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Lameness of evil 

He was the first to enter, and it was well before the others arrived. He held an American flag against his shoulder and, without speaking, looking straight ahead, made sharp turns around the pen. Marching, over and over and over in a single route, he etched out the confines of the free-speech zone. He spent hours walking not in a circle, but instead an elongated triangle around a tiny patch of grass surrounded by silver railing. It has been more than a century since the Civil War. He was totally alone.

 *** 

He was all in orange. And, hopping around Hot Springs National Park, close to the Confederate rally and the flags, he held out his iPad in front of him. He pointed it at people. One ear had a headphone in it, the other ear was free, and the wire attaching the headphones dangled in front of his orange shirt and reached down to his iPad; a black hat was on his head. Like all of us he sweated, the temperature hotter and the sun brighter than in the previous overcast weeks. Nothing much happened for him, or for any of us there to "watch," but seeing him stalk the grounds for an online right-wing blog, hoping for some injustice, made The Observer feel dirty. Who wants to be part of a group that hopes for bad things to occur? The Observer knows that if you get a big enough crowd of people hoping for evil, someone will make that dream come true. Even if remembered in ill terms, some just want to be remembered.

***

A little kid was with his dad and he had a Confederate flag on a tiny wooden stick. The kid saw a sign with a word he did not know and the dad struggled to define it.

 

***

The veiled lady wanted us to recall — to remember — the sons that had died for the Confederacy. She wore a heavy black dress on this hot day to mourn their death, she said, because we wanted to take down the statues that were her memories. And, someone else said, "What would you do if they took away your ancestors' graves?" But, these poor soldiers do not feel remembered much by all of this, do they? Why not a statue of the poor Confederate soldier, as one of my colleagues said, dying from dysentery in a field? Why not a statue of the poor Confederate, as one of my friends said, dying as the aristocratic landowner stomps him down, makes him fight a war to stay poor? Why not a statue to the millions that died in slavery? How can anyone forget that these monuments have nothing to do with history but everything to do with the creation of history. We know they were erected during Jim Crow, in the 1890s and early 1900s, to cement a specific, inaccurate, narrative of the Civil War that valorized people like Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. This is their mark on our "history." They are red herrings. It would be like if, years later, we put up a statue of Nixon and LBJ to commemorate Vietnam veterans. It's not history, it's a myth we want to believe, so we don't have to face a simple fact: The South was wrong. The lady in black thought we lied. They took away her chair, because her group's permit did not include chairs, and she moved between the grass in the free-speech zone and a park bench behind it, drinking water.

 

***

He said there were rumors of the Black Panther Party coming, 50 strong, all intending to open carry. He'd heard more supporters of Confederate monuments were coming. He'd heard it somewhere, someone mentioned it. Rumors and rumors. More people were coming at 1 p.m. and then 2 p.m. and then 5 p.m. and then ... . None of them showed up. They'd heard the rumors walking to go get water or going to the bathroom or going to grab lunch.

***

A speaker was supposed to come later, around 6 p.m., but someone heard he got held up in traffic.

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