by Edgar Steele

22 July 2004

I walk in the front door: "I'm home, dear."

"Were you gone?" comes my wife's quick response.

It's our longest-running gag.

Some correspondents noticed that my posts have grown sparse. It's nice to be missed.

I've been busy, is the easy reply. But, then, we are all busy. Truthfully, I've had this particular column stuck in my craw for almost two months. Kind of like a hairball, but with sharp corners. Let me explain.

When I was about six years old, my older brothers often were charged with taking me along to ball games that they might be playing in on weekends and after school. In those days, all such games were impromptu affairs, organized by the kids themselves. I would sit on the sideline grass and while away the time.

An older girl often showed up and gradually became friendly toward me. She would talk with me, play childish games with me and generally do her best to entertain me at my level. She was ugly, though I didn't know it at the time. To my child eyes (if only I could have them back!), all who treated me well were equally beautiful.

My brothers took notice of my spending time with her. "Stay away from her," they admonished me. "Why?" I asked, dutifully impressed by their serious demeanor. "Well...unnhhh....cuz she has cooties, that's why!"

Now, I had no idea what cooties were. The throw-the-dice-put-the-bug-together game had not yet been invented. I knew only that cooties were bad. And that meant I had to stop being friends with the girl who had been so nice to me. I recall to this day the hurt on her face when I told her I didn't want to play with her any more. Of more significance, I will take to my grave the mortal shame of having gone along with my brothers.

I suppose she had a crush on one of my brothers, but that is mere supposition on my part today - more to be ashamed of, because it presumes an ulterior motive on her part.

If still alive, that girl today is about 65 years old. I would give a great deal to know who and where she is so that I could go there and beg her forgiveness. If, indeed, there is a Hell, then it is populated with people such as I, contemplating our shortcomings, slights and misdeeds while alive. An eternity of regret. Now, there is a Hell worthy of the name.

Today, when the need arises, as it does so often in this thing we call a "Movement," I plead with others not to force me to choose between themselves and others. Call it a belated act of contrition, but I refuse to abandon those who have shown me kindness. Mind you, often I will defend my friends against all comers, friend and foe alike. There's a difference, you see, and it is all about own.

For example, Brian and Ruth Christine's appeal recently was denied by the Oregon Court of Appeals. (For background on their case, see and the links contained therein.) I never promised to go beyond the basic trial with them, particularly since I was representing them pro bono (in fact, I have been spending my own money on case costs for some time now). However, I have come to like and respect them, so am continuing to advance their cause.

But for our professional relationship, I would call both Brian and Ruth Christine personal friends. They are genuinely good people, deeply aggrieved by an out-of-control legal system. Their cause is just and I believe the courts to be absolutely wrong in their rulings so far. I just filed the appeal with the Oregon Supreme Court. If we get denied there, I will take it through the Federal system until we get the Oregon courts or law, or both, overturned. I will not be deterred in this case. I am resolute in my intent to secure justice for them. Mark my words.

Here's the point: I stand by my friends through any and all adversity. And it doesn't take a great deal to become my friend, either. Must be one of the reasons I became a lawyer and what drives my need to defend others under attack. That, and the kid who kept beating me up during lunchtime when I was in the second grade. He was much older (third grade) and much larger than I. We called him Munchbuns. I'm still trying to even the score with Munchbuns, I suppose.

Clearly, loyalty is one of the qualities that those who become my friends value. And, my clients...well, they certainly like the passion I expend on their behalf. And my enemies? Inevitably, they become impressed with my passion and drive, as well. Down through the years, more than one party on the other side of a case has attempted to hire me when it was all over, usually to sue their own ex-lawyer for incompetence!

It has been made clear to me by some in the Movement that I must join in the shunning and ostracizing of certain others. Again, please do not make the mistake of forcing me to choose between you and them. It is the same thing I would say to "them" in a heartbeat, of course.

At times, I suffer the consequences of not rejecting those accused of having cooties. Your enemy has to be my enemy or else. Because of that, I sometimes feel that I am on the outside, looking in. Voted off the island, so to speak. Maybe I am just being paranoid. I doubt it, though. How ironic that those who show the greatest tolerance of others sometimes end up being rejected by everybody because of a refusal to take sides in ongoing squabbles.

Worse by far, the thought has occurred to me that I might have cooties, myself. Expressing political, philosophical and religious opinions straight out, as I do, even though supported with facts and logic, is like erecting a lightning rod during a storm. The most stinging rebukes always are from those I have considered comrades in arms. To them I say: friendship is about accepting others despite differences, not because they are the same as yourself.

"We have different approaches," a prominent Movement leader said to me during a recent phone conversation. Sounds like code for my having cooties. Ironically, he was referring to my refusal to speak in code when publicly referring to Jews and Blacks. In other words, I'm too politically incorrect for his taste.

