Multiculti Militia

Political cross-pollination is on the rise in the post-Cold-War era.
Despite the heavy partisanship of the new Congress’ first 100 days, a
number of unlikely experiments in platform swapping have sprouted up in
the last few years (think of NAFTA’s unholy alliance between Pat Buchanan
and Jesse Jackson.) The Oklahoma bombing unleashed a whole new round of
“what’s wrong with this picture?” political analysis. We had right-wing
fringe groups playing the traditional role of the Weather
Underground–albeit with the deadly efficiency the 60s radicals invariably
lacked. (Adam Gopnik, writing in the New Yorker, described this as the
“difference between the kids who paid attention in social studies, and the
ones who paid attention in shop.”) In Washington, our draft-dodging,
Vietnam-protesting Commander in Chief outlined his plans to unshackle
Federal agents, plans designed to undo legislation originally passed to
protect the civil liberties of draft dodgers and Vietnam protesters. Days
later lifelong gun-toting Republican George Bush publicly denounced the

For those of you keeping score at home, the most bewildering display of
ideological mix-and-match appeared a few weeks ago during Nightline’s
“town meeting” in Dearborn, Michigan. After an unsettling round of Q&A;
with the local citizens (many of whom subscribed to the
paging-Oliver-Stone theory that the government blew up the government
building), Ted Koppel turned his focus to the members of the Michigan
Militia in the audience–in particular Norman Olson, the Donald
Sutherlandesque head of the MM, who sat in earnest, contemplative silence
for the first half hour of the broadcast. Olson was ably shielded by the
frantic interjections of MM spokesman Ray Southwell, whose hand shot up at
every one of Koppel’s queries, like some kind of nightmare Arnold Horshack
in full camouflage regalia. Eventually Koppel broke through with an
outright taunt (“Does Mr. Olson have a capacity to speak for himself, or
do you have to speak for him?”). Olson rose gravely from his seat, and
delivered one of the most puzzling, dissonant speeches in recent media
memory. It closed with these lines, echoing, of all things, MLK’s “I have
a dream” speech:

NORMAN OLSON: Listen Ted, the Michigan Militia Corps, and
I as the commander, we have--we have come out visibly and
publicly, we've taken a tremendous risk, we have shown
Americans that they can stand up and they can speak out
against their federal government, this government that
continues to consolidate power. What we need to do is
tell the government to stop and give the power back to
the people, down to the townships, down to the counties,
down to the states. Instead of absorbing freedom from the
people, release the people, let the people go. Listen,
there was a--there was--there was a pathway, a pathway of
tears when the great Cherokee nation moved to Oklahoma.
They were destroyed. There was another pathway called
the Underground Railroad, and Sojourner Truth and that
pathway led to Michigan. And the black people that came
to Michigan escaped a tyranny. You see, there's pathways
in America, and I believe here in Michigan, I believe
there is a pathway of hope, and I believe that we, the
people of Michigan, need to stand up. We are brave,
courageous people.

We can only hope that William Bennett and Lynn Cheney will be quick to
denounce the blatant multiculturalist slant at work in Olson’s dreamy
appeal. Sojourner Truth and the Cherokee Nation? Whatever happened to
the old patriotic chestnuts, to Plymouth Rock and “give me liberty or give
me death?” Who needs the radical revisionism of the National Endowment
for the Humanities when the reactionaries are now so eager to champion
America’s dispossessed? For Mr. Olson we have only one piece of advice:
lose that Southwell character. We think Maya Angelou would be perfect for
the job.

–S.J. (May 1995)

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