With the Republic of Texas standoff behind them, law enforcement and governmental agencies are returning to normal operations. News reporters have moved on to cover other stories and the community is returning to business as usual. Letters to the editor of national newspapers seem to sum up the thoughts of many Americans, "another day, another separatist or militia flouts the law and civilized behavior....How long are we going to tolerate this? ...They represent everything that's wrong with this country.....All they want is hate and division."
The Republic of Texas standoff is only the most recent in a long succession of confrontational encounters between law enforcement or governmental agencies and what has been called "right wing extremists". As with many conflicts of this kind, they have ended in bloodshed and death to one or both sides.
In the early 1980's, Gordon Kahl was a well-known tax protester in the midwest. He was active in the pro-freedom Christian Patriot movement and, after a violent and deadly ambush by state and federal authorities, became a fugitive and was finally killed by authorities in Arkansas in 1983. His is a landmark case of overt injustice and abuse of power in Patriot circles.
Later, in the early 1990's, came the much publicized Ruby Ridge and Waco sieges followed by the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. These incidents seem to have a common thread involving distrust of the government and frustrated attempts to return government to its original scope, consistent with the founding fathers' intent.
The segment of society that many categorize as right wing extremist is not insignificant in size or distribution. Although there is a considerable overlap in the various groups, they include gun owners, anti-abortion advocates, those opposed to homosexuality, private property rights advocates, those opposed to environmental extremism, the militia movement, the patriot movement, tax protesters, common law courts, constitutionalists, and much of the religious right. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently identified 809 groups they termed anti-government patriot organizations and also listed hundreds of militia groups. This is not a localized condition, but one that encompasses much of this country's population.
As the government's role in society has expanded, so has the apprehension of many of its citizens. The appearance of these diverse groups on the American scene may be a distress signal. At a three-day convention in Kansas City, members of U.S. militia groups gathered to discuss ways to educate the public. One delegate said, "I think everyone can see with their own eyes that something is wrong in this country." Many in the militia movement believe it is only a matter of time until the present government collapses. "We have to sit down, regroup, rethink, then come up with ways to reestablish a republican form of government." "If we don't", warned another delegate, "we will have anarchy."
Commenting on the mainstream reaction to this segment of society, Dr. Richard Morgan says, "I find the establishment reaction to the militias more than usually troubling. By the establishment, I mean that interlocking set of media, academic, and/or government elites that tell us what to think. I mean the 'chattering classes' -- the people like us who have been to the right schools, wear the right clothes and write forthright publications. The establishment reaction to the militias is more worrisome than the militias in the following way.
"When in the wake of the Los Angeles riots, the establishment interpreted the event for us, it went something like this: 'This outburst was inappropriate and cannot be tolerated or encouraged. On the other hand, it is necessary to understand the source of the rage; it is important to appreciate the long-standing grievances that surfaced there. Illegal, yes; but it is also important to understand what motivates these people.'
"In the case of the militia, there has been no attempt to understand. 'Their behavior is bizarre, it's inappropriate', and that's the end. Where's the inquiry as to what's bothering these people? Where's the invitation to even minimal sympathy? They're not to be sympathized with: 'They're kooks! They're wackos! They're off the chart! Over the edge!'
"What we're seeing, I think, in the militia phenomenon is a particularly visible outcropping of a larger national reaction. This involves our thinking of the dramatic growth and intrusiveness of the federal government in the lives of Americans." Dr. Richard E. Morgan, Institute for American Values. Another commentator said it this way, "These right wing populist movements reflect real, deep divisions and grievances in society that remain unresolved. Most persons join these movements as an act of desperation, grasping at straws to defend their economic and social status, protecting their way of life against the furious winds of social change." Political Research Association.
During the siege of the Montana Freemen, they erected an upside down United States flag which many in the media claimed to be a sign of defiance. The upside down flag can also be a signal of distress and a cry for help. The Freemen considered themselves to be fighting for the American people as a whole, against the "fraudulent Federal Reserve System", and, in doing so, may have felt themselves in great need of help when faced with the full force of the United States government guns.
While we may not agree with the tactics used by these groups, or support their agenda, we must understand that there are deeper issues than are apparent on the surface. There are men and women whose consciences have been trampled, whose convictions have been crushed, whose lives have been oppressed by those who should be sensitive to these issues, who have been charged with the administration of justice. But compulsion will not be an effective change agent. We can be certain that all the firepower of the United States government will not bring resolution to America.
A letter written to a governor by a local church group illustrates how many individuals see that issues of conscience are mishandled by agencies and officials whose responsibility it is to guard and protect the prerogatives of the people. This statement was taken from that letter. "Thank you for your letter regarding a tax exemption for our church. In the letter, you counseled us to take it to court. We will not be doing this since the county and the state both had opportunity to read their own laws and approve our request. We were denied our request on the basis of fraud and deceit perpetrated by government officials against us. How can we expect anything else from the courts?
"As honest men we requested what was our due. From deceitful men we were denied it. Our appeal will now go to God. We will pray day and night that judgment will come to this state and nation until our request is granted. The church is being forced to pay, through its property taxes, for an educational system that is abusing young minds....
"We have lost hope in government. Those who govern think that if they get over half of the vote they do well. They little consider that the other half does not trust their leadership. A true governor would want to meet the needs of the conscience of all the citizens. You and others who govern do not show that you care for the conscience of the few as long as the conscience of the majority is followed. But God hears our requests and we will daily send them to the throne until we have freedom to worship God according to our conscience, and are not forced by law to go against it, or until this state and nation is reduced to ashes."
As one observer stated, "We've only seen the tip of the iceberg." These groups and individuals represent countless millions who also share the realization that this country is in a death struggle from which it will not escape. Another Observer has called it the "beginning of sorrows".
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