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Pretending Your Racism is Patriotism

Pretending your racism is patriotism picket

Saturday, in my hometown, several folks participated in a march to demonstrate their disapproval of injustices against the lady-folk in our society. As I drove by the group of about 75, I noticed several signs, one of which was prevalent. It read, “Stop pretending your racism is patriotism”.

I reckon this particular picket caught my attention because it seemed a little out of place. Wasn’t this supposed to be a march to bring awareness to the mistreatment of women? What do issues like patriotism and racism have to do with the rights of women?

Women’s Rights

I wasn’t born yesterday. I understand that many of the good people who participated in this march aren’t single issue voters. They’re complicated human beings with ideologies and agendas that often include beliefs that are difficult to synthesize with women’s rights. Sometimes they may even contradict themselves. Such is the case with the rights of unborn women.

Most of the ladies who participated in the march for women weren’t interested in women who were not yet out of the womb. In that case I suppose size does matter, or is it location? It’s ironic that it’s the beginning of ‘Right to Life’ month and these ladies who turned out on a cool Saturday morning to march a half mile, did so on a street that if you march another couple miles you’d walk right in front of a clinic that kills several unborn little girls every year. People demonstrate in front of that clinic every week but as far as I can tell none of these nice folk have ever attended.

I apologize. I have shown myself to be complicated as well, at least when it comes to staying on topic. But they make it so easy. I digress…


I live in a small Southern city that sits on the border of Tennessee and Virginia. Bristol is famous for NASCAR and its claim as the birthplace of country music among other things. Bristol is inundated with churches, both big and small. Most of them are conservative and cover the gamut of theological beliefs.

Bristol is also politically conservative. Although there are exceptions, in most elections so-called conservative candidates win by very large margins. For example, Bristol TN is located within Sullivan County. In Sullivan County Donald Trump had a lopsided tally of 76.1%. If that’s not conservative, I don’t know what is.


Bristol is traditional as well. To describe the people here as merely conservative might give you the wrong impression. Many of them have bought into neo-conservatism with a certain trepidation. They vote mostly Republican but there remains a hesitancy in their minds. They are Southern and with that their principles clash with the seemingly lack of virtue in the GOP. The culture around here holds on to ideas like self-determination, secession and nullification, and State sovereignty. Most people have Scots-Irish ancestry and simply wish to be left alone by the Federal government. Even the small African American population tends toward traditional Southern values. Despite the growing efforts by outsiders to turn all of us on our neighbors, the general consensus is one of neighbor love and peace.


Although Bristol is technically a city, it is essentially rural. Every week in the summer there is a farmers market on State Street. Within a ten minute drive from the middle of downtown, you can be surrounded by farms, most of which are family farms of over 100 years. Heck, there are farms located inside the city limits. Lots of folks grow gardens and can foods. Hunting and fishing remain a way of life for many people and the surrounding mountains give the city a natural border that creates a tight knit feel between its residents. The weather is mild so if you want to find people, go outside! Weekly music festivals, outdoor restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries promote neighborness.


Manners, although diminishing, remain the liturgy of our community. Men hold doors for ladies. People wave at each other going down the road. Pleasantries are exchanged cordially. There are still children who address their elders as ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. I will admit that much of that is waning but it exists enough that you’ll notice it whenever you go to town. My wife’s cousin was shocked after my Father in law’s funeral when she told her husband back in Ohio-“They have signs that say funeral and everyone slows down. There was even a neighbor who brought a cake. When I asked if anyone knew who she was, no one did. And they ate it!”

Here’s your sign

That brings me back to the sign. Remember, it read “Stop pretending your racism is patriotism”.

Women’s march on State Street in Bristol

Now, maybe this lady’s intentions weren’t aimed at the people in my town. Maybe she had hopes of her photograph being posted on the Washington Post or another national rag. Maybe she dreamed of a television interview on CNN where she might jab her opinion in the nose of people of hate. I suppose it’s possible that she wished for thousands of hits on social media reaching far and wide into the American ethos.

Targeting tradition

But, if her target was Bristol, she doesn’t know the people here. If she believes that the folks here are racist because they’re motivated by their patriotism, her belief is unfounded. If she doesn’t understand that the people of my community love their neighbors and that is the essence of their patriotism, she doesn’t understand my community or hundreds like it.

My guess is that she despises the fact that a great majority of the people here voted for a border wall, immigration reform, and traditional America. She is probably disgusted at the idea that people in Bristol are afraid of becoming like Western Europe with pockets of Sharia Law and terrorism. I’m guessing that she hates the fact that people love their neighbor enough to vote for their protection rather than including people who may wish them harm.

Misread or mislead

I don’t know. I could be wrong about her and her misappropriated sign.

It could be that she was interested in a conversation on racism. I’m all about conversation. She may be surprised that there may be common ground between her ideology and the people here. America first may precede the discussion, but if she’d dig a little deeper she might find that in Bristol patriotism begins with community, not nation. I don’t think she’ll get that far with most folks though.

Why? Well, her sign is a little too pointed to encourage conversation, don’t you think? Basically, she lifted her poster board finger and accused most of the people here of racism. That’s not going to get her very far. It shouldn’t. No matter how hard she tries to redefine each of us into the ever growing box of racism, we ain’t buying it.

Ideology vs Culture

Most of us know the summary of the Law. Jesus’ teaching is familiar. We must love our neighbors. What’s hard to understand for most people is why she considers someone on the other side of the globe more of a neighbor than the people who live in the same town. What’s difficult is the idea that we are supposed to accept all people equally as our neighbors. It seems absurd that given the well-being of the people next door and the suffrage of someone tens of thousands of miles away, we’re supposed to choose the distant over the near.

If that’s her ideology, it’s a difficult concept for regular folk. While carrying a sign down the street accusing everyone of racism on a Saturday morning won’t communicate something so complicated, so ambiguous, she may very well be correct. But those of us folk who are less intellectual need time and explanations. We need illustrations not demonstrations. Oh, and a little benefit of doubt might be helpful. It’s hard to listen to someone wagging their finger at you.

Best wishes

I know that demonstrations like these will increase in communities like mine in the future. It’s to be expected when ideologues aren’t getting their way. Sometimes demonstrations and violence are the best ways to force regular people to give in to abstruse ideology. As she posed for my photo Saturday, I wished the lady luck. She’ll need it.

She has a tough job ahead of her. It’s admirable that she may someday condescend to us so that we may be informed and reformed. I look forward to more of her short, cardboard explanations. It will be interesting how creative she may become communicating her utopian ideas. For now I’ll just say bless her heart.

A people without an impassioned patriotism is but a gigantic horde, gregarious like the beasts, rather than social, welded together by tyranny or the mercenary greed for gain and material good, regarding their country as a good field for the practice of legislative plunder or of rapid money-getting, rather than a center of proud affections and loyalty.-Robert L Dabney

I was born in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, born again at a very young age, married a beautiful and likeminded woman, moved to Tennessee, and raised two children in the Southern traditions of loving God and neighbor, exercising manners, and being stewards of the land and its bounty. After becoming involved in youth ministry in our local church, the need of teaching people "what they believe and why they believe it" became painfully apparent, especially in my immediate context (rural Southern churches). We began an apologetics/theology ministry there but have since moved on. After serving in church leadership and being called to faithfulness and duty to protect our congregation from a rogue pastor under church discipline of his previous church, my experiences in this biblical process shape much of what I believe about how churches in the South have become weak and why nominal Christianity is prevalent. I love the Church and Southern culture so you can expect to read about apologetics and theology as well as church and culture here, written southern style, by the grace of God. Deo Vindice

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