This week’s Time magazine cover story is a chilling reminder that those mad hatter’s sipping their insanity-laced tea are no laughing matter (,9263,7601101011,00.html). The number armed and very dangerous militias, training to defeat all of us not-completely-insane (sometimes inexcusably Jewish or African American or Hispanic) people who are to them the devil incarnate, with live rounds, and grease paint, and enough loose screws rattle a civilization.

The number of active anti-government militias in America trippled in 2009, from 42 to 127. In one recent training exercise in Ohio, the scenario at which they shot live rounds, including from a belt-fed M-60 machine gun, was that Islamic terrorists were marauding over America because the current pro-Muslim president “had ordered a stand-down against Islamic troops”. One of them opines that he doesn’t know who the Redcoats will be; could be U.N. troops, federal troops, or Mexicans coming across the border (okay, he said “Mexican troops,” but given our current southern-border-xenophobia, and his complete insanity, if I were a bit more Chihuahuan in appearance, that statement would make me even more uncomfortable than I would undoubtedly already be).

These people are linked by “self-described Patriot beliefs,” including the notion that the federal government is a foreign tyrant. Some groups are white supremacists, some are members of a violent branch of  Christianity. Obama the non-white, “non-American”, “non-Christian”, non-Neanderthal alien is their catalyst, their symbol of having lost ground to the “other” that they rally, and rail, against. Some end up walking the walk, as well as talking the talk.

James Von Brunn, the 88 year old white supremacist who shot and killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, was also an anti-government “patriot,” who had taken hostages at the Federal Reserve in 1981, had complained on his website that “the American right-wing (is) nothing but talk”, had originally intended to assassinate David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior White House advisor. Von Brunn had written “Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew masters tell him to do.”

The Time article has more stories of similar wackos, of swastikas and proclaimed desires to assassinate Obama, all simmering and seething through this morass of hatred and ignorance. Most of the Tea Party isn’t so extreme, so violent, though they speak in the metaphors of war and violence. But, to me, they are implicated in this, because they too are a coalescence of ignorance and anger, of a senseless rage toward some despised “other” (see “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party,” posted just before this).

America, for all of its very real wonders and triumphs as a society and a nation, has always had a certain defective cultural gene, one not quite matched (though not entirely avoided, either) by the post-World War II Western European nations (maybe because they had seen that gene come to fruition right in their midst immediately before and during World War II, and were shocked into enough sense not to let it fester into malignancy again), whose right-wing extremists were never quite what defined them, as they too often are in America.

As absurd as the folks with misspelled signs and internally inconsistent beliefs, relying on a semi-informed “constitutional idolatry,” railing against the government whose services they are relying on to do so, they, and the frothing crests of the waves atop their sea that form these militias and plot these acts of domestic terrorism, are no laughing matter. We need to figure out how to restore some measure of rationality to this country, and we need to do it soon.

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