My Son: Klan Reformer – A Political Fable
By Stefan Molyneux
Host, Freedomain Radio
Ah, my son, my son…
He’s 40 years old, and really needs to change careers.
When he was 20, he joined the Ku Klux Klan, because he was concerned that the Klan was getting too big, too aggressive. In those days, they were lynching some poor man every week, which he felt was wrong. He felt that the Klan should limit itself to a lynching every month, and that things were getting waaaay out of hand.
I’ve spent my life arguing that the Klan should be abolished, so I had mixed feelings about his decision. Without a doubt, I would rather the Klan lynch someone once a month rather than once a week, so I was somewhat tempted by his ‘work from the inside’ approach, but I had some significant doubts that it could work.
“But dad,” he said, those many years ago, “I can get the word out that the Klan should only be lynching someone once a month, rather than once a week, which will be a step in the right direction, right?”
“Well, I’m not sure,” I said uneasily. “Won’t people be getting the message that lynching is good, rather than that lynching is bad? You’re legitimizing the principle.”
“But I want to reduce the number of lynchings, dad!” he replied. “In an ideal world, sure, there should be no lynchings at all, but I’m going to bring that number down, which is a step in the right direction, right? I mean, it’s better if fewer people get lynched, right?”
I was uneasy, because something just sort of – seemed wrong with his approach, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
For the past twenty years, my son has been notorious in the Klan. He draws a paycheck, goes to meetings – and has been given control over his very own district of Klan loyalists.
To his credit, whenever the Klan Council votes on whether to have a lynching, my son usually votes ‘no.’ Often he’s the only one casting a negative vote.
Still, since he joined the Klan with the goal of reducing lynching, lynching has gone up and up and up.
Now, the Klan that 20 years ago only lynched a man a week is now lynching a man a day.
And my son’s district? Has he been able to reduce the lynching in the area he has control over?
No. In fact, the lynching in his own district has actually gone up over the years.
When I ask him about this, his answer is always the same: “Sure, dad, but I don’t have that much control over who gets lynched in my district. I oppose it, of course, but there’s not a whole lot I can do.”
A few months ago, my son came over and told me he was running for Grand Wizard.
“If I become Grand Wizard,” he said, “I will be able to veto most of the lynchings that come up for a vote. Then I’ll really have the power to reduce the number of people getting killed or beaten up.”
“But son!” I exclaimed in horror. “People – other than you, let’s say – only join the Klan so they can lynch people. If all they want to do is lynch people, why on earth would they vote you in? And if you somehow got in, the moment you stopped them from lynching, they’d just toss you out! If you stop the Klan from lynching, it’s not the Klan anymore!”
“No,” he said earnestly, “it’s still the Klan – it’s just a smaller Klan that lynches less!”
“Twenty years ago,” I said softly, “you said that in a perfect world, there would be no lynching at all…”
“Sure,” he said, coloring slightly. “But I can’t talk about that. About there being no lynching at all. I mean, that would be mad – I’d never get elected Grand Wizard!”
“Right, so you’re on a ‘pro-lynching’ platform, you just want less lynching.”
“Yes,” he said, nodding vigorously, immune to irony.
“So it’s wrong to lynch a lot, but it’s right to lynch a little.”
“Well, ideally, there should be no lynching at all…”
“But that’s not what you’re telling people. You’re telling people that the right thing to do is lynch less.”
“Sure – because less lynching is better than more lynching.”
“But no lynching is better, right?”
“Yes, in an ideal world…”
“So why don’t you tell people that? That you want to take over the Klan in order to abolish it!”
He laughed. “Oh, I don’t think that’s the right idea. Right now, we need the lynchings. We need the Klan. It’s just gotten too big.”
Round and round we went, from pragmatism to principle, back and forth… It was most exasperating!
After a public debate where my son roused a real ruckus by openly stating that the reason that certain minorities hated whites was because of white support for the Klan that lynched them, his numbers shot up from somewhere near 0% to around 3%.
He came right over, ecstatic. “I’m really getting the message out, dad!”
I grimaced. “Well – I hate to say this, son, but I think you just shot yourself in the foot.”
