Morris Dees delivers

When Morris Dees, looking tired from a day of travel, stepped to the lectern in Laxson Auditorium this week, the shouts and whistles of approval from the nearly sold-out audience appreciative of his civil-rights work seemed to revive him.

The head of the Southern Poverty Law Center told the students in the audience that while they have “opportunities not dreamed of by your parents and grandparents, there is a chill wind blowing across the nation.”

There are 450 Web sites devoted to hate, he said, and they form the new lines in the battle against such groups as the Ku Klux Klan and White Aryan Resistance. “In 1995 there was only one site on the Web devoted to hate,” said Dees.

Earlier he told a group of reporters that the new danger comes from individuals downloading dangerous information and the incitement to violence found on racist Web sites.

“There is a battle going on and you can do one of two things,” he said. “Either do nothing and let others take on the hate, or take part in the fight.” The battle, he said, will determine who gets to define what America is.

“There are people who feel strongly enough to load up 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate in a rental truck, drive it to a building and blow it up without concern for the men, women and children inside,” he said.

What we should find alarming, he argued, is that Timothy McVeigh thinks of himself as a hero and patriot for blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Dees urged his audience to "build bridges from love, acceptance and understanding." He used the analogy of his wife weaving a tapestry to make his point. "My wife couldn’t make as beautiful a tapestry if she used just one color. America is known for its reputation as a tapestry and a melting pot. It’s been rough sometimes, but the idea has always been there and it will be in the future."