An Ominous Perspective

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By Gary Anderson

Life, we all know, is a matter of perspective. In America, the nation of boundless freedom and wide open spaces, perspectives are as numerous as our citizens. We are a hyper-pluralistic society, one where everyone’s perspective, mainstream or off-the-wall, generally finds its way to the public forum. That’s what makes America the great nation it is.

Yet a troubling and dangerous perspective on life in America was revealed last month in Michigan, where the F.B.I. raided the “headquarters” of “Hutaree,” a paramilitary organization “operating” and “training” in the remote Midwest. Nine people, most from the same family, were arrested, and an impressive stockpile of military weapons was seized in the raid.

As only one of the estimated 130 “militia” or “patriot” paramilitary units currently active in America, these “Christian warriors” were on an apocalyptic “end times” mission to eradicate the government’s “foot soldiers,” in their eyes police officers and federal agents.

According to NBC News, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the F.B.I., roughly 512 “hate groups” operate in America today. Often counted together, the number of paramilitary “patriot” cells has soared in recent years. Most, say experts, are motivated by immigration issues, the election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president, and the downturn in the economy. Others imagine that they are fighting the “jack-booted” government which conspiratorially ignores or purposefully violates the Constitution, or at lest their interpretation of it. An even more frightening lunatic fringe claims that President Obama and the government generally represent the “Antichrist” in the Book of Revelation.

While not identical but akin to a similar strand of ideological DNA, a far larger, vitriolic and potentially violent assortment of Lyndon LaRouche followers, John Birch Society members, “Birthers” (people who contend that Barack Obama is not an American citizen) “Staters” (people who feel the 10th Amendment gives states the option to cherry-pick federal law or leave the Union altogether), Ayn Rand groupies from the “Ayn Rand Institute,” and gun-toting members of the Patriot Movement, agitated after losing the health care vote, united recently under the Tea Party mantra in Washington, D.C. to hurl racial slurs at Democratic lawmakers and throw bricks through their office windows. In an awesome display of political and historical ineptitude, some held signs parodying President Obama as Adolph Hitler—a breathtaking insult to the millions who died and suffered under the yoke of fascism in World War Two. Others yelled that Democratic lawmakers are communists—yet another mind-numbing misrepresentation of political science and history. Sarah Palin, the latest among a string of conservative politicians dating back years to use language laced with weapons symbolism, urged supporters to “reload” and “target” (and here she used the image of crosshairs) Congressmen who voted for health care reform. In a speech she claimed that Americans are kind and caring people, but that all of us, especially those who support her, are imbued with a “warrior spirit.”

The spectre of extremism coupled with violence in America is real. The present upheaval—the malicious language at Tea Parties, the thousands upon thousands of death threats against President Obama since his inauguration, the ugly violence following the passage of health care reform, the “targeting” of Democratic lawmakers—reveals a right-wing that, “riled up” by its own media and opportunist leaders, possesses the potential to inflict grave harm.

There is a place in America for vigorous and well-intentioned protest against health care reform and other “liberal” programs. Balanced conservative thought to maintain equilibrium in our two-party system is needed. To protest against health care reform and Obama’s policies is no more extremist or fascist than to support the same is socialist or communist.

Everyone understands that politics can sometimes unintentionally hatch radicalism. Extremism exists on both sides. But the recent violence is a perspective that America can live without. Our democracy requires the perspective of honest and peaceful debate, not the perspective of a whirling brick or the muzzle of a gun.

Let us put this genie back in the bottle before it’s too late.

Comments for Dr. Anderson may be sent to stories@lafollettepress.com