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In an email received from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines dated July 20, Daines wrote about a recent act of nonviolent protest in Colorado: “At another ICE facility in Aurora, Colorado, extremist protesters removed the American flag and raised the Mexican flag. This egregious act on American soil — to raise the flag of a foreign nation — is completely disrespectful to our great nation, to our servicemen and women, and to the American people and history we cherish so deeply.”

I find Daines’ remarks disturbing. Couched in a seeming patriotic stance, Daines not only ignores the violent actions and anti-Semitic chants of young white nationalist males who marched in Charlottesville under the flag of Nazi Germany (which many of the Greatest Generation fought and died to defeat), but as our elected representative Daines is also essentially attacking one of the patriotic acts of nonviolent protest that helped create this nation of ideals, this constitutional democratic republic of ours.

On December 16, 1773, patriots disguised their personal identity by dressing as American Indians, boarded three ships in Boston Harbor, and dumped 342 chests of British tea overboard. The Boston Tea Party was a political act of resistance to the tyrannical tax policies of King George. “No taxation without representation.” It was a criminal act against property, but no individuals were harmed in their extreme act of political protest.

Likewise, the protest at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Colorado was an act of nonviolent political protest opposing policies and actions of the U.S. government that has resulted in separating children from their parents and the death of children in ICE detention centers.

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For Daines to attack these pro-life American political “patriots” while completely ignoring the white American males who marched under the flag of a fascist foreign government that attacked American freedoms and took the lives of American soldiers — this, to me, is unconscionable. The march in Charlottesville under the flag of Nazi Germany was violent. It resulted in the murder of an American woman named Heather Heyer and serious injury to numerous other peaceful law-abiding citizens.

Given Daines’ apparent attempt to undermine our history and our foundational American values, I cannot help but wonder about the senator’s motivation. With the 2020 election still more than a year away, is this an attempt to solicit favor and support from Montana voters or an attempt to solicit money and support from foreign and domestic entities? I do not know. Is it an attempt to further white nationalist ideology? I do not know.

I cannot read the senator’s heart and mind. But his rhetoric is certainly not an attempt to further American ideals of liberty and justice for all. It is not an attempt to honor and respect Americans who gave their lives to protect our right to voice political protest nonviolently.

I find his message disingenuous and troubling.

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Hal Schmid is a researcher, writer and educator based in Missoula.

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