When I met Oso, a trash collector from rural Georgia in his late 30s, he was wearing dark shades and a black T-shirt with a silhouette of an assault rifle and the words “Piece Now.” A tall and burly white man, he had a sleeve of tattoos on one arm, stubble on his shaved head, and a bushy gray beard. He looked, at first glance, like the sort of intimidating figure who’d fit in at a far-right rally.
In fact, you might see him at such a rally — among the counterprotesters. “There shouldn’t be any question in anybody’s mind in this country that fascism is here,” he said. “It’s alive and well and marching us all towards somewhere that we don’t want to be.” That’s part of the reason, he said, that he’s into guns: “I wear a pistol every day because I’m a Jewish person in the South.”
It was the Sunday after the terror-filled week that culminated in the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue. Oso was sitting with a handful of other members of the North Georgia branch of the Socialist Rifle Association, a new, swiftly growing left-wing gun group, in the backyard of an Italian restaurant in a gentrifying Atlanta neighborhood. (None of them wanted their last names used; Oso, Spanish for “bear,” is a nickname.)