The following is an excerpt from the new book Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published this month by AK Press. To learn more about the book, please visit http://www.RedStateRebels.org.
We are not supposed to exist.
According to the political Steinberg map of the nation, we come from no man’s land, fly-over country, the unredeemable middle, where political progressives are as rare as a Hooters in Provo, Utah.
We are children of the wasteland. The rural outback. Where folks carry guns and use them. Where fenced compounds and utopian communes exist side-by-side with a cyanide heap-leach gold mine. Out here cell phones don’t work. Not yet, anyway. And some of us would like to keep it that way.
Frank grew up on the wheated plains of eastern Montana. St. Clair hails from the humid cornfields of central Indiana. These states span the glaciated heart of the continent, a region carved and ground-smooth by the weight of ice. From a distance, the terrain of the Great Plains appears homogenous. From a distance so do its politics and demographics. You must look closer to discover the diversity, the radical nuances.
Even the Republicanism of Indiana, sired as it was by the rigid Lutheranism of German immigrants, is wildly different from the libertarian, anti-government Republicanism of Montana and the Rocky Mountain Front. They are not one. Except on the two-color map of American politics.
Neither of us fit in the geo-ideological matrix contrived by the mainstream political establishment. Neither do thousands of others, left, right and anarcho-libertarians, who reside in the forgotten midsection of the nation.
And not all of us are children of Ken Kesey and Ed Abbey. Some follow in the footsteps of David Koresh, Reies Tijerina, Randy Weaver, Elvira Arellano or Mary Dann.
A Red States rebellion is breaking out. It’s been going on for some time. Since Reconstruction in the South and even longer in the West. The true West of Wyoming and Utah, Idaho and Arizona. Where the stakes are high and the odds are long. And the battles are waged over the essentials of life: water, food, wilderness, human liberty.
Take abortion. Largely cast as an urban issue by the flyover press, the real crisis and militant resistance is happening in Utah, South Dakota, Mississippi and Idaho-states where unwanted pregnancy rates are high and abortion clinics are sparse and marked for extermination.
Consigned to death row, the loneliest and most forbidding place in America? Fighting for your life against the conveyor-belt execution industry of Texas is qualitatively different from the struggle in Illinois or California where activists and Ivy-league trained litigators are lined up to give aid. In the grim chambers of the row of interior America you can’t expect to enjoy the right to a competent lawyer, a fair judge or crusading journalism students. It’s just you against the death machine.
Or try being an environmentalist in the toxic towns of Libby, Montana or Tonopah, Nevada, where cancer rates are soaring, the death threats don’t stop at prank calls and the cops are more likely to kick your ass than rush to your defense. It’s a lonely and dangerous struggle. But people are doing it. Thousands of them. Fighting as if their lives depended on it-which, of course, they do.
Out here there are no fixed blueprints for resistance. No organizational flow charts for how to plot a rebellion. No focus groups or pulse polls or field-tested PR strategies or genteel formalities for grant applications. Marx would be confused. The human spirit is the best guide. When Peabody Coal announces its intention to evict your grandmother, dynamite her hogan and strip-mine the family sheep pasture, you don’t have time to consult Weiden and Kennedy for how to spin it to your advantage or wait around for a year on the infinitesimal chance that Pew Charitable Trusts might drop you a few
bucks. You must act. As a group if you can, unilaterally if necessary. Militantly if you must.
While the Forest Service sparks a chainsaw in the outback of Wyoming no progressive from Vermont is going to stop them from ravaging the countryside. That job is left to the people who inhabit the places that are under assault day in and day out.
When the ATF or FBI come busting through your kitchen door, rousting you at gunpoint from your bed, roughing up your children, accusing you of being a rightwing crazy, an illegal immigrant or an animal liberation terrorist, the ACLU isn’t likely to speed to Wallace, Idaho to bail you out of jail and make your case a cause celebre for constitutional rights.
In fact, the FBI could burn down your house, incinerate dozens of women and children, and good liberals in New York and San Francisco will say you had it coming. They already have. See Waco and Ruby Ridge; Cove-Mallard and Wounded Knee.
This is the game plan the Feds have used since the inception of our so-called constitutional republic, and there have always been bloody consequences. Smoke out the non-conformists, or better yet, murder them. Of course there is a silver lining for the rest of us, and that’s that these brave rebels are the true heart of the nation. The people who bring about real change. They are the freedom fighters. They are the sons and daughters of César Chávez and Leonard Peltier. Without them, the government’s assault on its citizens and the environment would largely go unchecked.