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Signs and Wonders

by on September 11, 2020

Signs and Wonders

by Marco M. Pardi

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

Over the past twenty years and more the United States has seen increasing evidence of White Power militancy and hoarding of weapons in preparation for some expected internecine conflict. But for most Americans almost all of the evidence has been viewed at a distance, presented in short news stories and the very occasional in depth coverage of such incidents as Ruby Ridge and Waco. The massive death toll at the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City was glossed over as the work of a couple of deranged individuals. And, particularly after the September 11, 2001 airline hijacking incident the public mind increasingly linked the concept terrorism with foreign Muslim. Meanwhile the White self-styled “militias” increasingly gained the status of heroes and patriots, a bit zealous perhaps but basically good guys.

During several of those early years I worked in a federal counter-terrorism program. But, unlike my superiors, my attention was centered on domestic evidence, threat levels, funding sources, and the ultimate question – Cui bono, usually rendered as “Who benefits?” Yet, my findings and concerns were ignored; the emphasis was instead on shoveling massive amounts of tax payer funds to States and Territories to militarize their police forces in anticipation of a foreign invasion of evildoer saboteurs and wild eyed suicidal terrorists. I eventually chose retirement and more involvement in college teaching.

It is interesting that as I write this the public is being informed of top level Department of Homeland Security attempts to suppress information and findings on the dangers and activities of domestic, predominantly White Nationalist Right Wing groups. More damning is the evidence that Left Wing groups are instead being falsely demonized. But again, these are news reports, seen by many people, internalized by some, ignored by others, and forgotten when prime time viewing airs the current episode of some meat market reality show, or some “crime” show in which the crime will be resolved in an hour.

However, just as I finished the paragraph above I got a notification that the FBI is issuing very serious warnings about the potential for armed violence at polling stations and State buildings on Election Day. The warnings cite high risk from armed Trump supporters trying to coerce voters and erupting in violence should it appear Trump is losing. But again, even with broad coverage on mainstream news, how many people bother with such news anymore?

Apparently, people are forming their opinions from some information sources. Just today it was disclosed that Trump wanted to fire a top level Dept. of Homeland Security official because the official stated for the media that Russia, not China or Iran, is the primary influencer in Trump’s favor. Oh, well, dictatorships control the news. That’s what they do. Maybe we should just get over it.

A couple of days ago I took a car trip. But before doing so I got the emissions check I need for a new license tag. As I flipped open my billfold to select a highly protected credit card the cashier at the auto inspection place, who looked like he just got out of prison, saw my Concealed Carry License. He said, “Joe Biden will take that away from you.” Not wanting a confrontation, I simply said, “I don’t think so.” He then launched into an NRA inspired soliloquy on how “They” would have to come and take his guns off his dead body. Since he had my address, a couple of miles from the shop, I passed on telling him to be careful what he wished for.

We then set off on a trip into the north Georgia “mountains”, not too far from home and just on the border with North Carolina. We selected old State roads over the newer Interstates, giving us a horrendously twisting, climbing passage on very narrow two lane roads but an up close view of “Deliverance” country. Yes, that movie was filmed in the area we were driving. I knew a couple of retired “Feds” who built houses in these woods and who told me, “Don’t piss off the locals”.

With 50 yards or less of forward visibility through the tree lined curves I watched the local mountain boys hurtle their huge and questionably maintained pickup trucks up and down the twisting road like Olympic bobsledders, wondering when our mirrors would clip. Watching those trucks I noticed most of them were festooned with Trump stickers, gun manufacturer logos, and rude messages. I don’t recall seeing Confederate flags.

Each time the road opened a bit we saw houses, some fairly nice and some not so. And, everywhere there was room we saw yard signs for Trump, messages from God, and American flags. At one intersection we saw our first local campaign sign: the candidate’s name over a very large picture of an AR-15. We got the message.

Finally we arrived at the town we wanted and found the apple orchard store we had come looking for. Everyone, including us, wore masks. Must all have been tourists. We spent over an hour getting bags of apples and various other items before loading up and searching for a place for a late lunch. We finally found one. Afterwards, while walking to the car a young couple was walking toward us, she was White and he was Black. He had his head down and looked rather apprehensive. But as he glanced up I nodded, looked him in the eye and said, “How are you doing?” He had a typical startle reaction but smiled and said, “Fine, thank you.” I guess he was expecting something else. In fact, judging by what I had seen in the area I felt that around this region the initials BLM mean Bureau of Land Management.

As we drove off we had to negotiate another few miles of twisting, blind two lane road to get to a major highway back to Atlanta. Coming up on a stop sign we saw a very large billboard advertising an independent pharmacy. The name and logo of the pharmacy were clearly presented over a line of large script which said: Drugs, Guns, Ammunition, Tags. All your shopping needs.

Great! We could load up on opioids, take our pick of guns and load them, and maybe get a tag or two for any “big game” we shot. Couldn’t ask for more. We wanted to photograph the sign, but several factors prevented that: A blind curve behind us meant some mountain boy in a pick-up truck would likely slam into us; there was no place to pull off the road without clearing some trees or driving into a ravine; the license tag on my vehicle is marked with an identifier for an affluent county bordering Atlanta; and, I didn’t feel like engaging in a shoot-out after such a nice lunch. But I do sincerely regret not being able to post the picture, which is still clear in my mind.

