Today, exactly one week after two larger than usual mass murders, downtown Eugene will simultaneously become the site of a God, Guns, and Trump Rally, a gay pride parade, and a large crafts fair. The Trumpers (who created the above illustration) have promised to bring their AR-15s. They can do this because Oregon is an "open carry" state. Antifa has vowed to confront the Trumpers, and while its members aren't known for using guns, they are known for using their fists. Next weekend, the right-wing demonstrators and their left-wing counterparts will move 110 miles up the road to Portland.
Since Trump was elected, the local papers have become peppered with hate crime incidents. In the worst one yet, a self-described white nationalist stabbed two people to death and injured a third on a Portland commuter train in 2017. Hate crimes in the nation as a whole rose under Obama only to take off like a rocket under Trump. When asked this week if his rhetoric was partially responsibility for last week's El Paso murders, Trump said that his words don't push people apart but bring them together (he had previously said it's the "America-hater Democrats" who push people apart). Conservative talk radio agrees, and while it and Trump seldom deign to mention right-wing hate crimes, they both argue that Antifa should be singled out for a domestic terrorism designation, although the group's members have yet to kill anyone.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists fifteen--nearly all of them conservative--hate groups in Oregon*, which are two more than in my historically racist home state of Mississippi. Liberal Eugene has seen a 380% increase in hate crimes in four years,** although when I came here in 1986, it was an alternative-minded hippie town that many dubbed "The Berkeley of the North," because of its left-wing radicalism. Some of the notorious Weathermen were from here, and the town's Selective Service office was broken into and its files burned. The Grateful Dead hit town every summer; Ken Kesey wrote books and created scandals; nudists enjoyed a publicly-owned beach on the Willamette; and both drug use and nudity were common at the Oregon Country Fair. Then came the bomb-making anarchists who, like many, believed that violence is the threshold to utopia. Now it's right-wing hate groups and--barely noticeable by comparison--Antifa.
I've learned over the years that few things are as bad as our fears make them out to be, yet they can be even worse. I still haven't decided whether to join the protest, which starts in an hour. This might well prove to be yet another day when America demonstrates that it loves guns the way addicts love meth. I am afraid that if I go, I might become one of the dead people whose names scroll across the evening news, yet I'm somehow more afraid of staying home. I need to be a part of this.
An interesting article about the Portland Antifa: https://www.wweek.com/news/2019/08/07/portlands-antifascists-punch-white-supremacists-are-they-also-helping-trump/