And as Jonathan Capehart reminds us, it’s not the first time that the so-called “Constitution patriots” have moved down this road:
In the 1990s, there was lots of talk about the excesses of government power, a U.N.-run New World Order and black helicopters on which the federal government would swoop in to take away Americans’ freedom and money. Two deadly confrontations with federal authorities — in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (1992) with white supremacist Randy Weaver and in Waco, Texas (1993) — stoked the conspiracy theories that fueled the animus within the militia movement. The distrust and seething hatred of the federal government took murderous form on April 19, 1995, when Timothy McVeigh with an assist from Terry Nichols used the Waco anniversary to detonate a 4,800-pound truck bomb, destroying the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and killing 168 people and injuring 500 others.
And one of the latest manifestations? The inane Oath Keepers (as Capehart so ably provides the context for):
[T]hose in the Tea Party movement concerned about runaway deficits and bailouts of banks and automakers are attracting the likes of the Oath Keepers. These “Guardians of the Republic” are members of the military and law enforcement officials who fear a dictatorship and proclaim that their “oath is to the Constitution, not to the politicians….” In “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias,” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) brands the group “a particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival.” Oh, when was Oath Keepers formed? April 19, 2009. The same day the Revolutionary War began in 1775. The same day the Branch Davidian compound burned to the ground in 1993. The same day as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
And here is Andrew Sullivan today on Joe Stack’s flying of a plane into an Austin office building:
[T]his was obviously an act of terrorism. When someone is mad at the government, and when he flies a plane into a federal building, killing two and traumatizing countless others and urges others to do the same, he is a terrorist.
And here’s the face of another Tea Party sympathetic activist, William Kostic:
Notice the gun attached to his thigh. Sexy. William Kostic must be quite the “chick magnet” in Tea Patriot circles. Of course, the historic Thomas Jefferson would have regarded this ignoramus with utter disdain. Capehart gives still more context:
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” A provocative statement, to be sure. That’s why there was great concern when William Kostic appeared outside a health-care forum hosted by President Obama last August in New Hampshire with a gun strapped to his leg and carrying a sign that read, “It Is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty.” That makes for great political theater. But Jefferson’s words adorned the back of McVeigh’s t-shirt the day he committed the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil (before Sept. 11, 2001).
The Republican Party and Fox News (is there a difference?) are lending legitimacy to sentiments that once were consigned to the fringes of conservatism in the United States. It’s an injection of poison into the political bloodstream. We’ll see how it plays out in the Obama era. I’m not looking forward to seeing it.