Jeffrey Gillespie: A season in hell
Last week in this column, the specter of the Brexit (the now infamous departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union) was portrayed as a remote possibility, supported only by a small percentage of right-wing loons and their cadre of loyal crypto-fascist supporters. The next day, when this column was published, it had become clear that this was no lunatic fringe; in fact, nearly 52 percent of Britons voted to depart the EU, and based on the response of other member states this week, that departure will come none to soon.
Over the course of the next few days, we have seen a major terrorist attack at the Istanbul airport, with a current body count of 42 dead and 239 people injured. In London, a right-wing fringe group, apparently emboldened by the success of the Brexit, sent out a message that it now views any and all Muslim public servants (which would include the current mayor of London, Sadiq Khan) as enemy combatants.
And, needless to say, the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, in Scotland to survey one of his new golf properties, applauded the Scots for "taking their country back," even though the Scottish people voted to stay in the EU by a majority of 62 percent. Facts and figures are clearly a deterrent to the dog-whistle politics that are fast becoming a hallmark of the contemporary power grab.
A particular brand of wackadoodle fundamentalism has exploded all over the world in the past weeks, and Ashland has not been immune. Local actor Christiana Clark was verbally assaulted by a bicycle riding racist in the railroad district on June 24 (the same day that Britons voted in a new age of xenophobic ignorance for their small island) in which her attacker told her that killing a black person was a crime for which he would only receive a day and a half in jail, and that the Klu Klux Klan was "alive and well" in Southern Oregon. Her social media comment on that incident has surpassed 182,617 views as of this writing, but Wednesday, another OSF actor, Mica Cole Kamenski, was apparently verbally assaulted on the bricks at OSF by a man who may be the same one who went after Clark. He told her, point blank, that he was going to kill her. Kamenski said police did nothing substantial to detain the man, citing him as mentally ill. Well, so were Dylann Roof, Adam Lanza and James Holmes.
Why are bigots and racists getting a free pass? It's not just the fact that we're in an election year. It has much to do with the squeeze of globalization, as well as trickle-up economics, bringing pressure to bear on millions of people worldwide. The saner among us march for equal rights. The insane blame immigrants, LBTQ people, politicians who don't share their views and, apparently, black female actors who just happen to be within shouting distance.
Why is every assault of this kind not treated with the seriousness it deserves? Why is local law enforcement not taking sharper action when incidents of this sort occur? Are they waiting for mentally unhinged racists to escalate the situation before they make their move? There is too much evidence, lately, of what that sort of escalation looks like, for a passive response from those who have sworn to protect and serve the citizenry of our town.
As tempers flare and opinions become more and more polarized, it is important to find more solutions to a burgeoning problem than to face hate with love. While that is a noble sentiment, it is not enough to stop the rise of a new brand of despotism rearing its head, globally as well as on Main Street. Whether you're an American politico, a British MP or an Ashland cop, new tools must be developed to vanquish such perversions. The current systems aren't working.
Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.