Along with any report on militias from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, or any other similar news agency, you will often see the liberal use of words like extremist, radical, right-wing, and conspiratorial. They may even pitch in a few emotion-provoking words like racist and hate group. This certainly paints a bleak picture of an entire group of people, but how accurate is that picture, really? To get an honest answer, we have to look at what militias have meant historically in our nation as well as what they have become in the last few decades.
During the Revolutionary War, there were many colonial militia groups. The largest and most well-known group was the Minutemen. In fact, it was this group that kicked off the Revolutionary War in Lexington, when British Forces fired on them prompting a hostile response that resulted in a British retreat. Militia groups continually engaged the British regulars throughout the war. They proved effective in guerilla style warfare, considerably hampering British supply lines; however, they proved generally ineffective on the open battle lines with the Colonial regulars. The performance of the militia during the war was viewed later as pivotal in suppressing the British Forces until the engagement of the French on behalf of the Colonies, which were also joined later by the Dutch and Spanish in securing American independence.
Militias continued to be utilized and supported by their states through the early years of the United States up to the Spanish-American War. Prior to WWI, the Dick Act federalized many of these groups into National Guard units for each state, which the federal government could then use as a reserve force for its regular Army units. Because this allowed these units to be taken out of state, many states felt as if they had been left defenseless, which in turn created a strong emotional impact among those who survived the Civil War. The Act allowed for the creation of the reserve militia or unorganized militia by the citizens (all able-bodied men ages 18-45) for the defense of their home state.
Though the reserve militias were originally supported by their states with firearms and equipment, this support dwindled over the years as the ever-increasing demands of the state National Guard drained allocated funds. Each group learned to be self-sufficient and would purchase equipment necessary for their mission from personal funds leading to more separation of the militia groups from their state government.
These groups were allowed to self-regulate as their existence was guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, specifically by the First and Second Amendments. However, with the lack of calls to service from their states and the glory of the militia in service during the Spanish-American War fading from memory, so too did the decline of individual Americans’ involvement in their local militia groups. Coupled with this was a general leeriness of firearms growing amongst the public; traditional militia groups began to disappear entirely by the Second World War.
Then in the late 50’s, new groups began to form in response to the growing Civil Rights movement that resembled militias. They spewed hatred for Black Americans and justified their armed groups’ existence and the violence they created as a defense for their culture and way of life, taking the argument as far as defending their state’s rights. For example, the White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan conducted many beatings and church burnings and even murdered three civil rights workers in 1964. The KKK became known as the militant arm of the Democratic Party, who fought tirelessly against the Civil Rights Movement.
Not long after Civil Rights were signed into law, the Black Panther Party, which quickly formed into a revolutionary communist group, pushed for an overthrow of the government and a creation of a new Marxist regime. This group was highly militant and was often seen marching armed groups through black communities, enforcing the will of the group on the Black American communities. Because of groups like the KKK and the Black Panthers, the word militia sank into the American psyche as one associated with crime, uncontrolled violence, paranoia, and racism even as those groups faded into obscurity.
Under the Clinton Administration in the 1990’s, many Americans began to feel the stress of encroachment of their individual freedoms and liberties as well as the federal government’s ever-growing tax burden. The 1993 assault weapons ban was especially shocking to many conservatives across the nation. Never before had the government made such a bold move against the 2nd Amendment. Gun rights are seen by many as the keystone of American independence. Because of this and other suspicious activities by the Clinton Administration, Americans across the nation began to feel that their very nation was in trouble of once again falling under the control of a tyrant. Men and women with rifles began to gather once again and talk about preparing for the worst and fighting for their nation if necessary. The traditional militia was reborn.
Unfortunately, this also coincided with a movement that was spreading rapidly out of Europe; the rise of the Neo-Nazi skinheads. This movement was growing rapidly among younger white Americans in response to the inner city rising of black gangs like the Crips and Bloods. The Neo-Nazis pulled their members into rural areas around the nation in the hope of being able to engage in criminal practices with less scrutiny than in the big cities and to separate themselves from those inner city gangs.
Rural America also happens to be where the majority of conservative Americans live who were reforming traditional, constitutional militia groups, and they found they were getting lumped together by the media as the same type of group as the FBI started to crack down on the Neo-Nazi criminal enterprises. Timothy McVeigh was a prime example of this. His agreement with conservatives against the aggressive use of federal power at Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas and his disagreement with the 1993 Assault weapon ban was enough to get him to attend a militia meeting in Arizona and again in Michigan, but the views of these militia groups were not extreme or racists enough for him to join. The Turner Diaries, an Aryan Nation fictional novel, was his bible and it drove him to action against the government, in the same manner described in the book, leading to the destruction of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
The media blamed McVeigh’s extremist views on the militia groups that he never joined. The stereotypes perpetuated of him being a violent racist only fed the image created by the KKK and the Black Panthers of militias in American minds. This led to a rapid decline in memberships in militia groups across the nation, disbanding many of them.
However, the movement was revived once again after President Obama took office with an agenda even more worrisome than that of Bill Clinton. The militias are growing again by as much as 60% per year. Many people feel the threatening power of the federal government in their daily lives and the secrecy of the Obama Administration on issues. The purchase of 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition along with 2,700 armored vehicles and 7,000 fully automatic weapon systems for the Department of Homeland Security has many concerned about the future liberty of our nation.
So, what is the real militia? It is a group of constitutionally-minded free citizens grouped together for the common cause of preservation of our traditional values and beliefs. They are open groups, never ashamed to speak publically about the history and importance of our great nation and the need for citizens to provide balance against the power of government. They are not anti-government, for they—with all citizens of our nation—are the government. They are not racist, for they believe all men were made equally by their Creator and endowed with certain inalienable Rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the militia and it’s up to you if you chose to stand on the sidelines of history or become a part of it.
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