Timothy Egan’s “A Fever in the Heartland,” is a provocative read about the KKK’s second life, how it spread in the midwest and beyond spewing its usual hatred of black Americans but extending it to Catholics and Jews as well. “A Fever” focuses mainly on the KKK rise and fall in Indiana but a book I’m holding now, Linda Gordon’s “The Second Coming of the KKK,” tracks the massive, though brief success of the Klan as far away as Oregon, with active memberships as well in Eastern Washington.
The point, in both books, is that even though the KKK and other political maladies rise but eventually fail, the seeds of hatred, discrimination and resentment are ever there in our culture, as American, one writer said, as apple pie. Gordon’s book details the KKK appeal in the 1920’s, appearing almost like a secret club with hoods and uniforms but also with inviting parties and even circuses to build memberships.
Underneath, though, was the theme, the belief, of white supremacy – remember those chants in Charlottesville; “you will not replace us!” As several reviewers remind us, exactly on point, “the sentiments that powered the reprise of the Klan have never been entirely absent from American life……and help explain why another aberration is now upon us.”
There’s no amusement in these readings, but in a time of ever-rising misinformation and political division, of lies passing as truth, they are essential.