Nick Rudnik, Valdosta Today Opinion Contributor:
On October 30, antigovernment survivalist, Eric M. Frein, was captured by Pennsylvania police. Frein spent forty-eight days on the run, in the remote stretches of the Pennsylvania wilderness, after being accused of murdering, in a sharpshooter-style ambush, a Pennsylvania state trooper and injuring another. Frein was a trained “survivalist”—a relatively new, extreme movement of individuals actively training and preparing for the collapse of society or an international crisis. Even more concerning was the possibility that Frein was hiking through the remote Pennsylvania forest armed with a Russian-made AK-47 automatic assault rifle.
Let me be clear on two important points: Frein is a monster, he’s a terrorist. Second, there is no justification for what he did. In fact, there is absolutely no justification for cold-blooded murder, especially when the victim is a member of law enforcement—sworn to protect all of us from harm.
Since the mid-1990s we’ve seen an alarming rise in domestic terrorist groups. Take Timothy McVeigh, who on April 19, 1995 with the help of an accomplice detonated a large explosive, truck bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City—killing 168 people. McVeigh was a member of a similar “survivalist” group: sovereign citizens. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the sovereign citizens movement is a “strange subculture whose adherents hold truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs, [and] has been growing at a fast pace since the late 2000s.” The SPLC adds, “The movement is rooted in racism and anti-Semitism.”
Last June in Georgia we witnessed an episode involving Dennis Marx who opened fire at the Forsyth County Courthouse. He injured a sheriff’s deputy before gunfire with police resulted in his death. This is the face of homegrown terrorism. This is the sum of all fears: that a man seemingly looking “normal,” like any one of us, can suddenly assemble an improvised explosive device or bring a weapon to a crowded, public area and wreak havoc on law abiding citizens. Think of the Boston Marathon attack, a little less than two years ago.
These terrorists like Frein, McVeigh, and Marx are not patriots—as they purport. For they openly advocate for the dismantling of society as we know it. This type of rhetoric of the new, extremist “patriot” movement is very concerning. These groups claim they are the new militia and minutemen to resist legitimate government authority. They are not.
Indeed, our nation fought a long and bloody war for our independence, and another for the emancipation of the enslaved. A hallmark of our democracy is not that when we’re dissatisfied with the status quo we take up arms but seek satisfaction within the paradigm of free and fair elections. That is legitimate rule in a democratic society. And their failure to accept this legitimacy is what makes these survivalists and sovereign citizens so extreme.
Conservative Party UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently spoke to the British people about the need to root out and crush both violent and non-violent extremism in his country. President Obama should stand up and do the same. To Cameron, the respect for the legitimate rule of law is as British as “the Union Flag, football, and fish and chips.”
The same is true for our nation. The respect for legitimate government authority is endemic of American democracy. Those who actively propagate rhetoric that advocates for the violent overthrow of our great nation, and then stockpile weapons and explosives in an attempt to subvert legitimate rule need to be dealt with swiftly and properly—they need to be fundamentally crushed.
Make no mistake: this article is not an attack on the law abiding. Many law abiding and hardworking citizens, who play by the rules, may want positive political change in our country. The fact that many of these same citizens own firearms does not make them extremists.
Those like Eric Frein who hope to one day kill a police officer, blow up a government building, or open fire at groups of citizens in a deranged and quixotic rage against society—those are the bad apples, far outside the mainstream, and need to be rooted out.
We should not have to live in fear. We should not have to go about our day-to-day activities in our modern, secular, civilized, and developed democracy worrying about the extremist next door, or down the road. We must call on the president, the attorney general, the governor, and the state’s attorney general to work with law enforcement and crackdown on antigovernment radicals. This is a matter of national security.
Democracy will prevail over disorder. Justice will come to Eric Frein and those like him. And we should not, nor should we ever, live in fear in the United States of America.
Nicholas A. Rudnik is currently pursuing a degree in political science with a concentration in American politics at Valdosta State University. Previously, he’s served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 111th Congress and in the Office of U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop. Further, Nick has served on staff at an institutional interest group, the Association of American Law Schools, in Washington and has worked in the private sector. He has presented his research, focused primarily on congressional parties and elections, at regional academic conferences and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in political science. Nick is currently completing two manuscripts relating to southern congressional elections and judicial decision-making in the area of campaign finance; he can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter: @NickRudnik.
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