There was a startling news item this week from Fairview Township, northern York County, where a gallant "neighborhood watch" has come to the rescue of the residents of Ridge Road.
I was startled because I once lived near Ridge Road in that township. I think they call it "Fairview" because we lived there in March of 1979, on the top of a hill, and from our front window we had an excellent view of Three Mile Island.
While we were there, however, we had only one serious encounter with the police, because a certain member of my family happened to wander into the location of an outdoor beer party attended by around 200 fellow students from Red Land High School.
Of those 200 students targeted in a police raid, only two were slow enough to get caught. Take a wild guess who one of those two was. The Fairview Township police, however, were very generous that day, almost amused by the situation, and I have thought well of them ever since.
Apparently, this week the township police were found, by Frank Ancona, to be inadequate when it came to some break-ins on Ridge Road, so dramatic steps had to be taken. (We never had a single break-in when we lived in that area, although my wife says that's probably because we did not have anything worth stealing.)
Anyway, Ancona is the imperial wizard of the Missouri-based Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the outfit that slinked onto Ridge Road under cover of darkness to litter the neighborhood with fliers promising to protect residents from undesirables. "You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake," the fliers said.
Ancona told PennLive, the website of the Harrisburg Patriot-News newspaper, that the local KKK chapter heard complaints that the township police were not doing enough about the break-ins.
"It [KKK vigilance] is not targeting any specific ethnicity," he was quoted as saying, although that is not quite what Kluxers in that area have said on previous occasions, with respect to the heavy concentrations of nonwhite people in nearby Harrisburg.
In the Lehigh Valley area, I have been to a number of KKK rallies and other events, and benevolence and respect for the rights of all was not usually the dominant theme.
At a Kluxer rally in Carbon County years ago, after national Wizard J.W. Farrands proclaimed that the KKK "stands for the rights of all Americans," I noticed some other sentiments displayed.
There were KKK T-shirts on sale with racial slurs attacking Asian-Americans and other material aimed at Puerto Ricans, "Zionists," or others who do not belong to what one speaker called "the master race." (Nazi themes, Nazi salutes and Confederate battle flags are big at KKK rallies.)
At a KKK gathering in Catasauqua, Kluxers handed out literature with pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. with a gunsight depicted on his forehead to celebrate his murder. When I was young, they also vilified Roman Catholics in general and Italians in particular, but that part of their rage has subsided. In fact, I think Ancona may be an Italian name.
Two things I've noticed about KKK events is that they always boast of their "courage" in fighting for their version of righteousness, and they always hold the events in places like rural Carbon County, Catasauqua, Pennsburg and other places where there are few minorities.
That brought to mind the location of my newspaper's main office. We're in Allentown, where there have been at least as many break-ins as in Fairview Township.
So why don't the brave Kluxers hold a rally at, say, the corner of Sixth and Turner? The Morning Call has an open area there, for truck unloading, etc., and I could try to persuade the people at the paper to allow a righteous rally aimed at protecting us.
That area also is predominantly nonwhite, so the Kluxers, if they want to prove how brave they truly are, could proudly display their posters of MLK with a gunsight on his forehead.
Their reputation for bravery, after all, took a hit at their Catasauqua gathering, when a dozen big bad Kluxers were chased out of town by three Quaker women.
That, I suppose, may be why Kluxers often hide their identities under hoods, operate only in packs (like hyenas), hold rallies in all-white redneck areas, and prefer to slink around under the cover of darkness.
Once, after I wrote uncomplimentary things about the KKK, I received telephone calls assuring me that the same thing that "happened to Bolles in Arizona" was going to happen to me. (That was an apparent reference to the unsolved 1976 murder of investigative reporter Don Bolles.)
As it turned out, I was told by members of a very intimidating motorcycle group, members of the group heard about the threat and visited a KKK leader in eastern Pennsylvania, telling him what would happen to him if anything happened to me. It seems the biker guys appreciated my strong support for the repeal of compulsory helmet laws. Anyway, the threatening calls suddenly stopped.
"Everything they do reeks of cowardice," I once wrote of Kluxers.
I'd be delighted to be proven wrong, however, and a big KKK rally at Sixth and Turner ought to do it.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays