Fascism In The American Midwest

 I’ve decided to add my stories to help people understand the situation with right wing terrorism and the way it applies to someone as innocuous-seeming as myself. I hope it helps you to understand me and my PTSD. Healing from trauma is ongoing, so if your friend displays signs of trauma, and that isn’t something you want to see; do your friend a favor and keep it to yourself.

In 1988 I went to a concert in a skating rink. A band called Violent Conspiracy played. The singer had a foot-tall mohawk. We taunted the BMXers and we skateboarded and it was generally punk rock. That year I ran into my first skinheads. I asked one outside of a Verbal Abuse show what they were all about. He described themselves as the “punk’s older brother.” The difference he said was they loved America and listened to Oi music. 

I went home, and not much long after, one of my best friends, my crew, started to shave his head. He showed me the Klan cards he got at a rally. He started dressing like a prototypical skinhead, but with the noticeable difference of white laces and he started wearing a bomber jacket with Nazi pins buttoned on. 

I started a band called Hate Party USA with my best friend. We were a goofy, punk band influenced by Flipper. We found another guy to join. He was dark-completed, and a goth, and a depressive, and a weirdo. He was in the Air Force.

Ron was our drummer, and he had a friend, who was also in the Air Force. His friend was also a Nazi skinhead. To be a Nazi skinhead in the military required some hiding, and for some reason, he didn’t like the Nazi skinheads in Oklahoma. 

One night, I was at a party in Oklahoma City. I had only been drunk a handful of times. I got into an argument with the guy who turned out to be that singer of Violent Conspiracy. He was mad at me because I was drinking, but I was wearing a straight edge band’s t-shirt: Uniform Choice. I kept up a decent argument, but I was on the side of nothing-he-had-to-say-mattered, and that white supremacy is stupid and awful. He clearly wanted to throw fists, but I’ve always been very slippery, and I defended myself quite well with words. His Nazi skinhead friends didn’t back him up because they clearly didn’t like him. They told me to ignore him because “he sucked dick for heroin,” and later I found out he was actually Jewish. 

By 1990, we had dropped the USA from the name, and were just known as Hate Party. We had a growing fan base that called themselves the “Hate Brigade.” We played a show at our friend Crystal’s house in Oklahoma City. We had a song making fun of a Nazi band called “The Midtown Bootboys,” only our song was called the “The Midtown Cowboy Bootboys.” It was a departure from our noisy “songs” about hot dogs and bad telephone commercials. We had wanted to be known as “the worst band on earth,” and our motto was “Hate Party SUCKS.” I had added a NOTA cover “Moscow,” and we were developing into a band that played more traditional punk rock. In the comic above, I described what happened at this show. 

The Hate Brigade became a group of punk rockers who for the most part, fought gay bashers, who would come to the gay strip of bars where we hung out across the street. They started to come out to fight us solely as word traveled around the metropolitan area that there were always “freaks” at 39th and Penn. After a while, we were fighting these people, and the skinheads, who felt like since they were a part of the punk counterculture, belonged in the same rooms. 

One night we were drinking at Crystal’s. I heard a LOUD knock on the door. Someone was knocking like he wanted to break it down. It turned out to be Spit, the once punk rock singer of Violent Conspiracy. He was screaming my name and talking in a campy gay voice. I believed he was mocking me, a fey closeted trans woman. Crystal opened the door to get them to stop trying to destroy her front door. I sometimes think I’m a coward because of this, but I really thought he wanted to kill me. I had no reason to think he didn’t. While I hid under Crystal’s bed while in the kitchen I could hear a boot party, my few friends put a stop to Spit’s rampage. Spit’s friends carried him away and apologized saying that Spit had been acting like he was a homosexual all night, and had been trying to hit on them. It seemed pretty clear that he had some pretty big issues that he wasn’t dealing with. 

He wanted to argue his ideology, I kept describing why he was stupid.

After this we were on a roll, and one night, we went to OKC to confront the skinheads where they lived. It was next door to the goth and punk clothing seller. We realized that they had been outfitting the Nazis. All the goths I hung out with had started entertaining fascism, and I felt more and more alienated from the scene. I don’t know why I was always in these situations. I think I wanted to be a witness. Sometimes I saved lives. One of us had a pink flamingo and the idea was to beat them with the pink flamingo and depant them, and otherwise humiliate them. They got out and knocked on the door and the skins stalled. They had called the police. When they showed up they put my friend in the cruiser. The cop was not white, and Shiny Happy People played on the radio. The irony was too much and we all felt completely defeated or at least squelched. 

