The uncovering and arrests of the Hutaree group this past week fascinates me because the group sits right atop the intersection of a number of cracking fissures in the crust of American society: religion, belief, distrust, authoritarianism, freedom, rebellion, militarism, victimhood and victimization being just a few of those. It’s unlikely for any one of us to find him- or her-self neatly on one side or another side when it comes to the Hutaree because the fissures that the Hutaree aren’t all lined up in the same direction. In regarding one another, it’s more like we’re standing on top of a crumbly cake than peering across a canyon.
Because of that, the reactions to the grand jury indictment of 9 Hutaree members for their alleged kill-a-cop-for-Christ plot are not what you might expect. Members of Congress who in the past cited conspiracy arrests in Homeland Security speeches are absolutely mum now. Free Republic, one of the centers of Internet support for detention without charges and waterboarding torture for Muslim extremists, is now heavy with skepticism and reminders that the accused are innocent until proven guilty and “b.s. charges” remarks. The Hutaree themselves, enemies of government, will be using government-paid public defenders.
In reacting to the Hutaree, it’s time to do as F. Scott Fitzgerald asked of us and hold opposing thoughts in our minds.
On the one hand, the Hutaree website clearly advocates for the commission of violence. On the other hand, the U.S. government has called a lot of people “terrorists” before who weren’t actually planning to do anything.
On the one hand, in our judicial system the Hutarees are innocent of a crime until proven guilty in a court of law. On the other hand, that’s a right that the Hutarees’ fellow fundamentalist Christians have been trying to erode. And if we had a third hand, then on that hand we’d recognize that independent of whether the Hutaree Nine have committed any crime it’s fair to consider what members of the Hutaree have publicly declared about themselves and their intentions.
It is possible simultaneously for Hutaree members to have extensive militia ties and to be despised by members of miltia for allegedly targeting police officers and their families. It is possible simultaneously to have a deep and abiding distrust of police officers and law enforcement powers and to have concern for their physical safety.
It is reasonable to feel a sense of relief that if members of the Hutaree were planning to murder families and attack motorcades, they were stopped before they carried out the deed. At the same time, it’s reasonable to ask whether the Hutarees’ first and fourth amendment rights were violated during the investigation of their activities.
It’s fair to ask procedural questions about whether the Hutaree are victims of entrapment who maybe never intended to really act on their tough talk. But if you’re going to be procedurally sympathetic for Christian fundamentalists accused of terrorism, then you need to be procedurally sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalists accused of terrorism.
The government may feel it is your friend, but still be out to get you. The Hutaree may be motivated by the idea of rescuing virtue to destroy innocents.
Welcome back to the pre-9-11 mindset.