I had some offline discussions as soon as my last article about Ron Paul went online. It became obvious after exchanging a few emails that what is missing is a reference to context. The difference in our interpretation is due to a great analytical book that I had read recently.
Here is a short review of the book that should give you a reference to context; I would certainly recommend that you invest time in reading the complete book.
After reading “No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels “, I wondering whether there is something fundamentally American in character that is at the root cause of biker gangs. I decided to read further and was searching for a book on Aryan gangs.
Instead of getting a book on Aryan gangs, I got this book by mistake and it was a stroke of luck. This is exactly what I wanted to know about. This book narrates the rise of extreme right in the US from 1970 onwards — extreme right being defined as the group of people who are willing to take up arms against the federal government.
Initially I was confused while reading this book since I did not understand what the author is trying to convey. This was primarily due to my expectation that the book was about Aryan gangs. Another reason for my confusion was constant references to various events in American history that I was completely unaware of. Slowly I started getting the hang of it and then things became much clearer.
“…I began to realize that there was something uniquely American about the white supremacist movement I was studying, that there were clear links to the mainstream conservative rhetoric and ideology, and that there was something about sacred American myths regarding character and identity that indicated to me that the right-wing lunatic fringe really wasn’t lunatic or on the fringe……Again, a majority of white Americans neither subscribe to racist beliefs nor run out and join white supremacist groups. However, the very nature of what it means to be “American” can itself provide justification and ideological groundwork for those who do.”
What the author means is that the American identity is evolved from highly individualistic frontiersmen who pushed westwards in search of new land and who harbored deep suspicion of the federal government. Once we understand this fundamental force behind the formation of American character, it becomes easy to see how white supremacist gangs in United States have firm footing in the American psyche. (I would like to draw your attention to the authors statement that majority of white Americans do not subscribe to racist belief.) This is exactly why I felt (but did not understand at that time) that there is something uniquely American about the motor cycle gangs.
In the introduction author explains how British–Israelism, Christian Identity on the extreme right led to organizations such as the KKK. Next the author takes us through the multiple channels that ultimately lead towards the same cause – hatred of federal government:
(1) Millennium freak-out: A belief held widely by extreme right that the world is going to end very soon. We are in a countdown to Armageddon and there is soon to be an explosive race war – so prepare yourself.
- I found this interesting. While reading about Charles Mason, I could not understand how his followers fell for his tales of the upcoming race war and why they went to live in a desert. Now it makes complete sense; there is always a method behind madness.
(2) A common belief in the myth about purity and free nature of Anglo-Saxon political institutions.
- As a matter of co-incidence, I have already queued a book about the spread of Anglo-Saxon thoughts in India starting 18th century. “Reconciling South Asian Origins and European Destinies, 1765 – 1885”. (Do read the book description on the link.) This was an idea propagated by German philosophers/historians that Anglo-Saxon identity in itself derives from a group of people who spoke Sanskrit. I am aware that this theory has been debunked however I will read this book before forming my own opinion. In the meantime it must be said that the conflicts that arose out of the so-called ‘Aryan Invasion’ of India are still reverberating across the political spectrum in India. (I guess it really is a small world.)
(3) Vietnam war and the Patriot movement
- Not all militias are racist, though all are rightist. Individuals who join militias tend to be militant gun rights advocates, tax protesters, and/or far right libertarians. Militia members also tend to advocate “sovereign citizenship” …Other militia members associate with the confrontational wing of the anti-abortion movement and some are apocalyptic millennialists, including zealous fundamentalist Christians. Still others are part of the most militant wing of the anti-environmentalist movement.
(4) Farm crisis. This is essentially 1980 though the author accounts for the changing nature of American farming since 1940.
- I was completely unaware of this crisis. This is the “Occupy Wall Street” movement of that period (though not necessarily peaceful).
- Feeding off economic pressures and fears about social decay and turncoat government, the Posse tapped into the American agrarian myth and ideas about western-style vigilantism and citizen righteousness in an effort to garner support for its cause Many of the men who joined the Posse and its spinoffs during the Farm Crisis were actually socially moderate and religiously conservative family men, with years of farming and ranching behind them.
I might have misled you to believe that the above chapters are a dry analysis of events with a political/psychological/philosophical angle. Though this is true, the author has also discussed many examples from the extreme right movement.
The book ends with a description of a few high-profile cases where the extreme right took up arms against the federal government. There is a disturbing account of how certain high profile cases such as ‘Ruby Ridge’ and ‘Branch Dravidian’ were mishandled by the federal government and one can see why these must have led to further mistrust.