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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Hate Groups Win One, And It’s Sick

Flip Schulke’s fear shouldn’t have surprised me.

This friend and photographer of Martin Luther King Jr. knew enough about North Idaho to steer clear of it. My 18-year-old daughter understood Flip’s decision not to share his message in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.

But I didn’t. It sickened me.

The Spokesman-Review brought Flip to the area from his Florida home to show the pictures he’d taken of King for such magazines as Life and Ebony. The white photographer and the black human rights activist were close friends for 10 years, up to King’s assassination.

Flip not only chronicled King’s life, he participated in it and has remained close to King’s family. I knew North Idahoans would jump at the chance to learn from his pictures, memories and insight.

But Flip backed out. He’d read about North Idaho’s Aryan Nations, Phineas Priesthood, militias. He’d read about bombings, cross-burnings, standoffs and dangerously small minds.

It took him right back to Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960s - the beatings, tear gas, blood-chilling hate, deaths. Small towns were the worst and most dangerous, he said.

Then he compared Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint to those angry Southern towns and canceled the North Idaho part of his visit. I felt hollow, then defensive, then sick.

I chose to raise my children in North Idaho where random crime is so rare that people still leave their houses and cars unlocked. I’ve never doubted that decision.

Over the years, I uneasily followed the news reports about the growth of white supremacy in the region. I dismissed the movement as degenerate, weak and far below average intelligence and admired the community’s backlash like a mother whose child had done the right thing.

That groundswelling of indignation tricked me into believing that good had triumphed. The supremacists were loud, but the human rights activists were louder. I was convinced that word was out: North Idaho was a decent place.

Flip proved me wrong. The word is out on North Idaho and it’s not good. After three days in the Northwest, Flip said the Panhandle’s goodness is the nation’s best-kept secret.

He knew nothing about the awards North Idaho’s human rights movement had won or the many offshoot groups it had inspired. The area’s friendliness and warmth surprised him.

He said the national media report only on the Panhandle’s deviants. How low the nation’s opinion of Idaho must be.

But even more disturbing is my daughter’s reaction to Flip’s fear. She considered it rational and justified.

North Idaho’s crazies must scare her more than its human rights work soothes her. Flip gave her fear credibility. When she leaves Idaho for college next summer, she’ll share that perception of her home with her new friends.

So shall North Idaho’s reputation grow….

Tony Stewart, one of the founders of Kootenai County’s human rights task force, says he tells speakers he woos to North Idaho that if the hate groups scare them away, the bad guys have won.

That’s what makes me sick.

Pretty privy

Sagle’s Rosalyn Clark says the outhouse at Carver Kearney’s Talache Apple Orchard offers a staggering view of Lake Pend Oreille and the mountains beyond.

Carver’s outhouse is framed by lush ferns and trees. The inside walls are decorated with art, and one window is stained glass. Sounds like a good place for a long sit.

Royal flush

A good hand at the Panhandle Nordic Club’s poker ski at Fourth of July Pass Saturday at 11 a.m. is worth new skis or a night out. But you’ll have to beat my cards. Call 765-3415 to register.

Moan about your worst ski disaster to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID, 83814; send a fax to 765-7149; call 765-7128; or E-mail to cynthiat@spokesman.com.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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