Don't Hate, Appreciate
The 80 pounds of gunpowder, nearly two dozen rifles and handguns, firearms in various stages of assembly, and small boatload of ammunition that Baltimore police detectives seized from his house weren't signs of a domestic terrorist act-in-waiting; nor were the leaflets for the West Virginia-based white supremacist group the National Alliance, which Wheeler reportedly handed out to cops during the raid on his home, any cause for alarm.
Why not? First of all, Wheeler told reporters, he's a "half-bred Indian" who couldn't, then, double as a white supremacist. Secondly, the man revealed that he's just "one of those wacko conspiracy freaks" who takes his Constitutional right to bear arms more seriously than most people. In a courtroom, prior to his release, Wheeler denied having strong ties to any racial hate groups--so that defense-fund trumpet that sounded on Wheeler's behalf on the National Alliance's Web site, with its sponsored link to www. freeartiewheeler. com, must have been a misunderstanding, too.
Shocked and outraged, members of the Alliance wanted its good citizens to know how things in Baltimore had run amok, with "a home invasion by some 60 armed thugs who used axes to destroy the front door of [Wheeler's house]. These ruffians proceeded to handcuff the 72 year old Mrs. Wheeler to her bed (sexual harassment?) and ransack her home for seven hours." The chilling scene, they said, is what happens to outspoken heroes with high ideals. "Artie Wheeler is a White Patriot. He is a vocal believer in White rights, ending illegal immigration and putting the needs of White people first. . . . Support your racial brother and comrade!"
I've no clue as to how much money the Alliance raised for Wheeler, and could care less about the man's supposed racial makeup (most heritage-proud Indians, half-bred or otherwise, call themselves "Native Americans" or "First Peoples") or his outlook on race. Troubling, though, is the idea that, at least in terms of newsworthiness, the Wheeler incident has been treated largely as a judicial matter where civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution were perhaps wrongly challenged.
Bull. Legal or not, Wheeler's stockpiled arsenal was downright scary--not just because it seems an overtly racist pastime or an entrepreneurial endeavor (Wheeler's purportedly a gunsmith), but because Wheeler's case tangibly demonstrates how pockets of American culture remain ideologically twisted, despite horrific events like Sept. 11 or the Washington sniper shootings, which caused just about everyone to recognize a human bond, common security risks, and mutual tasks of healing and protection.
Scarier still is the idea that such "pockets" of racial supremacists (who, for the record, aren't all white) are thriving. Tracking hate crimes and hate-group activities around the nation, the Southern Poverty Law Center has a Web site (www. tolerance. org) that regularly reports race crimes and other acts of intolerance--the sad fact being that such acts regularly can and do occur.
On Oct. 27, for instance, just as Wheeler's ordeal was coming to a plea-bargained and probationary end, a Tolerance.org reporter wrote about a supremacist group called Stormfront sprinkling neighborhood lawns in suburban Montgomery, Ala., with fliers that warned, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," because "America is slowly turning into a Third World Slum."
Such disturbing acts don't stop with fliers or, closer to home, weapons possession. They include murder plots, like the one allegedly hatched earlier this year by Matt Hale, a law school graduate in Illinois who is "Supreme Leader" of the World Church of the Creator, which, among other things, espouses the belief that Jews created Christianity to undermine whites. Angry when a female judge, citing a trademark infringement, issued an injunction to relinquish his church's name, U.S. attorneys discovered that Hale had allegedly hired an assassin to take the judge out. (Hale's trial is scheduled to start this week in Illinois).
To think that similarly virulent strains of racism aren't floating around Charm City would be pure folly--though folks around here have been too busy lately fighting over proposed colors for the Howard Street bridge to bother with hate crimes. So with Wheeler cooling his ammo jets for a while, and with ethnically diverse folk outnumbering and, uh, proverbially outgunning wacko conspirators, we'll cling to peace and be still.
Here's Looking at You (5/19/2004)
...I've gradually discovered that my heart's got issues when it comes to whatever place I call home.
Sappy Anniversary (5/12/2004)
Suburban flight isn't the only reason many schools have resegregated almost organically, especially in cities, like Baltimore, with vast "minority" populations.
Efforts to snuggle closer to the Big Dawg seem more doable--not to mention, if heaven awaits, more worthwhile.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201