Bear meat, AK-47’s, and Oath Keepers – Part 1
Some want to take up arms against a perceived domestic tyranny and actively plan for America’s second revolution. Others simply fade into the wilderness, disappearing from an ever-expanding electronic grid. American Individualism is expressing itself in many ways.
In the coming weeks I will attempt to provide you with some insight into several off-grid groups and individuals and how they think.
My path led me to places few have seen – or even know exist. I have spent time deep in Appalachia among folks living in mud-daubed wigwam huts, eaten black bear poached from the deep mountains, trekked hidden trails in the Himalayas with Maoist rebels, trained with shadowy militias in the U.S. and lived with America’s own Crocodile Dundee deep in the Okefenokee Swamp. The journey created new ways of thinking about who we are as Americans, and just what it means to be American. I’ll write from my experience living among these groups. Not from notes and figures compiled and computed by armchair academics. I’ll provide the faces behind the stereotypes, and hopefully bust some of those stereotypical myths in the process.
My attempt in this, and subsequent articles beneath this title, will be to present some different perspectives on what it means to be an Individual in America. While some of the ideologies and Ideals might seem completely foreign to you, and anathema to your world view, I ask only that you look deeper into these differing opinions. Are they really that much different than your own? Maybe their methodology is radically different. But is the message? And if that message turns out to have much in common with yours, shouldn’t the Right vs. Left paradigm be deconstructed to allow non-polarizing discourse to guide us? Forget Fox news. Forget MSNBC. Could it be that beneath the ever-buzzing machine of data consumerism lays a population of people whose ideologies, while seeming to differ initially, actually are quite similar?
Big Brother is watching and the consumer – industrial – data machine rolls on.
The FBI, the domestic alphabet soup agency responsible for federal level law enforcement, watches homegrown dissention growing. Even localized law enforcement and small town sheriff’s offices are beginning to develop a separatist ideology, hence the formation of the Oath Keepers. Who are the Oath Keepers? They are members – both current and former –of the U.S. military and law enforcement. Their motto is “Not on Our Watch”, and their stated objective is to resist, by any means necessary, those actions taken by the U.S. Government that overstep constitutional boundaries. My meetings with several current members revealed a consistent and uncompromising belief that our current government has overstepped its authority.
Weapons and ammunition are being stockpiled monthly and membership is booming. How many members? No official count exists, though numbers are believed to be in the tens of thousands. Stewart Rhodes, the organization’s founder, believes it is best to keep numbers secret. Through secrecy, he says, members instill a sense of fear in the adversary – our government – and this secrecy acts as a force multiplier. But walls of secrecy can be penetrated.
The FBI uses confidential informants in an attempt to infiltrate the Oath Keepers and other groups deemed subversive. The process unfolds like a storyline from a Robert Ludlum novel. Though the infiltrator usually is no Jason Bourne and the results of these operations are far from certain. Just reference the Huteree militia raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana during 2010. Of all indicted, all serious charges were dismissed in federal court. But perhaps we, as Americans, should question why these men of the Huteree militia, and others like them, felt it necessary to vilify the U.S. government to begin with.
Having met and spoken to most of those arrested, I can tell you the answers were anything but stereotypical. Occupations of some of the militia members? Dentist, doctor, engineer, corporate vice president, entrepreneur, mechanic, plumber, house wife – to name just some.
And while we’re talking of atypical responses, another group I will introduce you to is located deep in Appalachia. They live in wigwam huts made of mud and sticks and survive on food that has been reclaimed. Reclaimed food is that which is collected from dumpsters. Why live this way? Freegan’s see themselves as part of an anti-consumerist movement. They have very limited involvement in our consumer-based society and practice living strategies that limit consumption of resources.
Want to know their core philosophy? Todd and Talia, my sources, told me it is to “embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity and greed.” I found this exact description listed on Wikipedia under Freeganism. Every source at the camp quoted this definition to me. Sound familiar? My sources have lived this lifestyle for 7 years. Before forsaking civilization, he was an electrical engineer. She was a registered nurse.
Two additional groups I will introduce you to are the self-sustained agricultural community – I call them pseudo-Amish, and the individual off-grid loner – America’s Crocodile Dundee. The first is a family living in the mountains of Tennessee who grow all of their own food, provide all of their own power, build all of their own homes from wood milled from their property and rely on absolutely no one other than themselves for subsistence. Occupation prior to getting off-grid? Mechanical engineer.
The other is a man of middle age living off the bounty of a rich swamp. Complete with amply stocked cabin built from driftwood and supplies harvested from receding flood waters. He lives in a world dominated by gators, spiders as large as your hand and wood roaches that seem the size of small drones. He’s been living off-grid for over 15 years. His former occupation? New York stockbroker.
Law enforcement officers (LEOs), militia, freegans, off-grid agriculture and lone wolf, off-grid individualists are the focus in the coming weeks. I’ll not give you caricatures, but insights into their lives and personalities. By doing this, perhaps, just perhaps, we can start looking harder at our commonalities rather than our differences.
If you have some of your own experiences you’d like to share, please feel free to drop me a line and I will share some of those comments in my next piece.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.