Things started leveling out after that. Ron left the band and we got a new drummer. Unfortunately, he decided to rob the movie theater where he worked, and went to prison for a year. Hate Party broke up. I didn’t have a band, and I was searching. A band in Noble, Oklahoma called The Generics, were talking about kicking their singer out because he was turning into a Nazi. I realized how complicit everyone was. There was an acceptance of these malcontents in our scene. We rubbed shoulders. We weren’t anti-racist. I felt disgusted. I tried out for the band and became the singer. I was glad to replace the guy who thought he was superior to everyone because his skin lacked melanin.

The Generics were fun, albeit a bit sexist. The rest of the members weren’t fascists, but ultimately it wasn’t a good fit, and I was kicked out of the band before the end of my senior year of high school. To be fair, I was closeted trans, I had no car, and I ruined my relationship ship with my ride to practice because I was asexual, and didn’t return her advances. We had been hanging out at a rave club downtown at this time: The Pyramid Club. I suppose I was a “club kid,” but only as much as I was a “mall rat.” These were things we did, but I didn’t feel affinity to much outside of punk, and preferred just to drink in the punk house. One night, I was hanging outside of the club when my friends got back from the parking garage we also hung out on top of a couple miles away. They got out of the car and asked if I was okay. They told me that skins had stopped them in the parking lot and were trying to find me. They were talking about killing me. My friends had to drive through the group of skinheads to get out. 

Months later, I went to a Fugazi show in Edmond. When I arrived, I was warned that the skins were there, and they wanted to “kill me in the pit.” I didn’t want to die and I had just eaten a hallucinogenic. I went to a friends apartment instead. At this small party, the ex-leader for White Aryan Resistance Tulsa was there. The tab was starting to kick in, and I was having a similar conversation I had had with Spit a couple years before. He wanted to argue his ideology, I kept describing why he was stupid. I was drinking and it was the first time I didn’t have a bad trip. I felt a sense of agency that could only come from a long string of defeats. I brought up Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series. It was popular at the time among goths and the counterculture in general. He loved it, we had something we could agree on, and he went from anger to almost a love for me. He believed that what the books were describing was real. I was realizing the man wasn’t grounded in reality, when he started wrestling me to the ground. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to fight, or if he wanted to fuck me. I survived that night. 

A little bit after that, my friend who is only five feet tall was attacked by Spit outside the gay clubs. She beat him upside the head with her ammo box purse. The skins were wilding and showing up a lot. They would come to our parties and steal our beer and leave. They were everywhere (it seemed). They were still talking about killing me, but they added blowing my parent’s house up as well. I would go home and barely sleep out of fear. I was outside of the Wreck Room. We were in the Homeland parking lot where we often hung out, as we had been pushed down the street by security, when the Nazi skins showed up again. About six or seven of them were there to find my friend from my first band. We were both equally vocal and they wanted to kick his ass too. I was around nobody I knew. The scene had changed and these young kids knew who Hate Party was sometimes lied about being at our shows. This was mostly impossible because we only ever played three. But we did have a presence in the scene and the member who went to prison sold a couple hundred shirts. We were legends through word of mouth and advertising. If you push someone and push someone, they will eventually turn and push back, no matter how predisposed to peace they might be. In this moment I couldn’t take a second more, and I raised my voice and screamed. I shouted them down. They were stunned that I would finally stand up for myself. After calling them every insult in the book. After belittling them, decrying them, and shaming them, they almost quietly said “well if you see him, let him know we are looking for him.” I turned around and all the young punks had moved back fifteen yards. I realized I had stood my ground alone basically, and I was sad. I was angry that they had left me alone to defend myself. I realized I was always alone when I defended myself. The Geto Boys said “your friend ain’t shit when you’re getting your ass kicked.” I understood completely. After that horrible time when I hid under my girlfriend’s bed, I felt like my friends wanted me to stand up for myself. I realized that my peaceful nature was antithetical to wanting to go out and boot party every night about the smallest slight. They were right. 

A year after Fugazi played, they came back and played Norman. I got in for one song. I went outside and heard that the Nazis were here. These weren’t the same skins at all though. They came from southern Oklahoma. The rumble was beginning and I stood between the two groups and tried to de-escalate. One of the skins pulled out a gun and I shouted “fuck this!” I went to my friend’s car and hid inside the rest of the night calming my nerves listening to The Velvet Underground, I didn’t give a damn if anyone thought I was a coward anymore. Life went on. 

