Twenty members of the Ku Klux Klan, a notorious band of maverick intellectuals who wear pillow cases and designer sheets, launched a major policy initiative in a geopolitical issues last weekend at a think tank held in the once-halcyon hilltop town of Braddock Heights in rural Frederick County.
Klan philosophers declined to link the Trilateral Commission with the fluoridation of American drinking water, but one spokesman established for the first time the relationship between the Iran crisis and the influx of Cuban refugees. "When you're over fighting in Iran," he said, "the Cubans will be here f--- your wife."
Carefully examining these and other vivid conclusions were more than 50 representatives of the fourth estate including one producer from CBS network news in New York who put the public's right to know ahead of two tickets to the Newport Jazz Festival in just another example of selflenessness in the media today.
Even the Frederick County Health Department, which sent an inspector to the session to make sure the water cooking the hot dogs was at least 140 degrees, went out of its way to make sure no klansman's powers of ratiocination were immobilized by an inadequately boiled frankfurter. Hot dogs, manna of intellectuals the world over, are considered "potentially harzardous foods" in Frederick County.
And so in three hours of speeches, a parade of gentile Einsteins sliced with brillant self-assurance through complexities of ethnic life that have vexed lesser thinkers since grand dragons first started trying to maintain the gene pool's purity by selling KKK belt buckles to their friends.
Seldom has the legacy of Karl Marx been so frequently invoked, or the problems of the U.S. Postal Service, which the wise men laid to the large percentage of expatriated Africans laboring there, so keenly posed.
In the rarefied world of the KKK sages are known as "dragons" and "wizards." Such insights were drawn from an inexhaustible store by these sheeted Solomons who spoke through a loudspeaker wired to a podium that was draped with red bunting and framed by flags of the Union and Confederacy. A crowd of 200 appreciative mesomorphs, curiosity seekers and selfless press absorbed the wisdom.
Meanwhile, robed disciples who didn't look old enough to skip school without a note from home hawked oracular wares, and a hell-stompin' gal in a hat of Confederate flags passed out Klan membership forms like subscription blanks to Foreign Affairs.
This brainstorm was centered in the middle of Braddock Heights, a peaceful, past-its-prime resort community set on a shoulder of the Catoctin Mountains. Chief among the fears of the community's 1,500 residents seemed to be the wild-eyed agitators from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which gained a local reputation as being slightly to the left of Karl Marx, would force a showdown at the rally and that the subsequent rumble would destroy property values.
Many of the houses in Braddock Heights had been built in the time before television when the passing show of the street as viewed from a spacious porch was a handsome evening's entertainment. Despite the number of families who had packed off the children to relatives, the rally looked to have gotten a better share Saturday night than Love Boat, judging from the spectators racked up on porches slipping wine spritzers and bottles of beer.
The seminar in domestic and international relations concluded with ritual burning of a 20- to 50-foot cross. Despite the record number of reporters on hand, the height of the cross was never firmly established, varying as much as 30 feet in various news accounts -- all of which were written by lily-livered reporters afraid to take a stand.
Klansmen circled counterclockwise bearing torches around the cross, like arsonous Druids on a summer holiday in the Blue Ridge. Men who had been unable to find the courage to speak in the light of day were steeled by the crowd and the flames of the fiery cross, and they found it in themselves to cry, "Burn some niggers."
But as the rally's ostensible purpose was to enlist new recruits, not immediately solve the problems in the Post Office, the sentiment was assessed as mere boyish exuberance by Klan leaders. Still, many journalists came to the conclusion that there is more humanity to be found in an interview with an overcooked hot dog than a member of the KKK. But then, ours has always been a society skeptical of intellectuals.