Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Springtime for the camo fringe

    Who remembers? Who remembers the type of person we were all looking for 15 years ago on April 19, the day someone blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building?

    We were looking for suspicious-appearing Arab-type people, and viewing them with concern, be they groping the produce at the supermarket or reading the daily news on the park bench. They all looked suspicious anyway, so surveillance was tough.

    Who imagined that the person who masterminded the Oklahoma City bombing would a man who had the complexion, hair cut and general political inclinations of, say, Glenn Beck. Maybe 40 pounds slimmer, but . . .

   No, Beck didn't get credit for inspiring this. Before his prime-time time. Fudge. Bomber Timothy McVeigh's prime motivator was "The Turner Diaries," a book depicting a violent rebellion and the overthrow of the U.S. government.

    At the time, recall, the militia movement was at a high pitch in pitching tents, eating freeze-dried, and expending ammo at rapid rates against imagined enemies. Then the movement lost its steam, or ran out of kerosene. Maybe it lost its mojo, or found friends in Washington with people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney swearing to find us some external enemies to fight.

    Don't look now, but:

    The militia movement is back, and Beck, Sarah Palin and loogie-launching Tea Partiers are part of its life force. Can you spell synergy? Don't bother. Just lock and load.

    This week The Daily Oklahoman, in the city where the federal center fell, reports, "Tea Party members and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a volunteer militia to help defend against what they say are improper infringements on state sovereignty."

    The idea is for the legislature to officially recognize such an entity.

     Granted, such a figure as Oklahoma state Republican Party chairman Gary Jones dismisses the notion, saying these people "just want a megaphone."

     Yes, and what's a Glenn Beck for?

      Jones might think a state militia is about as nutty as an army of men without pants. Not so State Sen. Randy Brockton. The Republican is running for governor and says such a militia is authorized by the Second Amendment.

      The founding fathers, he said, "were not referring to a turkey shoot or a quail hunt. They really were talking about us having the ability to protect ourselves against each other." And, he adds, "from an overreaching federal government."

       So: militias in which Americans fight each other, and the federal government. Now, that sounds like a "more perfect union."

        You will recall that Tim McVeigh's day of infamy was staged on the second anniversary of the fire that ended the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco. Back then, followers talked of the second coming of David Koresh and what devastation he would render. Today, you cringe to think of nutcases pondering the apocryphal return of Tim McVeigh.

      After the Branch Davidian incident and Oklahoma City, camouflage became a growth industry. End-worlders and anti-government types started hauling canvas and canned beans in search of hills -- even in Texas and Oklahoma, which don't have so many of those (hills, that is).

      As one who plied the newspaper trade in Central Texas at the time, I recall commercials for an army surplus operation that sold everything for the survivalist set, including camo diaper covers for the tots and camo loin cloths for the Mrs.

      You know what? It was sad, silly and dangerous then. Fifteen years later, it is no more edifying.

      You can look it up. "Edifying," that is.     

    John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. E-mail:

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