As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Patriots

The counter-protesters at an event in Austin, TX yesterday just took the vile rhetoric we've seen on display this August one extra step:

"the protesters had Larry Kilgore, a “Christian activist” and candidate for governor who has endorsed executions for homosexuals; Debra Medina, a Ron Paul Republican and a slightly-less long-shot candidate for governor; and Melissa Pehle-Hill, yet another fringe candidate and a member of a self-appointed “citizens grand jury” investigating Barack Hussein Obama, aka Barry Soetoro."

Kilgore captured the sentiment of the mob. (video here)

“I hate that flag up there,” Kilgore said pointing to the American flag flying over the Capitol. “I hate the United States government. … They’re an evil, corrupt government. They need to go. Sovereignty is not good enough. Secession is what we need!”

“We hate the United States!"

Just a lone nut, I guess. Except the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, flirted with the secessionists a few months ago. He didn't attend this protest, which I guess is a positive step.

But this has increasingly become the Republican base. A group of people who feel completely justified in chanting "We hate the United States!" I seem to remember being told that I hated America and I was "on the other side" and "in league with the terrorists" because I didn't agree with an unnecessary, illegal and ultimately disastrous war. I don't have tape of myself from every day in that time, but you can trust me that I never chanted "We hate the United States" in front of a state capitol building.

Note, too, the lady who used the phrase, "the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots," a quote from Thomas Jefferson, often misappropriated by extremists and the Patriot movement. Timothy McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt that bore this inscription when he was arrested for murdering 168 people in Oklahoma City.

What the report reflects is a reality that law enforcement trying to deal with domestic terrorism in America must confront: Their subjects are thoroughly American; many of the people drawn into these movements are, if anything, "hyper-normal." Their version of "patriotism," for instance, is so extreme that they actually hate not just their government but their fellow citizens -- in essence, their country: because, you see, it has been "perverted" from its original purposes.

The hyper-normality is a kind of intentional camouflage. The Patriot movement, and militias in particular, were a very specific and intentional strategy adopted in the 1990s by the white supremacists and radical tax protesters of the American far right -- and the whole purpose of the strategy was to mainstream their belief systems and their agendas. The tactic was to adopt the appearance of normal, "red-blooded" Americanism as a way of pushing out the idea that their radical beliefs are "normal" too.

In the process, they often adopted time-worn "patriotic" sayings and symbols, such as the "Don't Tread On Me" flag Beck wears, as their own -- though with a much more menacing meaning. If you've seen that flag at an Aryan Nations compound, as I have, you never quite look at it the same.

This is why the meaning of Thomas Jefferson's quote above is quite different for them than it is for you and me. To all outward appearances, it is just an expression of avid patriotism. But to a Patriot movement follower, it means something potentially deadly.

Patriots who use the symbols of American history while claiming overtly to hate America. This would be something good to ask Dave Neiwert about tomorrow.

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