At the moment, news of the Republican Convention in Tampa has overshadowed the report of the small group of soldiers (and it really pains me to call them that) at Fort Stewart who allegedly are ringleaders of a militia group calling itself FEAR, for Forever Enduring Always Ready. The group is accused of having purchased some $87,000 worth of weapons and bomb-making materials and to have hatched some ambitious plans, including taking over Fort Stewart, attacking facilities in Savannah, blowing up a dam in Washington State and destroying that state's apple crop. Oh, and by the way, they would then assassinate the president and overthrow the government.
It's difficult to take this small group of nut cases seriously. Keep in mind, though, that the murders in December of Michael Roark, a former soldier, and his girlfriend, Tiffany York, are alleged by prosecutors to have been committed by FEAR members because Roark knew of their plot and was considered a threat to their plans. So we may not take them seriously, but evidently they do.
I think "FEAR" is a good name for these folks, because they, like all too many these days, seem overwhelmed by fear. Fear that the democratic system we've been taught to revere won't work. Fear that a president who is a color they don't like, or of a party they don't like, or who just seems to be pushing ideas they don't like or understand, is such an overwhelming danger that he must be removed by force, not by the electoral process. Fear that because the world is in an uproar, and because they're too young to realize it has been much worse than this and recovered, it will always be this way, unless they in their wisdom set it right by force.
You could chalk this particular example of unreasonable fear up to immaturity and lack of knowledge. (Could they possibly have thought that attacking the state of Washington was somehow related to attacking Washington, D.C.?)
But they're not alone. People who by all rights ought to know better are spouting nonsense about fighting with the government. If they don't believe what they're peddling, they are the worst kind of instigators. If they do believe it, they're the worst kind of fools.
Huffington Post reports that Judge Tom Head, in Lubbock, Texas, recently offered a Fox 34 interviewer an unusual reason for a tax increase. The judge explained that, if President Obama is re-elected, there will be an uprising. And not just a small one, either.
"I'm thinking the worst," the judge said. "Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy."
And what is it that the president will do to inspire all this unrest? Judge Head says he's planning to sign a number of United Nations treaties that will supersede domestic law. According to Head, then he will "try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N."
And when the citizens rise up in protest, the judge says, the president will "send in U.N. troops. I don't want 'em in Lubbock County. OK. So I'm going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say, "You're not coming in here."
Of course, even a lone, Gary Cooper-style hero needs backup. And the sheriff, says the judge, has promised to back him up. But he'll need more trained professionals and more equipment in order to be effective when the armored personnel carriers arrive. Therefore, more taxes.
Militias like the bunch at Fort Stewart and crackpots like the one in Lubbock have their fears, and I have mine. I fear that someday one of these nutty militias will, despite their hopeless incompetence and general stupidity, somehow manage to do lasting damage to the country. And I fear that I might someday inadvertently break a law while driving through Lubbock, Texas, and find myself standing in front of Judge Tom Head.
Robert B. Simpson, a 28-year Infantry veteran who retired as a colonel at Fort Benning, is the author of "Through the Dark Waters: Searching for Hope and Courage."