By Gerald “Strib” Stribling
I’ve been a big fan of Daryl Davis since I first heard his story on This American Life maybe 15 years ago.
He’s the African-American musician who in 30 years has made friends with hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members. I’ve heard that he plays piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. He was playing in a nightclub somewhere in the deep South, much to the delight of a couple of middle-aged white patrons, who caught his show again the next night, and they approached Davis and told them how much they enjoyed his piano playing. They became friends. As it turned out, they were Klan guys—one of them a Grand Poobah or something. The friendship blossomed to the point that his two new fans quit the Klan.
That was Davis’ foot in the door. He met more Klansmen and made friends with them. He attended Klan rallies and made even more friends. His approach is something along the lines of, “You say you hate black people. Look me in the eye and tell me you hate me.” Many Ku Kluxers give it up after meeting and talking with Davis. He has dozens of Klan robes and hoods to prove it.
Why he’s not a legend by now, I don’t know, but he has done more to erase white supremacy than an army of protestors and anti-fas.
By making friends.
Nothing of any value is to be found in noisy, dangerous clashes between white supremacists and the forces of Antifa, except to give us an opportunity to make jokes at the expense of extremists. They’re laughable. If you want to see a real riot, check out TV footage of what was going on outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968.
Nazis? I knew real Nazis when I was a kid living in Munich in 1962. Those aren’t Nazis, they’re frat boys who can’t get laid.
It’s horrifying to see people getting run over and killed (I had a friend who got a broken leg at Charlottsville), but any Marine will tell you that if you go to places where dangerous, unfriendly people congregate, you can get hurt.
I have at least three friends who have had to change their names on Facebook because they were being harassed by either antifas or white supremacists. They’re activists, but not the cowards who inhabit the fringes of politics, and who are best described as hate-full. Hateful people suffer from delusions.
Anyone who’s been through a Vipassana meditation course can tell you how hard it is to pry those delusions away from their consciousness. It’s rough, and it takes years of practice to see clearly. Granted, the kind of people attracted to such soul-searching consider themselves unbiased and free of prejudice. But they’re not. I’m not, and if I’m not, then you’re not, either.
It takes guts and balls and courage to do what Daryl Davis does. The results of these friendships is secondary to the friendships themselves. If you don’t browbeat people, you can influence them.
I get an e-mail or Facebook message every week from someone who said they read my book, Buddhism for Dudes: A Jarhead’s Field Guide to Mindfulness, and tells me that it had an impact on their lives. I always feel astonished when I get one, even though that was the purpose of writing the book in the first place. I never know what to do when I get one, but I always write back with something along the lines of “You’re too kind,” and direct them to my Facebook book page, and The Tattooed Buddha.
I had a Daryl moment the Thursday before Charlottesville, at the rifle range, which is usually dead on Thursday afternoons. On this particular Thursday I found myself all alone on the firing line. I’m well-known at Knob Creek, so the range officer said that he was going to go in the shop where the air conditioning was, and I could do whatever I wanted.
Late in life many gunslingers learn to appreciate pistol-caliber carbines. Most of us can’t see well enough to shoot at targets 250 yards away anymore; neither do we have the legs to set targets at that distance every half hour without wheezing on the way back. Pistol caliber carbines can be shot at targets 25 or 50 yards away without looking like a shmuck like the clowns with AR15s shooting at the same distances.
So, ennyhoo, I broke from tradition and actually shot at a plastic pop bottle instead of the boring round targets. 40 caliber bullets don’t go very far, but they leave enormous holes in things. Three shooters showed up as I was packing my gear up to leave, and it was obvious that this was their first time at Knob Creek, and didn’t know shit about semi-automatic handguns. They looked like country folk. Immediately one of them pointed his gun with the barrel parallel to the firing line, a HUGE no-no and a rookie mistake.
When they put out their targets, I was dismayed to see life-sized photo posters of a young black man with a smile on his face, crouching and pointing a gun. He was a good-looking black man; with his round head and closely cropped hair, he looked like Teddy Bridgewater. Everybody, and I mean everybody in the Louisville area knows who Teddy Bridgewater is; formerly at the University of Louisville, presently starting quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings.
I debated whether or not to talk to them—the rifle range is full of characters—and then decided that if they didn’t learn how to properly handle their firearms, somebody was either going get shot, or shoot themselves.
“Hi, fellers, new guns?” One of them was. “This your first time to Knob Creek? There’s usually a range officer out here, and he’d get mad at you if you point your gun parallel to the firing line. That’s so nobody gets shot.” I threw in a few other points of range etiquette, and told them that if they choose to shoot semi-autos, to ALWAYS” I barked like a Marine, “ALWAYS make sure the chamber’s empty when you unload it.” Please make sure that the chamber’s empty. I fear for the lives of inexperienced civilians with semi-autos (hell, you can buy one for $130).
“Thanks for the info,” they said. I asked them how they could see where the bullets go shooting at a mostly black target. I gave them about 15 six-inch self-adhesive “splatter” targets, very colorful. They were delighted.
“You can put em over that guy’s face,” I said, pointing to the targets with my chin. “You know, black soldiers and cops and college students come to shoot out here all the time. If they’re dressed up like gang thugs, those are the college students. And veterans. Lots of veterans. Just a thought. What do you have against Teddy Bridgewater anyway? Must be Cats fans.”
Then I rolled up the left sleeve of my tee shirt to show them my giant eagle, globe and anchor tattoo on my shoulder. “I love you,” I said. They probably thought I was a Christian or something. I slung my pistol-caliber carbine over my shoulder and left.
I’ve never hated in my life. I’m too friggin’ jolly.
So maybe some antifa will accuse me of being a white supremacist (fooled ja! I’m not even white) or some Neo-nazis will harass me for being a Jew and making fun of them (silly buggers). If I could get both going at the same time, that’s fodder to a writer. I could have a lot of fun with that. Pardon me if you interpret my derision for hate.
Then when the traffic gets too bad, I’ll change my name to something Buddhist. Right now my favorite is Dosabahula, which in Pali means grumpy.
“As I am, so are these. As are these, so am I.’ Drawing the parallel to yourself, neither kill nor get others to kill.” ~ The Buddha Nalaka Sutta: To Nalaka
Editor: Dana Gornall