I didn’t want this post to be about Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, who was murdered today by a white supremacist.
I didn’t want to remember David Charles Tate, or Charles and Betty Tate, or Laura and Brenna Tate. I didn’t want to think about the Aryan Nation, the Christian Identity Movement, Hayden Lake, the Montana Freemen, and all the way through the Bundy Clan and Malheur. This blog is supposed to be songs to those I love, and I am again heart-broken and angry, tired of this most evil bigotry, something that is way too close for me.
I wish I could write about Jimmie E. Linegar, a Missouri State Trooper, father of a daughter and boy who both would graduate from Missouri State, their father’s alma mater. Or something about the details of his happy marriage, his rather ordinary life, his love of hunting and good practical jokes. But all I know, really, is that David Tate, over 32 years ago, after pulling his van over for a spot check, had shot Trooper Linegar multiple times with an automatic weapon, leaving the 31-year-old for dead as he ran off.
I knew David Tate, a member of “The Order,” who was all of 22-years-old at the time of the killing, who already had been mentioned in a New York Times feature about the Aryan Nation, who already had killed another man, who was a co-conspirator in other murders and bank robberies in the early 80s. This was all in the name of Christian white purity.
You can go on-line and pull up tracts that David is writing to this day, mailing them out to friends who post them on various Christian Identity chatrooms and Reddit groups, spewing the worst filth, directed at Jews, blacks, Muslims, liberals, women, Mexicans, and on and on and on. He likes the word Satan a lot.
David came from a very prominent and progressive family in Boise, a family that went to my family’s Presbyterian church, and my family being especially close to Syd and Mary Tate. David’s father and mother, Charlie and Betty, were my Youth Leaders at church, the junior-high-aged children in our congregation. While it wasn’t unusual to hear Charlie occasionally grouse about taxes or about feeling cheated in the family hierarchy (the family owned Triangle Dairy, and he served as a dairy inspector, a kind of low-level quality-control job), he pretty much kept his political views to himself. Looking back that it was the early 70s, that was rather remarkable.
While David was too young–he’s four years younger than I am–to be in the youth group, he and his sisters, just a toddler and baby then, would invariably be in the background, either being tended by Betty or just hanging out quietly with the older kids. David was very poor in math, and I remember helping him with his multiplication tables, trying to teach him short-cuts. I remember Betty being upset with his schooling.
Suddenly, though, the Charlie Tate family simply checked out. They quit going to our church. Betty took David out of public school and started home schooling him. My parents really didn’t say much about it, other than expressions of sympathy for the kids or an occasional cross word about Charlie being bull-headed. I should say Charlie and Betty were sweet and conscientious in my presence, and I was simply puzzled by it all.
Around 1975, maybe 1976, I bumped into Charlie and Betty at a county board meeting. I was very much involved as a high schooler with the Idaho Conservation League, protesting the construction of a proposed coal-fired plant–the issue then wasn’t global warming, but acid rain. They were there with “Land Use Zoning = Communism” signs. Charlie recognized me immediately, and quickly, he took my arm, led me away, saying, “I know you mean well, but don’t be fooled by those trilateral commies. Rockefeller’s behind it all. Rockefeller!”
After that, I heard that Charlie and Mary moved to Hayden Lake in 1979, and there, Charlie became the lieutenant to Richard Butler of the Aryan Nation. Betty also seemed to flourish in that environment–yes, the den mother who was also a true believer, teaching the young ones about readin’, ‘ritin’, ‘rithmetic, and race. David would’ve been 16 then.
I remember hoping that David would rebel, that I would hear about him returning to go to Boise State, taking up music. But I also remember David being very quiet, profoundly unconfident, and deferentially polite–that’s what I remember of 9-year-old David, anyway. He seemed a loss cause.
In 1981, I left Idaho myself to go to graduate school in Indiana, and the “lesser” Tates were pretty much an afterthought until the news came of David being indicted on federal racketeering charges as a member of The Order, and almost immediately thereafter, the killing of Trooper Linegar.
The news stories, even from the Spokane paper, focused on this shame besetting such a prominent Boise family. It was about a narrative that seemed especially satisfying, to see the high and mighty being taken down a notch. This was at a time when the right wing in Idaho politics was in ascendancy, and so there was the extra joy in seeing a family known for fighting for social justice and liberal causes (very true of Mary, Syd, and Stan Tate) having this ugly, racist, bigoted skeleton in the closet. It was a way to deflect the reality of just how hospitable Idaho was for these racist hate groups, these off-the-gridders.
Of course, what’s uncanny is just how mind-numbingly homogenous Idaho was especially then, the very Idaho Charlie Tate had grown up in. He had all the privileges–he did graduate from the University of Idaho and was given a job in the family business, even though he nursed some ill and private grievances about it all. He had, moreover, a family inheritance that enabled him to leave his job for the Aryan Nation.
Was it easier to see the enemy coming from outside rather than face his own shortcomings? Get a John Birch Society pamphlet, watch those riots exploding in Watts and Detroit, suckle on the notion of Christian exceptionalism year after year . . . .and suddenly, you have plenty of people to blame, to hate.
And I realize now, precisely now, that it takes so very, very little: the tiniest drop of fear and a frail constitution.
I think, so much, of how we are all frail, really, and how we are nothing without tenderness and love. Not the easy love of loving our own kind, but of those who are nearly like us, but never are, never can be, never should be.
Charlie and Betty stayed with the Aryan Nation, eventually joined the Montana Freemen, and then moved to Black Mountain, North Carolina–the latest enclave. Of course, that’s remarkably ironic to me, because I associate Black Mountain with John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Denise Levertov, Merce Cunningham, Charles Olson, Robert Creely–largely left-wing, queer, experimental artists.
Sadly, their daughters married prominent members of white supremacist groups, and they brush shoulders with the likes of David Duke. They also live in Black Mountain, and about two years ago, Charlie Tate died in a nursing home, very likely supplemented by Medicaid. In Charlie’s obituary, I note that three of his grandchildren do not live in Black Mountain. I’m hoping, hoping that one of them has left for good. I’m pretty sure, though, that a couple of them are drinking a beer in celebration of the deaths in Charlottesville.
David? He’s in the Southeast Correctional Center of Missouri Department of Corrections, serving a life term without the possibility for parole.
And outside of Branson, a portion of Highway 86, near the Missouri/Arkansas border, is named after Jimmie Linegar.