In a parallel universe ....
For reasons too convoluted to recap, the KKK had captured the attention of Northern Europeans who were appalled at this terrorist organization and also saw it as an outgrowth of the culture of the American south. It wasn't just the systemic racism they saw manifest in differences in income, employment, life expectancy and incarceration rates for minorities. Compared to countries that gave generous maternity leave and offered comprehensive sex education and family planning options, the south's apparent disregard for women was offensive to these Northern Europeans. For them, the KKK was not just a terrorist organization: it represented a natural outcome of a flawed culture.
So, the Europeans began to speak out against the barbarity of the American south, criticizing their televangelists and traditions. They sent advisers to "help" young girls to be aware of their sexual rights and to provide contraceptives and even abortions. They empowered blacks to speak out more, to protest and began to offer legal representation for poor minorities. All of this activity seemed more like agitation than progress. Southerners were a little unsettled by this. There is perhaps a Newtonian equivalent of "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction," because the campaign from secular humanists from Northern Europe actually fueled a resurgence in "southern values." The KKK very deftly turned this energy into larger donations and more members.
Of course, the growth of the KKK made the Northern Europeans work even harder to limit them. Things escalated until finally, KKK members coming in as American tourists coordinated an attack on city centers in Brussels, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. It was tragic.
Politicians in Northern Europe debated about how best to respond to this terrorist act. To many, all of the south looked alike. Others tried to point out that wonderfully progressive and humane people lived in the American South. And even some of the people whose values seemed more aligned with the KKK than the secular humanists were still good and decent people. Not only that but the victims - the minorities and women oppressed by the KKK - lived there. However, to many Northern Europeans the distinction between KKK, racists, rednecks and Bubbas was unclear. Angrier angrier voices prevailed and the promise that resonated the most was to "bomb the crap out of them."
As it turns out, the bombs dropped by the Northern Europeans did, indeed, kill KKK members. And their families. And their neighbors, many of whom had once been as offended by the KKK as were the Northern Europeans.
The bombs fell on a diverse group of people. The group that rose out of the rubble, though, was quite unified in its hatred of the Northern Europeans. The bombing incensed them. The "boots on the ground" sent later in this campaign to eradicate the KKK made the Southerners feel even more threatened. Foreigners on their soil was a threat to their way of life, an invasion that offended even the most reasonable and moderate southerners.
In ways that most Americans would not have predicted before the Europeans intervened, the KKK saw a resurgence. The confederate flag, which had fallen out of favor in the last decade, became fashionable again. Even Americans from outside the south began to fly the flag as a show of solidarity with the poor folks who'd seen their homes, schools, hospitals and even children destoryed by bombs. The racism and sexism that had been losing favor became an expression of rebellion against the Northern European troops.
The Northern Europeans were a little surprised that their bombing campaign actually galvanized support for the KKK. Or, more precisely, it galvanized opposition to meddling secular socialists who had gone from threatening a way of life to threatening actual lives. Thoughtful Europeans were confused. Sadly, it just gave more fuel to the voices who grouped all southerners - all Americans even - into the same group of incalcitrant hillbillies, terrorists who were undeserving of sympathy or negotiation.
And the fighting escalated. Who could have predicted that so much grief could follow from a sloppy definition of "them?"