Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Nazis and Leith, North Dakota: an exercise in civics.

   An aspiring but ultimately (at best) mediocre Austrian artist attempted to take over Germany in a Munich beer hall. Adolf Hitler learned from the experience. Later he sought to take over Germany---finally becoming a citizen along the way---by using the system. Although his National Socialist Workers Party, the nickname for which, "Nazi," derived from the acronym of German words, at first garnered few followers and not many more votes, ultimately, Hitler succeeded in his quest. Hitler's party won a plurality in the last crucial elections. Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January, 1933. Hitler worked within---perhaps a more accurate description would be "gamed"---the system. Of course, as soon as he obtained the office of Chancellor, the rest of the government quickly was taken by other Nazis.

   Leith is a town, perhaps hamlet, located in North Dakota. The 2010 census placed the population at 16. The railroad stopped travel through the town in 1984. We traveled across North Dakota, on Amtrak, in 2005. There is not much to North Dakota. The train kept a rollin' all day long and all we saw were wheat fields with a very occasional town. These are the places from which young people seek escape to the cities, and I don't mean Bismarck. Old people are left behind in houses soon decayed.

   Perhaps he borrowed ideas from reading "Mein Kampf," but Craig Cobb is what some describe as a white nationalist. He is lauded by some neo-Nazi groups. In 2012 he began to purchase land in Leith, North Dakota. He moved there. He also has purchased at least 13 plots of land in Leith. Cobb has invited others in the white nationalist movement---i.e., neo-Nazi movement---to move there, too. Maongst those to whom he reportedly has extended invitations are former Kalnsman and Louisiana state representative David Duke; Alex Linder, a neo-Nazi; and Tom Metzger, a former grand dragon of the KKK and founder of White Aryan Resistance. Cobb is said to want to change the name of Leith to Cobbsville. It also is said he wants to turn the town into a white nationalist haven.

   There are supposed to be demonstrations in Leith this week, both by supporters of Cobb and opponents to Cobb and that which he espouses. The sheriff of Grant County, North Dakota, has said all groups have said they will be peaceful.

   The Nazis who marched in Skokie, Illinois, 30-some years ago had a First-Amendment right to express their views. They obtained more publicity with their fight to be allowed expression of their doctrine of hatred. This is a new twist to their (neo-Nazis') activities. This has been done before by another group. The Rajneesh commune in Oregon attempted to take over a town and local government in the early 1980s. Eventually the group's efforts failed, possibly due to their ignorance of zoning laws and inability to bribe Oregon governmental officials. If neo-Nazis take over a town in North Dakota, they might begin to branch out. Perhaps next we would see a Nazi in the State Assembly in North Dakota. (By the way, there is a National Socialist "Green" Party, for those ecologically-minded Nazis out there.)

   In the meantime, we sit back and watch what these people do. They are not to be made fun of. They have weapons. If history is any indication, people of their beliefs are not averse to use of violence to advance their cause. They have decided to flood a place in the middle of nowhere---I've been to North Dakota and it really seemed like definitive "nowhere" so sorry to any natives of the place---where few people live to take over a local government and run things the way Nazis think things should be run. These are not metaphorical Nazis. These are not people with whom I simply disagree and call "Nazis." That is too simple and quick a reaction by some in public discourse today. If someone disagrees with another's position, call that person a "Nazi."

   No, these are volken who profess themselves to believe in the cause of Adolf Hitler. If they are United States citizens, they have the right to move where they wish.If they are eligible to vote, they have the right to exercise the franchise. If, in exercise of political power they might gain, they violate the civil rights of anyone, they should be prosecuted or sued or both. Otherwise, maybe people should chip in and buy homes for the people who have lived in Leith, North Dakota, so those people can find homes elsewhere. Let the neo-Nazis have their place in the wilderness of North Dakota. That way, they might be isolated from the rest of society.

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