Magazine article Insight on the News

Q: Are Militias a Threat to the Nation's Civil Order?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Q: Are Militias a Threat to the Nation's Civil Order?

Article excerpt

Yes: Time for Republicans to repdiate the militias.

Of all the issues I have championed since coming to Congress in 1993, none has triggered so vehement a response from those opposed to my position as my stand against the so-called citizen militia movement. The hate mail I have received since calling on the members of my party to repudiate this dangerous fringe element is of an intensity not even approached by those writing to challenge my views on controversial issues such as abortion and making English the official national language or my support for Irish nationalism.

My pro-militia mail has ranged in content from barely legible, obscenity-filled scrawls to carefully typed, grammatically correct and seemingly logical treatises detailing the "new world order" conspiracy. It is hard to say which type of communication is more disturbing. Some are vaguely threatening in nature. Some are clearly racist. And, although I am a Roman Catholic of Irish extraction, more than one letter has contained anti-Semitic remarks directed at me. I even have been singled out for criticism in the media by a semiliterate syndicated columnist whose idea of wit is to write that I deserve a salute "made with the middle finger."

I suppose some paranoid mind-set of the militia members and their hard-core supporters may reflexively trigger an extreme reaction to any criticism of the movement. I've been treated to the whole panoply of vile racism; ignorant, wrongheaded constitutional interpretation; and crackpot conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories revolving around plots to foist the sinister new world order upon the American people are the common thread running through the disparate and anything but well-regulated militias. By their lights, anyone who denies the existence of the conspiracy must be part of it.

We have seen this before. Disaffected groups and individuals on the far ends of the political spectrum often are overtaken by a deepseated paranoia. Imagined conspiracies involving the federal government offer a very handy political excuse for why things may not be going one's way.

Conspiracy theories always have held a special fascination for those with severely underdeveloped intellectual and emotional faculties. This preoccupation has been demonstrated by the far left with Oliver Stone's paranoid cinematic opus JFK, by the far right in countless convoluted accounts of the "Bavarian Illuminati" and the threats posed by the Trilateral Commission; and by the none-of-the-above silliness in H. Ross Perot's claims of a political dirty-tricks operation to disrupt his daughter's wedding. The common link among these delusional fantasies is the complicity of the federal government. The government often may be inept and ineffectual but, to my belief, rarely if ever evil or conspiratorial.

The members of the so-called militias have nothing to fear from the government - perhaps the only government in the history of the world that would permit their organizations to exist. They are not "patriots" - they are pathetic individuals for whom the imagined existence of some nebulous conspiracy and the compulsion to dress up and play army on weekends provide meaning to their sad lives. While most indeed may be harmless eccentrics, militia members who threaten government and law-enforcement officials with violence are dangerous and should be treated accordingly.

The political reaction to the militias has been somewhat puzzling. Most vocal critics of the militias have been liberal Democrats so closely identified with gun-control legislation that their condemnation is viewed by the movement as proof of the conspiracy against them. To me, this is not a partisan issue. Opposition to heavily armed lunatics is a commonsense position, not a political one. Ask yourself:

* What possible logical or political gain exists in appearing sympathetic to this radical movement?

* Why are a handful of politicians carrying water for these wackos? …

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