CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: One day I was standing in an alley at 14 years old and I was smoking a joint. And a guy drove up the alley and stopped six inches from me. And when he got out of the car, he walked towards me. He grabbed the joint from my mouth, looked me in the eyes and said don’t you know that that’s what the Communists and the Jews want you to do to keep you docile?
GREENE: He had found a community built on hatred. And he immersed himself in it, spread its message, recruited others. He says he doesn’t really know the extent of his influence. He’ll never stop wondering… For Christian Picciolini, breaking with that life came about as a kind of gradual awakening…
PICCIOLINI: So I was 18 years old, I believe. And some skinhead friends and I were drinking. And late one night around midnight, we walked into a McDonald’s. And there were some black teenagers in this McDonald’s being drunk. I screamed that it was my McDonald’s and that they had to leave. They ran across the street. We chased after them. When we caught one of the black teenagers, we beat him viciously. And you couldn’t see or recognize him as a human being his face was so swollen. And as his eyes were shut but he managed to open his eyes at one point as I was kicking him. And I connected with his eyes. And for the first time in those eight years that I was involved, the reality and the consequences of my actions came into focus for a split second.
Over time and through some very painful trials and realizations, Picciolini was transformed to an advocate of peace, and it all started with a realization of his shared humanity in some fashion with his victim. It is my prayer that we can all come to view each other more completely as brothers and sisters in humanity, that we can be accepting and loving of one another and abandon all forms of the violence that divides us. We even need to come to see those perpetrators of violence as fellow brothers and sisters who can change and be transformed into powerful voices for love, truth, and reconciliation.
Full disclosure from Lona- this Alabama resident (Lona, me hi there!) personally believes that Confederate Statuary belongs in museums that place the terror and violence of the oppressive Confederate system into the proper perspective rather than being feted in the Public Square. We have had too little truth and reconciliation in our country and that is why these inanimate monuments survive and continue to arouse such sorrow and controversy. But as we confront the legacy and impact of Confederate statuary, the focus on the granite faces staring down from frozen horses seem less urgent than the flesh and blood realities relating to the violence and bigotry that festers in the hearts and fists of our society. We need to place an emphasis on the love and union that can beat in the very hearts of our humanity and that can tie us together. Some of the most impactful work in this arena is done by caring people who have the capability to reach out to the one and the few on a personal level.
Picciolini has written a book called “Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead” buy it, I am going to order a copy for myself today. The group he has co-founded is called Life after Hate. For some strange reason which I find incomprehensible, it has had all of its rather modest federal grant support money cancelled by the current administration. They need our support in their critically important work. I invite you to visit their site at:
Give them a visit, donate (it is easy to do so). Thank you Christian and God bless.
All rights reserved for text by Lona Gynt, August 2017: Except for the excerpt from NPR transcript which is short, focused, and falls under fair use criteria. NPR has no affiliation or responsibility for the content on my website. Although I have invited people to visit Life after Hate website and to consider donation, I have no affiliation with their organization and the above is offered as a personal invitation to interested individuals and is not part of an organized fund-raising campaign.