Monday, October 19, 2009

Armed and Crazy

We’ve had the “birthers,” the “deathers,” and the “tenthers.” Now we have the “oathers.”

Depending on your perspective, the Oath Keepers are either strident defenders of liberty or dangerous peddlers of paranoia.

In the age of town halls, talk radio and tea parties, middle ground of opinion is hard to find.

Launched in March by Las Vegan Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers bills itself as a nonpartisan group of current and retired law enforcement and military personnel who vow to fulfill their oaths to the Constitution.

More specifically, the group’s members, which number in the thousands, pledge to disobey orders they deem unlawful, including directives to disarm the American people and to blockade American cities. By refusing the latter order, the Oath Keepers hope to prevent cities from becoming “giant concentration camps,” a scenario the 44-year-old Rhodes says he can envision happening in the coming years.

It’s a Cold War-era nightmare vision with a major twist: The occupying forces in this imagined future are American, not Soviet.

“The whole point of Oath Keepers is to stop a dictatorship from ever happening here,” Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and Yale-trained lawyer, said in an interview with the Review-Journal. “My focus is on the guys with the guns, because they can’t do it without them.

“We say if the American people decide it’s time for a revolution, we’ll fight with you.”

This is the same mentality that spawned the likes of Timothy McVeigh and the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995, although this time they like to say that they’re not really that crazy. Yet they view President Obama as “the domestic enemy the Constitution is talking about.” This is the same kind of rhetoric that you hear from the neo-Nazi and White Power movement back in the 1990’s: that the United States government is in the hands of interlopers and is headed for a dictatorship. Appreciation of irony does not seem to be their strong suit. But when you have conservatives like Little Green Footballs saying that the right wing is losing touch with reality, you pay attention. (It should be noted that LGF has also incurred the wrath of some fellow conservatives by being the grown-up in the room and dissing the birthers.)

Is it any wonder that the Secret Service has reported an increase of 400% in threats against the life of the president since he took office?