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The Moreland School 

Nothing seems more suitable than a Nazi running for governor in 2010, when our ordinarily docile little state is burning with xenophobia for the third or fourth time in its 175 years.

If people aren't upset that the country is run by a black man with a name that sounds Arabic or something else weird and degrees laden with honors from fancy schools like Columbia and Harvard, they think they're being overrun by Mexicans and Guatemalans or fear a plot by socialists to take over state and national capitols and run up budget deficits that would embarrass even Ronald Reagan. So why not at least entertain the idea of electing a governor who adores Adolf Hitler and who is committed to exterminating everyone on earth but gun-loving people of pure Northern European extraction (by natural selection, of course, not a timely massacre)? Billy Roper, by the way, plans to run for president in 2012 if he isn't in the middle of his term as governor.

Roper will not be elected governor or even come close to his goal of 10,000 votes because he dallied until it was too late to get on the ballot as an independent and will have to count on people remembering his name and going through the rigmarole of writing him in on Nov. 2, which is a lot harder now than when Dr. Dale Alford got himself elected to Congress in 1958 as a racist write-in. Otherwise, Roper might be successful, by his standards.

For a few days last week, he could allow himself to dream. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette carried a splendid article by its ace political writer, Seth Blomeley, about Roper and his ideas, and that was followed Thursday by a laudatory full-dress editorial ("Thank you, Billy Roper") that seemed headed for an early endorsement of his candidacy until the anticlimactic ending, when it turned out that the paper was not admiring his ideas so much as just his wonderful candor. If the editors had been paying attention they would not have been surprised by his frankness because Roper has been proclaiming the goals of his White Revolution to any forum that would carry them for years (see several pieces in the Arkansas Times, Time magazine and other publications).

It was not Roper's notions of the supremacy of the white race or his regret that Nazi Germany had not won World War II that intrigued me. It was, rather, Blomeley's description of him as living "outside of Moreland."

Outside of Moreland (Pope County) is an iconic place in Arkansas lore. It was where Leland Duvall, the Nostradamus of the Ozarks, was born and based his livelihood as an itinerant farm worker before he became a newspaper editor and columnist and wrote the definitive economic history of Arkansas. Now we have two philosophers from outside Moreland, Ark., although one would have been quite enough.

Duvall also was the subject of a flattering editorial in the Democrat Gazette after his death in 2006, although for distinctly different reasons the paper did not care for his philosophy. Duvall was the author of Moreland's Laws of Human Behavior and Economics (Moreland's Fifth Law: Profits will never reach an optimum level.)

The two boys from Moreland developed strangely opposite notions about the Nazis and about their own government, too. Roper told Blomeley that Hitler never intended any harm to Americans. Duvall gave up the plow and the cotton compress to join the Army at the age of 34 and went ashore in the second wave at Omaha Beach. The Nazis killed all but 40 of the 140 men in his cavalry unit in the German offensive that presaged the Battle of the Bulge and the remnants were assigned to block German Panzers and artillery at a bridge on the River Ruhr, which they did for two weeks from the basement of a bombed-out farmhouse. He took shrapnel three times and felt privileged just to have fought on the side of liberty and equality. In 1954 when the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation and Duvall was the editor of the Courier Democrat at Russellville, he wrote an editorial the next day calling for the immediate integration of the city's schools, something no other paper in the South did.

How could the hamlet of Moreland have produced two smart men with such disparate takes on the world? Blomeley answered it. Roper was not a son of Moreland but an occupier. He was born at Morrilton.

Their educations were different, too. Roper got baccalaureate and masters degrees from Arkansas Tech, where he learned enough history to convince him that God intended that all privilege on His planet be confined to those with skin pigments that made optimum use of Vitamin D. Duvall didn't finish the eighth grade although he went to Tech for a few months after the war when he read about the GI Bill. He would devour every economics tract from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman and see the frailties of each.

Duvall would be amused, not chagrined, to have shared his beloved hamlet with a Nazi, just as he was when he discovered during the McCarthy hearings that his eight hours of journalism tutelage at the Courier Democrat in 1947 had been under Seaton Ross, an editor at one time of the communist Daily Worker.

He and Billy Roper no doubt would share a disdain for the dominant movement of the day, the tea party, but for different reasons. Roper thought it was fertile for recruitment for White Revolution but he discovered that the mature among the tea partiers were not interested in preserving racial and heterosexual purity but protecting their Social Security and Medicare from the socialists. Duvall knew that they were as wrong as they could be on the bigger firmament, that as it was in 1861, 1935 and 1942 in a grave national crisis a democratic government is not to be feared but relied upon. It was the lesson of Moreland.

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