“Wh – what?” His voice hardened instantly.
“You say that minorities hate the Klan because of the lynchings, right?”
“But the number of lynchings has gone up like five or six times since you joined the Klan – and the number of lynchings in your district has also gone up!”
“But I vote against most of the lynchings!”
“But son! You are in the Klan! You support lynchings! How can you say that the Klan is immoral?”
“Because, as I’ve said about ten thousand times over the past twenty years, dad, there’s too much lynching!”
“So you think that minorities will love you now? When you say they have every right to hate the lynching that you support less of? My God son – when did it happen that the best possible outcome a good man could hope for was to present himself as the lesser of two evils?”
“Because change has to be gradual, dad!” he cried out. “Has your podcasting and scribbling stopped even one lynching? At least I’m out in the real world trying to get something done!”
“And what, after twenty years, have you achieved? You said to me, long ago, ‘Dad, I’m in this to reduce the numbers of lynchings. And you’ve been taking Klan money and hanging out with these thugs for decades, and what is the outcome? More lynchings. More Klan power! So what have you achieved?”
He jumped up. “Well, yeah, sure, there are more lynchings now, but can you imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t joined the Klan? Instead of just one lynching a day, there could be two or three!”
“How do you know that? That’s just something you tell yourself, so you don’t feel that you compromised your principles for nothing. There’s no evidence of that!”
“I’ve voted against most of the lynchings!”
“And the lynchings happened anyway! And still you stay with these thugs!”
Suddenly he changed tactics. “Why do you care so much what I do? We’re both for less lynching, we’re both on the same side of the fence, we shouldn’t be fighting each other.”
“But you are fighting me,” I said softly. “Don’t you understand that?”
There was a long silence. Our mutual anger was spent.
“What do you mean?”
“Son, you think that lynching should be reformed, I think it should be abolished. It’s like slavery.” I sighed. “In the 19th century, a lot people were very uneasy about slavery. Deep down, they knew that it was wrong. But they also were afraid of real change. And there were two groups: the reformers and the abolitionists. The reformers promised people that slavery could be made more humane, that the slaves could be treated better, beaten and raped less – and so slavery did not have to be eliminated. They worked to pass laws against the extreme mistreatment of slaves, held rallies, raised money – an enormous amount of time, energy and resources were wasted trying to reform slavery. And, as they worked and worked, for decades and decades, more slaves got beaten and raped, conditions got worse and worse, and – the worst thing in my view – people uncomfortable with slavery were given the comforting illusion that it did not have to be abolished.
“The abolitionists, on the other hand, knew that slavery could not be reformed, that is was evil through and through, and that it had to be abolished. And their most dangerous opponents were not those who were unabashedly pro-slavery. Their most dangerous opponents were the reformers.”
He rolled his eyes. “So – you’re saying that I’m your enemy now?”
“No, because we’ve never had this conversation. And for that I’m sorry. But what you’re doing, what you’ve been doing for twenty years, is telling people that the Klan can be good if only the right person is in charge. You’re giving people false hope, because the Klan can never be good. And so they shrink back from abolishing the Klan, because that seems extreme, because here’s this smart, well-spoken person who’s been in the Klan for twenty years, who’s saying that the Klan is good and necessary, and all we have to do is put him in charge of it. So when I come along and say that the Klan is immoral, and needs to be abolished, you know what people say to me? They say, ‘Nahhh, I’m going to support your son, he has great plans to reform the Klan, I agree with a lot of what he says, there is too much lynching – we don’t have to abolish the Klan, that’s too extreme.’ And that’s been going on for the last twenty years, son. You’re giving people a false choice that helps them avoid the necessity of change, from confronting the evil in their midst. And you legitimize the Klan by claiming to be a good man and being part of it. I’m telling you this from the bottom of my heart, son: if you did not exist, the Klan would have to invent you.”
There was a long pause.
“All right, dad,” said my son eventually, raising his eyes to mine. “I’ll drop my run for Grand Wizard. On one condition.”
“Anything!” I cried out, overjoyed.
“You drop your support for Ron Paul.”
Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a “Top 10” Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.