“On his blog, one of a large and growing number of survivalist websites, Rawles emphasizes that he is a 'non-racist' — Christians, Messianic Jews and Orthodox Jews are welcome to join the retreat, no matter what their race. Buddhists and 'New Age crystal channelers,' on the other hand, would be better advised to retreat elsewhere.”
The irony is immediately apparent as I read “Voice of the AMERICAN REDOUBT -- The Emerging Safe Haven and Refuge for God-Fearing, Liberty-Loving Patriots of the Western United States.” I’m struck by the gap between the “God-fearing” and “liberty loving” that the blogger seems to have missed, and wonder if his readers also miss it.
Liberty is a powerful word, defined by Chambers as “freedom from constraint, captivity, slavery, or tyranny; the unrestrained enjoyment of natural rights; power of free choice”- yet in one sentence, Mr. Rawles manages to both announce and diminish the idea of liberty.
Since the founding of the nation, separatist, survivalist and “new America” movement groups have come and gone, receding as time passes, leaving a few disaffected people in the wake to add to the growing numbers of people trying to flee a world that seems to be spiraling out of control. In every movement, the “leaders” call for people to sell everything and move to an isolated area, to form enclaves of like-minded people preparing for the coming crisis or collapse of America.
The two things that strike me the most often are 1) these people who would create a new nation often forget there are already people living in the areas they would take over, and 2) fear never built a better world.
At the moment, the movement seems to be targeting Montana, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, Wyoming, and Idaho. Reading the proposed tenets, it is obvious the area would be “governed” by Biblical Law and the Ten Commandments. Of course, little mention is made of who would do the governing, but perhaps the intent is to worry about that later, choosing either an “every man for himself” philosophy or “the man with the most weapons wins” approach?
The problem, however, is that many people who may not subscribe to these tenets or the particular beliefs or philosophy, or perhaps who don’t need or want a chosen “leader,” already live in these areas, and history teaches how such situations normally end. Familiar words come to mind: pogroms, holocausts, genocide, oppression, dictatorship, totalitarian, tyranny, and others. The results are apparent for anyone who studies history and what happens when fear, religious intolerance and hard times combine. How will they react when they discover these lands contain many people who believe in America’s vision of personal liberty: the right to their own beliefs, values, lives, choices, ways of being, and the right not to be taken over or governed by those who would bring their “new America” to the mountains? The word surprised comes to mind.
"The preparedness movement has grown at the fastest rate I have seen in my entire lifetime — faster than in the late '70s, when the Iran hostage crisis had people very concerned, much faster than in the late '90s, when people were concerned about Y2K," Rawles said.
Before I go further, let me state I understand. I grew up in a world filled with threats of thermonuclear disaster, bomb shelters in back yards, riots, natural disasters, global expansion, financial upheaval, environmental destruction ... it’s easy to look at the world and worry over the future. I spent time with other people who were planning the day that America would collapse. I still like to be prepared for the unexpected. But one day, I realized there was something at the heart of all the planning and preparing that disturbed me more than the idea of disasters and political upheaval.
The one word driving all these movements was FEAR. Even today, reading the blogs, websites, books, and listening to conversations, the key word is fear. They don’t speak of renewing the spirit of hope, courage or adventure in America; they don’t talk about rebuilding the nation as a true freedom-based nation: they speak of trying to create a world in which fear dominates and everyone huddles in small groups, rifles ready, guarding food supplies from the hungry urban hordes from the cities and coastlines (never mind that coastlines offer a steady supply of food year round and served that purpose well in the Depression).
"I think a substantial amount of society, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and nuclear meltdowns, people have definitely recognized the fragility of society and they're taking rational steps to mitigate the risks," he said.
It is common sense to be prepared for unexpected events; I’d be the first to admit too many people never give survival enough thought. But here’s the thing: America wasn’t built from fear. It was built from courage, hope, hard work, and a recognition that, when times were tough, you helped your neighbor no matter how he differed from you.
America wasn’t built on a philosophy of fear, nor was it built on a single religion governing every aspect of every life. America was built by Deists, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, pagans, and even those who neither knew nor cared about religion. In the end, all that mattered was whether your word was good, your handshake strong and your character solid.
America wasn’t built by frightened people hiding in wired compounds from a challenging world, crouching at every helicopter flying overhead, but by embracing the idea that each person could create a better world for him/herself and was free to do so as long as he/she didn’t hurt other people or other people’s property. Sure, we had bad guys. Sure, we made mistakes. Yes, we sometimes had to fight back when others would try to claim the right to harm our loved ones, destroy our homes or lands, take our water. It’s no different than today, when we fight to ensure our children will also have clean air, water to drink and land to live on free of encroachment, and yes, sometimes we can worry about the hardships of tomorrow that might come. But the builders of this nation built with a vision of a future, a better country for their posterity, with all the possibilities derived from liberty, attracting other people who believed in the ideals of liberty to shape their lives as they saw fit. They met the hardships with open hands, and strong hearts.
They didn’t show the fear and rigidity expressed in this statement: “In calamitous times, with a few exceptions, it will only be the God-fearing that will continue to be law abiding.” They recognized that good men and women came from all walks of life. Fear draws fearful people. Fear feeds on ignorance, lack of knowledge and lack of exposure to cultures, people, and ideas that differ from the familiar. By promoting fear as a foundation for their “new America,” what sort of world will they build? What sort of people will they become? And what will they do with those who are The Other? It might well be that, in founding a new nation on fear, the very things they fear are the things they will create.