be secured.
    It doesn’t follow that you see T-shirts at gun shows bearing racial epithets towards President Obama; therefore, Whitefish should ostracize Richard Spencer from living and working in Whitefish. While I often see T-shirts, bumper stickers, movies, and Facebook posts I find offensive, I am not prepared to use government to outlaw them in Whitefish.
    Changing the subject towards your last point about the Gun Show Loophole, let’s say it is implemented. If it came to pass that closing the loophole disproportionately made gun puchases more difficult for minorities than whites, what would be your position?

    • Hi Joe,
      Sorry I wasn’t more clear about my last post. I wasn’t arguing anymore, just making observations about spencer and his methods. I did not mean to imply his blog contained anything that would justify any legal action of any kind. He is far too sly, and that is my point.
      My comments relating to gun shows were only to point out my personal experience, I was not attempting to relate it to what is going on in Whitefish in any way.
      Also, closing the gun show loophole would make my life much more complicated, since I don’t have an FFL or a curio and relics license, but I am willing to accept that for the good of the country. The ethnicity of the buyer would make no difference to me. People who are not qualified should not own guns period.
      One last question, you keep referring to “excessive democracy” or Ferguson style democracy. What do those terms mean?

  7. Monte, Excessive democracy is when mob rule overtakes the rule of law. For example, when a community catches someone stealing a horse, and 51% of the community votes in favor of hanging him (even though the law states the penalty for horse theft is no greater than 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine) and the sheriff is so intimidated by the emotion of the community he provides the gallows, that is excessive democracy.

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