I traveled to SF and hitchhiked back. I toured the west coast in a band. The world felt like it was normalizing again. I didn’t feel like I was in the middle of a maelstrom for a second. But the day we got back from tour, our band broke up, and the scene really dissolved. Everyone was tired of the fact that I didn’t work and wanted me gone. Everyone wanted me gone. Not joking, not in my head, I had completely worn out my welcome. In the calm I had a nervous breakdown. I went to see Flipper in Norman and the Nazi skins from OKC were there. I lost it. We went back to OKC together and I was up all night with Flipper. They told me I was a guinea pig in an experiment. They were messing with me because I was paranoid. It worked, and I was awake for forty-eight hours. My friend spent the rest of the night trying to get me to drink a bottle of industrial glue. I jumped off their balcony and walked 20 miles to my mom’s house. My mother wanted to institutionalize me so I left. I went and hid in Norman, Oklahoma and recovered for a year with a very dear friend. I had a girlfriend who not-so-secretly hated me because I was asexual and trans. She shamed me. I was still in a bad situation. I went to Mardi Gras and I “fell” off Jax Brewery and broke my femur. I went home and healed for another month at my mom’s house. I broke up with my girlfriend. I was completely totaled. Until one day, I went outside and saw a rainbow. Maybe it was that sign, or maybe it was my indomitable spirit, but, I forgot the last years. I was ready to put it behind me. I didn’t want to hide anymore. I went out and went to the Groovefest. It was bad. I mean, my day was fine. It just had morphed out of a fun day with hip friends into something corporate and strange. I found my friends at the festival and I went back into the fray of living. I met up with my best friend of years and old band mate from Hate Party. We had nowhere to stay but we realized that we had been running away from Oklahoma for quite a while. We decided it was time to leave for good. We stole gas and drove to Dallas, TX. I’ve only been back three times. Once to see DRI (why, what was the point of that?) once on my way back to Lawrence, KS after being homeless in Austin for two years, and once to show my wife where I grew up. 

The first month I was in Dallas, I went to a party. There was the ex-leader of the WAR chapter there. Moments after I left the party, skinheads showed up and flayed the tattoos off his body with knives. I realized I hadn’t gotten far enough away from Oklahoma, but I did recover from my nervous break. It passed one night. It was gone. A friend talked me down. I love her. I’m always afraid of getting back to that place. The last four years had me very close at times.  But it was a ghost, it was more detached from me. I was a target, but not the direct target.

Though the Metzger’s (the family who started the group WAR) are dying, their influence has never gone away. It was, on the other hand, diminished by push back. While I’m anti-violent I can’t say I’m entirely anti-violence. It exists, it should only be employed when all other options are exhausted, but hate can’t be allowed to thrive. I know these radicalized kids became blue collar workers, they grew their hair and covered their tattoos. They became police and even textbook writers. They blend in now. It’s harder to fight what you can’t see, but we know they are still there. They have been recruiting.

Caring takes strength. Practice flexing that muscle sometimes.

I never even mentioned the time I was in Chicago and watched a group of Nazi skinheads jump out of a car and in several seconds, completely decimate a black, homeless person outside of Punkin Donuts. It was horrible, and it made me realize that I wasn’t even fighting with the truly vicious Nazi skinheads. In 1993, a Nazi skinhead murdered a punk rocker in Denver, Colorado. It was getting scarier and scarier, and it seemed that it would only keep getting worse.

Right before I left Oklahoma, I was at a friend’s house. Someone I knew who played both sides of the skin game, considering himself trad, but you can’t be trad and also tolerate Nazis… He asked, “why did the left have to go so far left, and the right so far right?”  Now we see what happens when the right goes too far right. We face hell. We learn that our peace is an illusion. It’s only peaceful because we aren’t in the circle of terrorists and malcontents. But, they are always lurking on the fringe. Our vigilance is desperately needed. We have to have open eyes. We have to care about something. We have to care about people, and have a vision for the end of hate. It doesn’t just happen. It’s still there, around the corner of our seemingly bucolic streets and our own minds. Caring takes strength. Practice flexing that muscle sometimes. Stop waiting for change and make it. Quit condemning people who are brave who are actually working for positive change just because you don’t agree with every single aspect of them. Be unafraid, but most of all, give a damn about something. It might feel like a drop in the ocean, but with many drops, we make a wave.

If you can try hoping that everybody has a better shot in life, that skin color doesn’t represent a threat to your own happiness, that people who practice different faiths than your own can live in the world with out oppression, you are one hundred percent healthier than people who join hate groups. This story has an end. My time being terrorized by a psychopath ended well for me, but very badly for him-–and the woman who loved him. I tried dating a girl in Edmond. She was cute and small and she had an also diminutive friend who thought of herself a skinhead girl who dated Spit. One afternoon he walked into the salon where his girlfriend was the receptionist, and he shot her in the head. Then he shot himself in the head. I had an acquaintance who was going to school as long as I knew him to be a mortician, he was a strange guy, and he was a racist. In the month before his graduation, he told us he had learned that everyone is made of the same stuff inside. And since we all share the same fate, he was done holding racist feelings. A week after my acquaintance got a job at a mortuary, he cremated my worst enemy’s remains. He told us there was nothing left of Spit but the steel caps in his boots.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s