How odd to think that someone with my top-drawer education, multiple military decorations, professional record of achievement, demonstrated work ethic, obvious moral standards, solid family life, unblemished track record within the Movement (including providing free legal advice to so many), spotless reputation and lack of rap sheet (one speeding ticket in 18 years), not to mention significant followings within virtually every Movement organization, might be too politically incorrect for some Movement leaders. Of course, if I truly do have cooties, then maybe they do me a favor to shun and ostracize me. "Hey, Martha, dem KooKlucksKlanner racist fellers hate dis Steele fella, so mebbe he's ok, after all." The enemy of my enemy, donchaknow. Cuts both ways.

If I abandon those condemned by Movement leaders as having cooties, should I not abandon and condemn those self-same Movement leaders, about whom so many have said so much, some of it true and much of it false? Ex-Klansmen, more than one. Ex-convict felons, more than one. Gossips. Liars. Layabouts. Ne'erdowells. Opportunists. Womanizers. Embezzlers. Racists (and, no, I am not a true racist - we have yet to have that one out, but my book, due out just as soon as I find a publisher, will put the lie to that rumor). Anti-Semites...okay, you got me there, but you get the idea.

Having a prison record is worn as a badge of honor by some in the Movement, if you can believe it - evidence of having made one's bones, to put it in street talk. Bones I hope never to make, myself.

There is not a single Movement leader about whom I have not heard things both true and bad. Not one. None are free of enemies. Few have shown themselves to be overly forgiving of others, either.

I strive to get along with all who are anywhere near the party line of advancing the cause of traditional European-American interests. Thus, I have had no real problem with virtually any member of this grossly dysfunctional group we call a movement.

Call it a weakness. A tolerance born of associating with real criminals, engaged in truly bad behavior. And those are just the lawyers and judges. You should see some of the clients I have represented.

In line with all the foregoing, I have been asked by a great many to comment upon the so-called "New Orleans Protocol." It is a legitimate question concerning a tough issue and you deserve a straight response from me.

Here is the set of rules known as the Protocol, developed by David Duke and adopted by a handful of Movement leaders at Duke's recent New Orleans conference:

1. Zero tolerance for violence.

2. Honorable and ethical behavior in relations with other signatory groups. This includes not denouncing others who have signed this protocol. In other words, no enemies on the right.

3. Maintaining a high tone in our arguments and public presentations.

I attended the conference and spoke, as well. I was not told of the secret meeting at which the Protocol was adopted. I was not told of the intent to produce a consensus on anything. I was not asked to sign it.

Now, I have nothing ill to report about any of the fellows who signed it. In fact, I consider all of them to be friends.

I have to be honest. From here in the cheap seats, the Protocol seems to be an exclusionary pronouncement, not inclusionary. It breeds that which it purports to condemn. The Protocol, by its very nature, is critical of those who don't sign. Thus, it becomes precisely the thing that it decries: criticism of others in the Movement.

Furthermore, I would not have signed it. I have no need to pledge not to do things that I have never done and have no present intention of doing. I decry violence, abhor the internecine fighting that occurs in the Movement and always endeavor to take the high road in my dealings with others. By analogy, imagine someone asking that you make a written promise not to beat your wife. The very inquiry is an accusation. By implication, the existence of such a group pledge suggests that those who don't sign are inveterate spousal abusers.

Nor have I ever demeaned myself to make self-exculpating pledges as an attorney in the past (as in agreeing to a reciprocal restraining order when it's the miscreant about-to-be-ex-husband who's been beating his wife, my client, not the other way around). Nor would signing onto anything of this ilk enhance my ability to help people in court - on the contrary.

Nor do I like that this "protocol" smacks of "We have agreed that you can't criticize us," with the "you" being those excluded, the very people who should have been invited to the secret meeting in the first place!

I do not care for the fingerpointing and name calling that exists on all sides of every divide in the Movement, as most who have read my essays know. This "Protocol" is just more of that, masquerading as something high minded. In that sense, it seems tawdry, like a hooker dressed up to go to church.

We, all of us, have so much in common and such compelling enemies in common, that we can ill afford to continue with this ongoing internal bickering, simply because some of us are graceless or possessed of political and/or religious ideologies that don't exactly track with others. We are in a fight for our very existence. The other side isn't making nice with us. While they decimate our ranks, we rearrange deck chairs and shoot some of our own best people in the back. This must stop.

You want to stop the criticism? Stop criticizing. Stop being criticizable.

You want to be intolerant of violence? That's easy. Preach nonviolence and avoid fomenting discord.

You want to be high minded? Be high minded. It is low minded to speak of it.

Had I attended the secret New Orleans meeting, I would have discouraged them from producing such an agreement formally and I would have pointedly declined to sign it. Perhaps they knew that, somehow, and that is why I was not invited. (I suspect I was excluded for other reasons, but they have nothing to do with the questions raised herein.)

In a very real sense, this column itself is that which I abhor: a criticism of others in the Movement. That is an unfortunate but necessary consequence. That is why it has taken so long for me to cough up this metaphorical hairball. It goes against my basic grain. But, what I have said needs to be said. A chill has fallen over discussion of this topic within the Movement - the very sort of chill that censorship always imposes upon open and frank discourse. And it is already far too cold in America today.

New America. An idea whose time is long overdue...


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