Much has been made of a new report from the Department of Homeland Security concerning the rise of right-wing extremism.
I have no doubt that right-wing hate groups are on the rise. Recent reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center tracking the creation and spread of these groups give credence to DHS’ worry over right-wing extremism and its recruitment and growth.
But, the new DHS report contains this curiously and dangerously broad definition of right-wing extremism:
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
Under this new definition, groups and associations of people who are proud American patriots will no doubt come under scrutiny and observation.
I take particular issue with the latter portions of it; there are legitimate organizations and associations committed to restoring state and local authority where and when it exists as outlined by the U.S. Constitution, and legitimate, non-hate groups that are committed to addressing abortion or immigration.
The John Locke Foundation in North Carolina, while a group with whom I’d certainly have my disagreements, is also a group that is full of American patriots. Their association could easily fit into this overly broad DHS definition.
Maybe, one day, a third or fourth political party could even become suspect under this new “extremism” definition.
This definition and report from DHS is, perhaps, precisely the reason why there are groups of people who seek to limit the powers of the federal government and respect constitutionally-governed state and local powers.
The one thing I despised most about the Bush Administration was its continual disrespect and disregard for the U.S. Constitution and the principles contained within it. The Department of Homeland Security, under the Obama Administration, is now engaging in similar constitutional disrespect and disregard. The only difference between then and now is where the disrespect is happening, who is doing it and who is being targeted.
It is dangerous for government to issue these types of broad definitions. Just as some LGBT groups were targeted for surveillance under the Bush Administration, have no doubt that continued encroachment into our Constitutional rights and civil liberties will mean continued rises in abuses to American citizens and the continued destruction of the Constitution.
We would all do well to remember and to often reflect on the following: “I do not agree with a word you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”