Here's the column:
Patriots must be sent packin' -- Problems start when one side brings weapons to the conversation
Thursday, April 8th 2010, 4:00 AM
It's too soon to conclude that the latest uptick in far-right political activity represents a serious threat to our democracy. But it looks like things will get worse before they get better.
I trust the good sense of the people, embodied and supported by the Constitution and the rule of law, will ultimately send the extremists packing.
I also tend to think that half of the problem - the threats and vandalism directed against politicians, the loose talk about armed revolt against an allegedly Marxist administration in the White House - could be solved by a 5-point drop in the unemployment rate.
But the economists say that we won't see a real increase in jobs until the middle of next year at the earliest, and the national level of frustration will surely rise until then. And that creates fertile soil for extremism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks violent groups, says so-called Patriot organizations, which argue that the federal government is fundamentally oppressive and out of control, soared to 512 groups in 2009 from 149 groups in 2008.
In that same one-year period, says the law center, the number of armed militia groups affiliated with the movement increased to 127 from 43.
The recent capture of the heavily armed Hutaree group for allegedly planning attacks on law enforcement was followed by this week's arrest of Charles Wilson, who allegedly left a series of threatening messages on the voice mail of Washington Sen. Patty Murray.
"Kill the f-----g senator! I'll donate the lead. Now that you've passed your health care bill, let the violence begin," said one message, according to authorities.
Wilson faces up to 10 years in prison for his actions. His arrest should serve as a warning to those tempted to cross the line separating dissent from criminality.
Far less threatening, but of great concern, are the self-styled patriots who marry far-out theories of government with enthusiasm for guns.
I recently talked with Daniel Almond, founder of something called Restore the Constitution. Almond thinks the Constitution has been abused and is calling for people who feel the same way to gather on the border of Washington, D.C., with guns.
"We're holding our demonstration, and we're exercising our First and Second Amendment rights," Almond told me. "I'm going to carry my pistol loaded."
He'll also be carrying an unloaded rifle and a pouch full of ammunition.
The date Almond chose for the demonstration, April 19, is known to many Americans as the anniversary of Timothy McVeigh's 1995 terrorist attack in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. He insists that he chose the date because it's also the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord that launched the American Revolution in 1775.
Like any good activist, Almond clearly seeks to be provocative. Mission accomplished on that score: the date, the guns and the proximity to the White House will surely rattle and enrage a lot of people.
I'm less bothered by Almond's tactics than by his faulty reading of history and the Constitution.
He thinks the federal government has been violating the Constitution ever since the New Deal in the 1930s, and believes the federal minimum wage and all drug laws - and, of course, the recently passed health care law - are all unconstitutional.
Like many in the Patriot movement, he assigns an infinite amount of weight to the 10th Amendment, which limits federal power, without taking into account the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which declares actions of Congress the ultimate law of the land. (You can hear our conversation online at errollouis.com.)
The tension between conflicting passages of the Constitution has frustrated and bedeviled generations of judges, lawmakers and scholars. And we have more than enough universities, courts, newspapers and town squares where it can all be debated peacefully.
The problems begin when one side, frustrated by losing at the ballot box and in the courts, decides to tip the scales by bringing weapons to the conversation.
At that point, we have no choice but to stop debating and start denouncing. And call in the authorities.
Here's my email response:
Sent: Fri, Apr 9, 2010 10:19 am
Subject: From the guy who urged people to break windows, a comment on your column.
Your column is entitled "Patriots must be sent packin' -- Problems start when one side brings weapons to the conversation." Pardon me if I disagree with the first part, but wholeheartedly agree with the second.
You see, the way we look at it, it was your side who brought the guns to the table first.
The new "Health Care" law very philanthropically orders us, all of us, to play or pay in your new nanny-state tyranny of good intentions. We MUST buy what the law tells us or we will be fined. If we refuse out of principle to pay the fine, we will be arrested. If we resist arrest at the point of an IRS raiding party's firearms, we will be killed. Your "law" does not SAY that in so many words, but I think we're all familiar with the way things work in federal law enforcement. If you are unclear about this point you may look up a Davidian and ask them, if you can find any still alive.
Ironic, ain't it? You intend to see to our "health care" by killing us, and the new law provides for many thousands of new IRS agents to do just that. It was your side then, sir, who first brought guns to the table. Now you are bleating earnest protestations that we have returned the favor? A tad disingenuous and hypocritical, don't you think?
Your new law is tyrannical and anti-constitutional on its face. You seek to impose it upon us with federal firearms, indeed, with the entire weight of the Federal Leviathan. We are trying to use every means short of exchanging gunfire to get you to see that you will have to kill us before we submit.
And we will not go gently into that collectivist good night.
So take the hint, but please don't shower us with hypocrisy.
Your side first brought guns to this table.
And, if you must insist, let's eat.
The alleged leader of a merry band of Three Percenters
PO Box 926
Pinson AL 35126