Sunday, June 7, 2009

Terror in the USA

Terrorism in the US is nothing new. Most people know of lynchings of African-Americans in the South, various anti-Semitic incidences, the increase in actions against Muslims (or anyone who appears arabic) residing in the US since 9/11, the actions taken against Pagans and homosexuals who are not in the closet . . . the list goes on and on. To paraphrase a recent popular film, - you can Google them. For some reason there are some people who simply cannot abide living in the same town, state, country, planet and probably galaxy, if they could impose their will that far, with people who do will not squish themselves into the same sardine can of attitudes and beliefs that they have chosen to live in.

The picture above is not of some random event that I happened to choose to illustrate my point, it is, or rather was, my former home in central IL. We fled from Illiopolis, pop. 1100, in 2003 after many cases of harassment, vandalism and physical assault. We had heard the house had been burned down but this picture, which was posted as a taunt to a forum my husband monitors this past week, was the first confirmation of the rumors that we have had. To the best of our knowledge the house was unoccupied at the time so the situation wasn't as tragic as it could have been, baruch Hashem, but it still was a very nice house - a stone walled, 4 bedroom victorian; among the most valuable in the village. Having paid the price of being terrorized, it would have been nice to at least get the insurance money out of the place but the arsonist was working with old info and we had sold it previously at auction, getting less than 1/4 of it's value, since we couldn't live there, couldn't defend or maintain it and couldn't continue to take the financial bleeding that the petty vandalism was costing us.

Since the chief of police, head of a 2 man dept and currently a guest of the governor of IL (read prisoner (for other reasons)), was a bigot and involved with some of those who objected to our presence, we got no protection from that direction and county, state and federal law enforcement agencies deemed it 'not their jurisdiction'. The ADL was useless as all they were willing to do was come and do sensitivity training with the local police dept. and we couldn't get anyone else to take an interest as we were not an institution, didn't have clout, and since reports of the incidences weren't being filed there wasn't much 'evidence' of what we were going through. I guess scars, damaged property and testimonies didn't count as evidence. It is ironic that some of the most valuable help we got was from a Klansman working at a home construction place where we bought 2" aluminum poles for a fence around the lot and when he heard why we were getting them, loaded up steel ones instead. How he squared that with the store I ask not. At the very end, after we had given up on living there and were trying to pack up the place, an employee of one of the local TV stations joined the synagogue and was able to arrange for a news segment on the situation which bought us some breathing room.

Breathing room meant that we didn't have to be afraid of the police showing up at the house to harass us while we were trying to pack and the vandalism and the drive-by epiphets dropped off a bit but we were by no means safe. My husband was arrested at one point when he ran into the police chief and wouldn't tell him where we were moving to. My mother was arrested for keeping her distance but observing a cop who resented her presence; he had been lying in wait for our moving truck (the DMV had screwed up and given us the wrong plates), expecting my husband to be driving and was really pissed that the man behind the wheel was my father and that my husband had managed to get in the house before being accosted. We would be followed by the cops driving in or out of town when they were on duty so we would make a point of trying to get our packing done for the day and get out before 4 pm when they came on duty. When we did sleep in the house during our packing trips (even cheap motels get expensive) we would sleep on the floor so it looked like nobody was there. Every other Friday we would show up to Shabbat services literally looking like refugees - the pickup and trailer packed to the gills and not necessarily the most orderly; we would spend 2 wks packing in IL and drive the 12 hrs to MI to spend 2 wks improving the habitability of this place and making sure Dad was ok and would be while we were gone during the next packing trip.

I will never feel safe again if that safety is dependant on the protection and good behavior of others. I feel a certain kinship with other victims of harassment and those who have had to flee their homes knowing how lucky we are that we weren't literally burned out (unlike another family we ran into) and that we had the resources to be able to leave and land relatively on our feet despite the whole fiasco damaging the family's financial prosperity. The housing accomadations are definately less than what we left but at least it's a roof over our head and 58 acres that is ours, free and clear, and there are almost more bears than people up here, almost. :) There is also so intense a feeling of Nature that one could drown or rather, find the Divine, in it.

So what was it that kindled the spark that led to fire that burned the house down? Believe it or not, this started over a battle over morse code testing for amateur radio licenses more than a decade ago. One of the pro-coders tried to blackmail my husband, one of the major players in the no-code movement, into getting out of the debate with the fact that he had stated in some obscure corner of the internet that he is bi-sexual and my husband didn't submit to the blackmail. He expected a temporary bruhaha that would settle down - wrong. Since that didn't work, the pro-coders, some of whom are very closed minded, located and were able to influence people more local. People who knew that my husband is a Kabbalist and neo-pagan and Jewish and found one, or all, of these things objectionable. Then there were those that found it strange that a single guy would live with and take care of his invalid father and, fueled by the provacateurs, let their imaginations go wild. When myself and a friend of mine, whom I was taking care of, moved in and were obviously Jewish (the kippah kind of gave it away) in a very conservative, Christian town and 9/11 happened scaring people and making it more acceptable to express prejudice the gloves basically came off and things got progressively worse.

Maybe it was the fact there was enough inhibitions still in people that they weren't willing to take more violent action sooner, maybe it was the Holy One being merciful and giving us only what we could handle, maybe it was the effect of the protective spellwork that my husband did but in the end it doesn't matter - we escaped and we're alive although we were financially wounded and lost many of our possessions. There are times I curse living out here in the middle of nowhere with less finances than I'd like as I would love to apply my legal training or assist in some other way the Pagan rights movement. Somehow just standing up and correcting people when they spout prejudice doesn't seem like enough although doing it takes plenty of courage in and of itself. I am afraid that our society is becoming less civilized and less tolerant the more insecure we get and that there will be many more cases of terror directed towards those who are 'different' and I cannot just stand by.

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