The Kingfish|and the Swine

     This story has some bad words in it, and ethnic insults, so if you don’t like them better not read it.
     It’s a true story about the Ku Klux Klan and Huey Long, told by a guy who saw it. The issues are still around.
     My great-grandfather, Rafe Kahn, ran the general store in Shreveport back in the late 1800s.
     My grandfather told me that back then you could tell when the Klan was going to ride, because on Monday or Tuesday, Huey Long would come into my great-grandfather’s store and order a barrel of whiskey and a barrel of cigars.
     That weekend, after the Klan rode, they would drink the whiskey and smoke the cigars.
     When Huey Long came into my great-grandfather’s store he would greet my great-grandfather by saying, “Hello, you kike bastard.”
     And my great-grandfather would reply, “Hello, you Irish son of a bitch.”
     “You see, Robert,” my grandfather told me, “Southerners speak two languages, English and obscene. You have to cuss out your friends when you see them, or they think you’re mad at them.”
     By this time I would be laughing. “It’s true,” he said. “I’m serious.” And he would laugh too.
     Strange as it seems to say it, I believe the state of public discourse in our country today is worse than it was back in the days when Huey Long was buying whiskey for the Ku Klux Klan.
     When Huey Long called my great-grandfather a kike bastard, and Rafe Kahn called the Kingfish an Irish son of a bitch, they didn’t mean any harm by it.
     I’m serious.
     Lenny Bruce was right. The words don’t hurt; it’s the repressed, vicious sentiments behind the words.
     Rafe and Huey didn’t foster any repressed, vicious sentiments toward one another. They were friends. So the words didn’t hurt.
     Obviously, U.S. society is better off today because the Klan doesn’t ride, openly, and U.S. politicians don’t buy them whiskey and cigars, openly. But the state of our public discourse is far worse today, and the poison is spread by people with far more influence than a Jewish store owner and an up-and coming Louisiana politician.
     As a rule, I refrain from naming the racist hate-mongers who rule the public airwaves. Above all, they rule Fox TV, and they rule the right wing of the Republican Party, which means at times they rule in Congress.
     I usually refrain from naming them because aside from counting their money, I believe these men – most of them are men – get their kicks from seeing how many hits they get when they Google themselves. And I don’t want to add to that number.
     These men – and a few women – don’t use the ugly words Huey Long and my great-grandfather did. But they spew worse venom. They inculcate racism, hatred and violence; they increase the amount of hatred and violence in the world.
     They do it without the frank words Huey Long and Rafe Kahn used.
     They do it by appealing to the viciousness and repression that did not exist in Rafe Kahn’s general store, but that is omnipresent today on television, in newspapers, on the Internet, in the mouths of these TV stars, in the hearts and lives of their millions of fans, and perforce in all of our daily lives.
     There is more hatred, venom and violence on Fox TV news and talk shows today than there was 100 years ago when Huey Long bought whiskey for the Ku Klux Klan.
     It’s a damn shame but it’s true.
     Andrei Sakharov spoke of sub-threshold effects. He said it was inevitable that atmospheric testing of atomic weapons would cause people to die of cancer who otherwise would have lived.
     It is impossible to trace a specific death to a specific test, but the deaths are real. So Sakharov decided that atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons was wrong and had to be stopped.
     The same thing is true today. Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Roger Ailes, and their like-minded millionaire friends are stirring up real hatred and violence. They are causing real deaths. And they are not doing it for a cause, really. They are doing it to make a few lousy bucks.

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