with our Enemy, in the same way He ordered our ancestors, the children of Israel, to deal with the Canaanites by killing every man, woman, and child among them!” The fifteen metal chairs rocked back and forth a bit, and the Klansmen and their wives rose and roared “White Power! White Power!” and Lewis started snapping pictures again, and Charles Lee stomped his feet, so moved was he by the sledgehammer climax Dr. Brown had put on his speech. I sat frozen to my chair, wishing I had a pistol to shoot my way out of the place. I would have been outgunned, though: a Klansman stood outside the front door, a semi-automatic rifle in hand. There were pistols behind the podium, I knew. Klansmen are a minority in comparison to their guns. Dr. Brown continued to speak for some minutes, but in a calmer tone. One of his observations was that American youth have been made wayward today by “niggerization.” People should not mourn the death of Elvis Presley, he commented, because Presley was partly responsible for the low state of the nation’s youth: he had led “the niggerization of American music.” Brown did not explain further, but other Klansmen had already advised me that in their eyes, only classical music is of respectable parentage. Brown’s commentary on youth and music reminded me of the passages I’d read in the Protocols, the ones which I felt held the secret of the Klan’s future. Brown’s attack on Presley was so strikingly parallel and I was by now so disgusted with the Klan that I decided to raise the issue as soon as he quit speaking. There is a passage, or several similar passages, in the Protocols, which say that Christians “bemuse” themselves with alcohol, and from the contexts, the conclusion to be drawn is that booze is a Zionist scheme to undermine civilization. This implication, I thought, was no less odd than another one I’d run onto in Klan literature; namely, that the Soviet Union is a Jewish-controlled state. I stepped up to Louis, who was chatting with Brown beside the podium at the front of the room. I told him about the passages in the Protocols, and what I made of them. Then I asked if the Knights were as prohibitionist as the Klans of the Twenties had been. “Well,” he drawled with caution, “I wouldn’t say that Klansmen were prohibitionists, but I don’t think the Bible approves of alcoholic beverages except maybe for wine used in religious services.” Of course, any Baptist would have told me that. We were sparring again, but the punches were harder now. I had to toughen my attack. “Is that how the Klan thinks the Jews control Russia with vodka?” I tried to keep a straight face. “You could say that was one factor,” Lewis snapped, perhaps aware of my feint. Then, without warning, he threw me a cross. Vodka wasn’t the only beverage the Jews used on Christians, he said. Before I had time to react, he threw his desperation punch. “In Texas, they use Lone Star beer.” Those were his exact words. I swear it. He was dead serious. I fell back, really dazed. It was more than a minute before I could get my bearings again, and when I did, I was still too stunned to speak. I decided to get the hell out of there, without good-byes. Louis Beam had not knocked me out, but he had frightened and maddened me so much that I knew I had to jump out of the ring. Charles Lee met me as I headed for the door, and as I stepped aside, with a few quick words, I asked him how anybody, anybody at all, could possibly endorse Dr. Brown’s evaluation of Elvis Presley. Charles didn’t answer me, however, for two quite 10 SEPTEMBER 19, 1980 distinct reasons. One, he is quietly a fan of Presley and Paycheck and the others, despite his Klan robes. Two, I think he had me figured out, in his own way. Charles Lee had told me that the Klan gets most of its harassment not from blacks and Chicanos, but from whites. Ignorant whites, unenlightened rednecks, he told me. He recalled to me how, a few days after the Klan’s Pasadena bookstore was firebombed last fall, somebody had painted “Earl Campbell #1” on one of its outer walls. The Klan, which is opposed to integrated sports, regarded the act as defacement: its members suspect that it was the work of an ignorant white football fan. If Charles Lee heard the questions I put to Louis and I think he must have he no doubt put me in the same category. For the first time in my life, I got certified as a redneck, albeit an “unenlightened” one. The Klan Loses The Klan had perhaps not correctly understood me, but I had understood them. The Knights, and America’s half-dozen other Klans, are experiencing a new vigor and growth, probably because Americans are seeing that the nation’s problems are obdurate and some of us are becoming desperate. Young men like the fellow in the cowboy hat with the feather band are being enticed into the Klan, but they cannot stay in: very few Texans will forsake longnecks or the Oilers in the name of any cause, and besides, Lone Star and the Oilers are causes in themselves. In the throes of a crisis, people will turn more seriously to these diversions. Louis Beam and his associates have done nothing more than draw the conclusions which must be drawn, by force of logic, from the archaic texts and tenets to which all Klansmen subscribe. Country and western music has been deeply influenced by blacks. It was Jimmy Rodgers who thought he was singing the blues, Hank Williams who learned a guitar style from black railroadmen, Bob Wills who named Bessie Smith as his favorite vocalist; need Charley Pride be mentioned when the roots of black involvement run so deep? By the same token, one cannot put faith in the authenticity of the Protocols and still defend the amusements of alcohol. Other Klan leaders and other Klans may finesse around these points, but in the end, they will only buy time with the tactic. Fundamentally, it is too late for the Ku Klux Klan. Some advances, like integration in sports and music, cannot be turned back, because white people will defend them, too. The Klan cannot become a broadly popular organization while it is moored to theories and texts so archaic that they condemn our daily pleasures. Country and western music, football, and Lone Star beer, may not be popular with leftists, but they are popular with rednecks and they are progressive if only because they protect us all from the return of hoary white-sheeted legions from the past. There is a real, if unlikely, parallel or analog to the Klan in our national past. During the Fifties, the once-sizeable Communist Party was withered to a stump by the blizzard winds of McCarthyism. Yet those who had professional or moral gains to make by proving that America needed jingoists men like J. Edgar Hoover and Billy James Hargis kept the Red Spectre alive. A phantom Party provided them with influence and respect. The Ku Klux Klan, with an estimated 10,000 members nationwide in 1980, compared to 16,800 in 1967 and 4,000 in 1971, is a minuscule organization composed of the young and impressionable. It is not destined to be anything much more significant. Its members will indeed carry out isolated acts of vandalism and terror but they will not lead the nation. When all is said and done, the Ku Klux Klan has no future except in our imaginations. It is nothing if not the bogeyman of American liberalism.