Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, harbored an unbelievable amount of anger toward his government, so much anger that he was able to justify in his own mind the murder of over two hundred individuals, including many children, when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Although McVeigh's crime was colossal by any standard, it was a far more minor offense that resulted in his arrest, and that offense, too, was rooted in his hatred of the government. McVeigh was driving down the interstate highway without a license plate on his automobile.
There are, in fact, many people living in the United States who resent the government to such a degree that they take comfort in sticking a thumb in Uncle Sam's eye whenever the opportunity presents itself. Some neglect to pay their taxes, or smuggle goods across borders to avoid taxes, or stockpile weapons as part of a fantasy about an impending government assault on their individual liberties. Some fish and hunt without the proper permits, and some throw trash out their car windows for no other reason than to show that they can.
And some drive their vehicles on public roads without license plates.
Yesterday I observed two vehicles that were operating in my little town without the benefit of license plates. The first was an old beater pulling into the parking lot at out local civic center. The fellow driving the unlicensed car looked as though he might not possess a rudimentary understanding of the law or of the felonious nature of his action. The second, however, was quite a different case. It was an expensive pickup truck that apparently belonged to a local building contractor. It did carry a license plate - a decorative one depicting a Confederate flag across its face.
That one gave me a bit of concern. Not displaying a regular license plate is one form of protest, and using the Flag of Dixie in lieu of a state issued license plate is quite another - and far more troubling.
The Southern Poverty Law Center publishes an annual "hate map" which shows the locations of various hate groups around the United States. Last year the organization identified nearly eight-hundred hate groups within the borders of our nation - and twenty-three within my own state of Missouri. Worse yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center even found one that was located within my own town of West Plains.
The group with ties to West Plains is part of a larger national organization calling itself "The League of the South," a neo-Confederate collective that advocates for a second southern secession. The League of the South would like to see society dominated by a white elite within a Christian theocratic state - and they would not be averse to the notion of the reinstitution of black slavery.
I haven't seen any meeting announcements in the local press, or signs at the quick stops, but it is alarming nevertheless to know that people with views like that are organized and operating virtually out in the open in twenty-first century America. Moreover, it is particularly troubling to know that they are some of the folks I pass on the streets every day.
Some of them are so surreptitious that they even have license plates on their cars.