The Bullets of Egypt, Maine


Amidst all the hype about the return of the militias, Christopher Ketcham reports in Time that one of the most interesting offshoots of the '90s militia scene, the 2nd Maine Militia, is still going strong. Founded by the novelist Carolyn Chute and her husband Michael, the Maine group mixes anti-corporate and anti-state ideas. It might be described as the left wing of the militia movement—though the Chutes would insist, reasonably, that it doesn't fall on the left-right spectrum at all. From the Time story:

The purpose of the annual meeting, the same as it has been since the militia started in 1995, was to bring together the politics of left and right over speeches, food, live music, and, of course, live ammo. The attendees were a wildly diverse group: young activists and anarchists in black, old beat-up Maine woodsmen with beards to their bellies, retired white-haired college professors, Second Amendment zealots, conservatives, libertarians, Marxists. But they all shared the belief that the U.S. government has lost its moral authority, that both political parties had "degenerated," as one attendee put it, "into whores for wealth and arbiters of empire."

"From the beginning, we were the No-Wing Militia," said Michael Chute, 54…."We ain't right wing, we ain't left wing. We're trying to get the folks to see the problem ain't left versus right, it's up versus down." He uses a tool analogy. "A Republican is a standard screw," said Chute. "A Democrat is a Philips screws. So whichever way you vote you get the screw."

Note that the group didn't adopt the symbols of the militia movement as a joke, the way Michael Moore did when he formed "Mike's Militia." The Chutes believe they occupy an ideological turf that's compatible with the camo-wearing populists of the right. In Carolyn's words:

The No-Wing Militia Movement is not really separate from the Right-Wing Militia Movement. We attend each other's meetings, hang out together, do business with each other. We are neighbors and family. We have the same values, same fears, same dreams. But two basic differences. One, the No-Wing militia movement doesn't warm to the idea of a theocracy. We don't stress religion other than the Constitutional right to have freedom of it….The other basic difference is that the Right-Wing Militia people have gotten their political education straight from the McKinley anti-Populist, anti-democracy "Progressive Society" era and McCarthy era.

You can take such sentiments as yet another sign that the militia milieu was more complex than the familiar media narrative allows. Or you can follow the lead of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which once included the Chutes' group in a list of "radical, violence-prone religious separatists."

Update: I take back what I said about the group "going strong." A friend of the Chutes informs me that the gathering Time covered was advertised as the "last and final meeting of the 2nd Maine Militia."