Jane Kramer: Militias and ‘the cult of guns & property’

I read Jane Kramer’s Lone Patriot: The Short Career of an American Militiaman on my flight back from Oregon in December. It’s the story of the Whatcom County-based Washington State Militia, one of the 1990s militias that was busted by the feds. In one passage, she eloquently describes the “cult of guns and property” that was fostered by Western colonial expansion, but lingers among certain rural areas. The cult certainly seems to be alive and well among those taking part in the Malheur occupation.

His point, I think, was that a passion having originally and essentially to do with a settler’s right to his own square mile of America, free and easy, could easily, in a complicated new economy of skills and specialties and services and regulations, turn into a cult of guns and property among people who had been left behind by the change. The rhetoric of entitlement was really the rhetoric of expansion. It was scrip only for as long as it took the continent to be cleared, though this was clearly one detail no one had bothered to share with [Washington State Militia member] John Pitner or his neighbors. In a way, John and his neighbors still thought of themselves as settlers, and, as [local historian] Mike [Vouri] liked to remind his audiences, in Washington’s history a settler’s home wasn’t just his castle but everything he saw from his castle, and thought to claim. It all depended on what you meant by castle, and to John, it meant a great deal.

See Jane Kramer, Lone Patriot: The Short Career of an American Militiaman (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002), page 136.

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