The ultra-rightist Ku Klux Klan organization is considered to be one of the most vicious and defective phenomena in the history of the United States. At the height of its rise during the 1920s, the Klan numbered several million members and represented one of the most powerful and influential movements in the country.
While absolute majority would not question the loathsome nature of the KKK organization and unambiguity of its image, some researchers of its activity tend to regard Klan’s essence as dual, leaning toward positive.
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The articles, examined in this essay, represent rather opposite characterization of the Ku Klux Klan, judging differently its activities.
The first article, written by John Zerzan, considers the movement to be largely misunderstood. The reason to that is the outward display of some of its actions, which have blinded people of its actual struggle and aspiration. It also disputes the southern characterization of the Ku Klux, maintaining that the Klan uniquely predominated in the north, particularly in Indiana and Ohio states. The article suggests that the movement is nothing else than a natural reaction to the economic depression of the time and the devastation and injustice that took place in the country. Thus, the Klan became a vehicle of class struggle against the unfairness caused by corrupted government.
The second article, conversely, suggests rather different point of view of the movement, stating that anger and hatred along with the white supremacy were the core of the organization. The article focuses on the worst manifestations of the Klan and describes it as bloodthirsty criminals with queer costumes, symbolism, and passwords, fiercely defending the white way of life and violently suppressing minorities.
While contradicting each other in a number of aspects, these two articles, however, should not be considered as entirely mutually exclusive. They just represent two different perspectives of the KKK. The second one has more emotional tone in it, and clearly regards the movement as “the constant bad dream for a free American society to deal with”.
The article also asserts that the unfairly romanticized image of the Ku Klux Klan, created by some of the writers like Thomas Dixon, Jr., promoted the concept of the movement and justified the violent actions of it, implying that the Klan was only fighting for a “just cause”.
The first article seems rather neutral and impartial and thus quite daring. Though, it does not openly make any attempts to deny the crimes that took place throughout the history of the Ku Klux Klan. It just aims at a wider look at the phenomenon and declines its exclusively demonic nature. The KKK was an expression of the dissatisfaction with the quality of life – the cost of living, inequality and social injustice. According to the article, the movement represented the law that answered the needs of a working class and enabled the workers to oppose wealthy exploiters.
The unprejudiced tone of John Zerzan’s article makes it look rather credible on the face of it. Though it has a lot of appropriate points, I consider it unfair in a number of aspects. It barely touches the problem of black people oppression – the main reason why the Ku Klux Klan is being hated and denounced around the world. Zerzan states that the movement was not anti-colored, but he is not eager to adduce much of evidence to it, focusing on other, less contradictory, aspects and sides of the Klan.
Therefore, the apparent contradiction between the two articles represents the conflicting nature of the phenomenon and raises more questions than answers regarding one of the most important social movements of the 20th century.
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