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-by John L. Moore

Militia Myths

Special section: America, America

I sat in a California living room while a man from Idaho displayed his homemade driver's license, quoting from the Constitution to explain why the government had no right to regulate his freedom of movement. Where is the Other America? In your neighbor's head. America is a memory, the meaning of which is always being contested.

See, for example, a collection of essays entitled History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past, edited by Edward T. Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 295 pp.; $30). You'll recall the controversy that resulted when the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum set out to mount an exhibit featuring the Enola Gay (the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima) to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. The editors comment: "The opening of a history front in the decade-old culture wars, even if only a new twist on an old act for Republicans and right-wingers, has been a genuinely shocking experience for historians committed to examining cherished national narratives."

My heart goes out to the students of those genuinely shocked historians. Are their professors really so utterly clueless? The history wars are never-ending, and no wing, right or left, has a monopoly on outrage. In this special section, we visit a few contested sites of memory. American origins: individualistic or communitarian? Is the Constitution just whatever the judges say it is? Should we continue to read America's intellectual history as written by the pragmatists and their heirs--Rorty, et al.--in which, as it happens, they are the bringers of enlightenment? Was there any justification for the internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II? How does the history of religion in America look when women are added to the story? Join us, if you're not too easily shocked.


American Militias: Rebellion, Racism, and Religion

By Richard Abanes


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