The Neo-Nazi at the Market

The Neo-Nazi at the Market

This weekend my husband, my mother and I decided to venture out to a holiday market on Denver’s Sixteenth Street Mall. We took the Light Rail downtown with a crush of Broncos fans. At the market we browsed the booths and indulged in a bit of hot cider, then settled in the beer garden tent for some live music. A banjo player from Boulder plucked and strummed while a dozen children ran, wiggled, and hopped across the dance floor.

At one point a man came through and handed out business cards, dropping them on the tables without a word. He was youngish, but definitely an adult. Most people ignored the cards. Within a few minutes the man came back, snatched the cards off the table, and exited the tent. 

I said he must have gotten in trouble with the tent’s sponsor, who probably didn’t want some other business horning in on its venue. My mother wondered what he was advertising. My husband, who is infinitely curious, pulled one of the cards from his pocket. He’d grabbed it, he said, specifically because it was so mysterious. It contained nothing but two words and a simple graphic. No phone number, no sales pitch, no product. He pulled out his phone and googled the words on the card. In the next instant, we knew. The cards promoted a neo-Nazi, white supremacist organization.

It shook me. What kind of man passes out racist recruitment cards in the middle of a holiday market? In an effort to find out, I looked up his organization. I’m not going to name it here, because I’m not interested in amplifying the brand, but it’s an organized national group of mostly college-aged men founded by an ex-con who developed his “white identity” ideas while in prison. He’s appeared with members of the current presidential administration and he considers his group and other groups like his to be responsible for Trump’s rise to power. He also points to Trump’s words as being directly responsible to spikes in membership applications for his hate group. Membership requirements are quite stringent. Prospective members must be of non-Jewish European descent to apply.

And this is no society in the shadows. The organization’s website shows members of the group at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) annual meeting, where they were welcomed by many mainstream Republican politicians. The agenda? To encourage CPAC to focus on more “Trumpian things, like immigration and the wall.” They’ve gathered for protests in most major American cities and were instrumental in organizing the deadly Charlottesville rally, the same rally where a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of protestors and killed a woman. That man is on trial for murder beginning this week. I don’t know if the accused murderer was a member of this particular hate group, but he definitely seemed to subscribe to its belief system.

One of the oddest things about this group and others is that so many of its members identify as Christians. The organizer of this particular group was raised in a Baptist household and attended a school that taught creationism instead of evolution. Though he explicitly welcomes non-religious members into his secular white supremacist organization, his FAQ says that many members practice “traditional European faiths.” What he means by that, of course, is Christian. You can be Catholic or Baptist or Methodist or Greek Orthodox or any of the Jesus-centered faiths. The irony, of course, is that you cannot actually be Jesus. Jesus, with his brown skin and Jewish parents and decidedly non-European origins, would never pass the basic membership screening. So it is doubly disturbing to see a man handing out this literature at an event replete with symbols of the largest Christian holiday.¬†

What would happen if these people met Jesus in modern times? Would they ban him from their church dinners? Would they shun him as genetically inferior? Would they make ugly cracks about his unusual name? Would they mock his long hair or deride him with racial slurs? Would they turn him away at the American border and try to convince us all he’s just another terrorist in training?

Of course they would; they already have. The Bible is pretty clear on this point:

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Matthew 25:45

If Jesus came back today, I think things would turn out about the same way they turned out the first time around, except instead of the Romans crucifying Jesus on a cross, it would be Americans shooting him in a shopping mall. Although, in a world where neo-Nazis feel free to stroll through family events and hand out recruitment cards, Jesus may already be dead.

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Tiffany Quay Tyson

THE PAST IS NEVER, a southern gothic novel steeped in local lore, is available now. The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance deemed it an Okra Pick. Tyson's debut novel THREE RIVERS was a finalist for both the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction. She was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and now lives, writes, and teaches in Denver, Colorado.
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One thought on “The Neo-Nazi at the Market

  1. The happening you describe could be the introductory chapter of a new book. Is it? Your experience of growing up in the world of To Kill a Mockingbird well-equips you to write about racial hatred and prejudice. As a kid, I thought such things only existed in the Deep South. I was naive. How about setting a story in Denver about the threat of Neo-Nazis? What does it say about our country that such evil people could live right next door. I’m reminded of the assassination of radio talk-show host Alan Berg in 1984. Thankfully, the young man on the mall distributed only a business card at your table. Still, I can’t help but ask myself, What is that a prelude to?

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