Monday, October 20, 2014

A Christian and a Liberal - Chapter 1 Part 2

I was 16. I was a Christian. I was Saved. I was zealous. The preacher saw potential for me to become a preacher someday. And since my parents were homeschooling me (as other parents in that group did with their children!), it wasn't too hard to feed me books and books and more books.

Along with the themes of the Faith came themes of Politics. The group was very fond of Carl McIntyre and Billy James Hargis. They preached against sex, drugs, rock and roll, communism, liberalism, mainline churches, evolution, welfare and every side item where they saw a Conspiracy to Enslave America. This was 40 years ago, mind you. 

My mom subscribed to lots and lots of conservative and religious papers, got lots of pamphlets, and insisted that we kids (me and my two younger sisters, but particularly me) devour them as well. My aunt joined the John Birch Society, and we got lots of their books. 

My dad retired from the military and Spokane was our permanent home. We found a small house in which to live. Dad got a job as a security guard. We attended Church. We were homeschooling. Except for church we didn’t get out too much.

Virgil was an important man in the church. I can’t remember if he was married. I think he wasn’t. If he was, his wife so faded into the background as to not be noticeable. He took a liking to me. My dad liked him.

But Virgil *was* active in politics, an active participant in the local Republican Party. He had associated side interests as well -- particularly the Militia movement, also known as the Posse Commitatus. 

Eastern Washington State and Western Idaho has long been a hotbed of white supremacists. One way they reinforce and pass along their ideology is through their fervent devotion to guns, arming themselves against the day when they believe the Federal Government will come to enslave them.

They *do* believe that day is coming. It has pretty much always been immanent, just around the corner as it were. Their conspiracy theories postulate that the Federal Government has plans to completely take over every aspect of their lives, remove their weapons, and leave them as powerless slaves. Mix that belief with the Apocalyptic Vision of the Great Tribulation, the Mark of the Beast, the Rapture, and Christ coming back to establish His Kingdom, and you have a potent anti-world view. 

Virgil arranged to take me to one of the rallies the Posse Commitatus in Idaho was having. People carried and displayed their guns proudly. Books were sold. Teaser pamphlets were given away. The Time was Coming.

The only real, Constitutional law was the Sheriff. The Posse Commitatus was supposed to be the true law enforcement mechanism in each county. The Federal Government was illegal. The Declaration of Independence was more important than the Constitution. Certain Constitutional Amendments, such as the one allowing the Income Tax were "proven" to have been illegally ratified and thus had no force of law. Books were sold on how to not pay income taxes, providing legal documents one could submit to a court should the IRS attempt to charge you with tax evasion. 

I was suitably impressed. But somehow, other than getting my dad's help to buy a gun and learn how to shoot, I never went much further with the Posse. 

Virgil was, though, in all respects a dedicated activist. The first time I was invited to his house, he showed me a taped-up light switch to the front porch. He strictly commanded me not to touch it. He had filled the light bulb on the porch with gasoline in the event that the Feds came to his house. One flick of the switch, and a firebomb would engulf the hapless agent of evil and give him a chance to escape.

If you recall, there was a standoff with a militia group in Montana in 1994. A group calling themselves the Freemen had established a local government they claimed was independent of the Federal government. They issued their own money, committed bank fraud as they stockpiled an arsenal. The standoff took several weeks to resolve, and the intervention of the Federal Government to restore lawful order is still claimed to have been abusive and unwarranted.

I wondered at the time whether or not I had met any of the Freemen involved in the conflict. Certainly I understood their arguments. I knew their hatred. There are lots of people who carry their attitudes even today.  

I don’t know if Virgil ever got in trouble with the law, the Federal Government, or anyone else. A lot of people play these Patriot Games, but somehow never cross any dangerous lines. I was mostly preoccupied with my job and my friends. Soon enough I would be going to college.

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