Friday, April 2, 2010

Guardians of the Free Republics Get Our Attention

A "sovereign citizen" group called Guardians of the Free Republics sent letters to at least 30 governors this week telling them to resign from office within three days or be removed from office.  The FBI has sent out an alert saying that, while this group doesn't appear to be violent, they may incite violence in those so inclined.  These folks view the U.S. government as illegitimate and set a deadline of March 31 to dismantle it from the inside out.

I hesitate to call this group "right wing" because they really fall pretty far outside the spectrum of typical and even extremist dialogue.  In fact, their website reads a little bit like the ramblings of someone who thinks the CIA is controlling their thoughts through their dental work.  They're also not very well established.  Their Wikipedia article was first written today.  And they're not violent.  So why is anyone paying any attention?

First, there's the obvious -- when someone says that if a government official doesn't resign they are going to be removed, people think violence.  Their website says they have
a bold achievable strategy for behind-the-scenes peaceful
reconstruction of the de jure institutions of government without
controversy, violence or civil war.
The reassurance we might get from this disavowal of violence is somewhat mitigated by the fact that their idea of doing this "without controversy" appears to entail sending letters demanding the resignation of all of the governors at once.  If that's without controversy, without violence could get violent.

I think there is something more basic at work in the publicity this story is generating, however.  The fact that the letters have gone to so many governors has made this a local story in every corner of the country.  If you do a Google News search on Guardians of the Free Republics, you will find story after story in local news sources discussing the letters received by the governor of that state.  The headlines don't say "Lots of Governors Get Whacko Letters," they say, "Our Governor One of the Threatened."  This takes this situation from being a federal one, which affects all of us some but none of us much, and brings it home to each of us, quite literally.

I have no idea what these people really want.  I read their website today and I understand that they're questioning the legitimacy of just about anything, but their "plan" is awfully obscure.  It seems, though, that part of what they want is attention.  At 44 cents each, letters to all of the governors cost them a grand total of $22, for which they purchased an incredible amount of media attention and a lot of personalized anxiety.  I can't say I condone it, but they got a lot of bang for their buck.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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