So what do we make of all this? Is this just an aberration, a sojourn into The Twilight Zone? Or is this Americana? I’ve lived in or traveled 49 of the 50 U.S. States, North Dakota being the only exception. While working in counter-terrorism I was in frequent contact with State counterparts throughout the U.S.. In several cases I was told that, no matter the attack or disaster, State personnel and vehicles would NOT be sent to certain areas, specifically large compounds of heavily armed self-styled militias and “religious” anti-government groups. “I’m not sending my people out there to get shot to pieces!” I completely agreed.

I’ve been “out of the business” (directly) for a while. But at my last check there were 750 such groups known to still be up and functioning, distributed throughout the entire United States. No State is without at least a few. But it’s important to realize and remember that these are the identifiable groups; they do not include the supporters and the sympathizers. Remember the Olympic bomber, Eric Robert Rudolph? He was a federal fugitive for five years. The public has been told he survived those years by camping in the woods, eating acorns and salamanders, and pilfering dumpsters. Having the training and experience that I do I would consider that possible. But that same training and experience make it very highly unlikely he survived those five years with no human contact. I have never accepted that. Any Agency profiler would tell you his motivations for his actions were fundamentally based in his need for human contact and recognition. Someone supported him, if by no other means than by providing appropriate clothing for the harsh winter seasons in the forest.

In the history of the Great Experiment in Democracy in this country there has always been the assumption that those who supported the losing side in an election would accept the results and try harder the next time. Frankly, I don’t see that happening this time. Some are saying that if Trump wins this could very well be the last free election this country sees. That may be an overstatement, but such an outcome would clearly usher in a dictatorship which, though emboldened to become more visible, has likely learned from others to veil itself in patriotism and religion.

I certainly do agree that this is the most important election of my lifetime. And so I ask again, please vote.

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6 Comments
  1. Dana permalink

    Marco, I sometimes joke, “I was sent to the Bible Belt to die….” but now I insist I am here to LIVE.

    Rednecks have always been the demographic I’ve feared since I moved to the Southeast as a teenager.  Working in male-dominated service industries I’ve been exposed to more than my share.  In my experience they are usually misogynists, passing over my suggestions for “another opinion,” meaning a male one.  I’m always triumphant when the suggestions I’ve offered are correct.  

    From my observations, they persist as the demographic most refusing to wear masks.  Watching footage of the maskless supporters at Trump rallies, it’s unsurprising to see how they might be so easily brainwashed by the so-called “leader” who doesn’t give a flying fig about them, their families, their health, or their precarious futures.  They aren’t the most intelligent or educated group of people so maybe that’s why they are so easily fooled by Donald Trump.  They believe everything he says. He’s urging this base to sign up as “poll watchers,” and I have no doubt his base probably includes domestic terrorists. 

    I know people who insist there will be violence only if he loses in November.  These people are too far gone for my influence.

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  2. Thank you, Dana. We are seeing the emergence of a demographic which has been part of every Western civilization for centuries. It reminds me of the question I developed many years ago: Is human culture self defeating in that it supports members who would otherwise whither and die off by themselves? Of course, these people would not recognize how the larger culture supports them, nor would they acknowledge it were it pointed out to them. But eventually they may overtake “the hand that feeds them” and bring down the entire structure.

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  3. Ray Rivers permalink

    Hi Marco – I’d like to say I enjoyed the article but it made me very depressed – sad to see what appears to be an inevitable clash of political perspectives possibly come to a violent conclusion. We have protests here in Canada and have had some tense ones with indigenous Canadians recently – but even there we don’t see the degree of animosity we hear about south of the border. I can only wish you peace.

    Ray Z. Rivers 445 Mountsberg Rd., Campbellville ON L0P 1B0 Home and Mobile – 905-659-2069 rayzrivers@gmail.com

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    • Ray, I thank you on two counts for your comments. First, your comments are always informative and therefore very valuable. Second, they provide me an opportunity to speak about a puzzling feature of this blog site. My articles get a large amount of readership but comments from a relatively few people. I have wondered if the material is too depressing, too repetitive, or just not “happy” enough (maybe “All of the above”). But I cannot understand any person who claims to have a moral foundation and yet does not speak out. I just won’t fill these pages with chirping birds and blooming flowers.

      So, while it does sadden me when I sense your empathy and the distress it causes, I know your feelings come from a deeply moral foundation and I’m gladdened when you speak out as you do.

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  4. I’ve driven through the part of Georgia you described, and while it is in places quite beautiful, I would be terrified to live there. It’s hard enough here, with a Biden sign on one side of the street and a Trump one directly across; fortunately, we have so far managed to stay civil with one another. Our local “crazy cat lady” is a strong Trump supporter, and I rarely waste a chance to debate with her. She and I, being civilized human beings, have agreed to disagree, but I will never stop trying to get her and others to see the truth. We have promised each other to not allow it to interfere with our friendship, but I can’t help but shake my head at the things she chooses to believe.

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    • Thank you, Rose. While it may seem good, and hopeful to get the Fascist Party out of power, the ugly truth remains that the country is still filled with people who are ill educated, lacking in any historical understanding, and willing to march behind the next demagogue who gains a public platform. Reform must include equal if not greater work at the bottom as well as at the top.

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