What happens when Tea Party-minded soldiers and police—largely Obama-hating, Communist-fearing, Glenn Beck-listening white men with weapons and combat training—are encouraged to take matters into their own hands?
In our upcoming March/April issue, Justine Sharrock spends quality time with the Oath Keepers, one of the "patriot" movement's fastest-growing promoters of revolutionary angst and conspiratorial rhetoric.
Here's Sharrock's capsule description:
There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey "unconstitutional" orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government.
Last Thursday, following a New York Times story about the increasingly violent atmosphere at Tea Party rallies, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes appeared on The O'Reilly Factor to counter criticism from the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the segment, Rhodes portrays Oath Keepers as little more than a bunch of average Americans trying to hold on to their constitutional rights. But his host isn't buying it. After Rhodes explains his goal of inspiring soldiers and police to disobey unconstitutional orders, O'Reilly responds, "if it's a matter of interpretation, you could have anarchy easily." Watch the clip below:
O'Reilly got this one right. In her profile, Sharrock also hangs out with Lee Pray, an alienated active duty soldier who identifies with the group and takes its fearful rhetoric at face value (like the assertion that our rogue federal government will find some pretext to declare martial law and start rounding up citizens into camps). That guys like Pray are stockpiling weapons in preparation for such an eventuality is proof enough that soldiers shouldn't be drawing their own constitutional lines in the sand. (Unlike Rhodes, his foot soldiers are not constitutional lawyers.)