Challenges affect all Americans


I have no “real” understanding what racism and hate feel like, because I am a 70-year-old white man, and as a  U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran during the Vietnam War, I served with all races.

I have never had that hate directed at me, nor have I had the black parent conversation with their children advising them to watch their back, because there are many of your fellow Americans that wish harm to you because your skin is darker than white.

I can not imagine how difficult that talk would be, but it’s very necessary in today’s America. Hate crimes in the U.S. are quite frequent these days. This hate has been a part of white culture for over 400 years, but it has become more blatant, and more frequent to raise its ugly head the last four years.

I was disappointed but not overly surprised to see this disease here in Sweet Home as Confederate flags often dot this rural Linn County landscape. Hate, and that disguised as patriotism, is not only disingenuous, and dangerous; historically it has been shown to be a indicator in fascist regime beginnings.

Other trending signs weakening democracy often come from compromising the the value of a free press (fake news – doubt in the truth), limiting access to free and fair elections (attempting to delay an election, closing polling locations so wait times are unbearable), stoking fear of “others” (Mexico is sending us rapists, and bringing drugs across the border, an inference that brown people are bad), concentrating wealth and power in the hands of fewer (tax breaks for the wealthy while schools still are feeding millions of our school children daily and school teachers are buying classroom supplies because the tax base won’t fund education properly), and characterizing some that openly display white supremacy ideology and hate as fine people (Charlottesville).

When I first saw the “Freedom Rally” ad, I called Safeway to see if they had any info. Their spokesperson had none. I called the Sweet Home Police Department; the sergeant had not been briefed. I spoke with city manager Ray Towry. Mr. Towry did not have any more info, but thought because of the advertising, it may be akin to a support the police rally.

Being a resident who shops locally, my concern was the health and safety of my neighbors, and of course, my age makes me more vulnerable as I believe in science. Large gatherings can be spreader events, as a recent YMCA summer camp for children in Georgia will attest; yes, even children can get COVID-19.

Not being a social media person, I knew what the ad purported the rally to be. I never saw the picture of Jimy White giving the Nazi salute. After reading the coverage of the event, (good reporting, Kelly and Scott), I wondered why and how these organizers felt so much hate in their hearts as racism is taught, not born.

Michael Erickson believed that  the pro-lynching posts on Jimy Whites Facebook were justified by saying, “death to traitors.” This is plain fear mongering of others and could not be further from the ideals and values I fought for in Vietnam.

Theo White, Jimy White’s son, works at our local high school, and I hope he is not preaching this brand of “patriotism”  to our young adults, as this is the last thing America needs today.

In Vietnam, I fought for our liberties, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the right to assemble, as well as the right to kneel during the National Anthem.

I am proud we get these freedoms, but they come with responsibility. What one might see as over-reach or an infringement of these rights, the prevailing trend in America is changing. In 1966, just over 33 percent supported the Martin Luther King movement for racial equality, whereas today, nearly 65 percent of Americans support the ideals of Black Lives Matter.

Change is always hard to accept, but I liken this outreach to the anti-Vietnam protests of the late ’60s and early ’70s. As hard as it may be for some to accept, American democracy will need to embrace these changes, because without them, democracy will remain fragile and there will never be true peace.

I watch as a convicted felon and Trump loyalist is pardoned (Roger Stone), while George Floyd is murdered by a cop.

I see mostly peaceful protesters of all races and creeds pepper sprayed while Breanna Taylor is murdered lying in her bed, still awaiting justice.

I read about four Oregon State Police officers refusing to wear a mask at a Corvallis coffee shop, acting as if laws and rules do not apply to them, but was the policy for all at this place of business.

I see the video of a young black man running down a Georgia residential neighborhood street, being gunned down in broad daylight, and then there have been several videos of white people displaying their ignorance and hate to our fellow black citizens.

As the result of COVID-19, our economy is in dire straits. A recent article in The New Era pointed out that 131 residents are behind in their water bill, so this downturn will affect millions moving forward. Many Americans will suffer greatly over the next few years; how will they survive with a lack of food, shelter and basic necessities of a capitalist economy?

While this fear persists, our Republican Party is proposing a COVID-19 stimulus bill that includes 7 billion of your tax dollars for F-35 fighter jets. Really?

Trump is requesting 1.5 billion of your tax dollars for a new FBI building (interesting side story here). Our schools are still feeding millions of children daily; millions of Americans lack health insurance; small businesses are shuttering, etc. It is ugly and I feel deeply sorry for those that will go through this heartache.

Dr. Fauci once said, the virus will control the economy and, as evidenced by recent economic data, he could not have been more correct.

So put your mask on, and ask what you can do for your country, not what your country can do for you. We have to make this work; there is no other choice.


Larry Willett

Sweet Home