Inside the Strange, Paranoid World of the Right-Wing Oath Keepers
What a PR nightmare. This was clearly not what the Yale-educated Rhodes envisioned for his group. The Oath Keepers quickly tried to distance themselves from America’s scariest police chief, insisting that one bad assault-weapon-toting lunatic did not reflect their entire group.
Thanks to incidents like this, surely the Oath Keepers must now have some sort of screening process to keep out the racists, radicals, Mark Kesslers and lone wolves—those who might give respectable members a bad name. It was time for me to become a member of the Oath Keepers and find out.
Time to Join
The Oath Keeper raison d’etre can be found on their website, under “Orders We Will NOT Obey":
- We will NOT obey any order to disarm the American people.
- We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty and declares the national government to be in violation of the compact by which that state entered the Union.
- We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
- We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.
- We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control” during any emergency, or under any other pretext. We will consider such use of foreign troops against our people to be an invasion and an act of war.
While this sounds like fodder for conspiracy theorists, the Oath Keepers see themselves as freedom’s last defenders, standing up for the Constitution and American liberties.
I follow the banner link that reads, “Join the Fight to Defend the Constitution,” which takes me to the Oath Keeper membership page. It features images of soldiers from the Revolutionary War along with the mission statement: “Guardians of the Republic. Honor your oath. Join us.” And their catchphrase: “Not on our watch.”
My Oath Keeper-joining parade is rained upon: “Full membership is open to currently serving military, reserves, National Guard, police, fire-fighters, other first responders (i.e. State Guard, Sheriff Posse/Auxilliary, Search & Rescue, EMT, other medical 1st responders, etc.) AND veterans/former members of those services. Those who are not current or prior service can join as an Associate Member—as a citizen who supports our mission.”
So that’s how they filter out the crazed extremists; the Oath Keepers have a stringent process for full membership that keeps out imposters. But I want to dig deeper, not just be a “citizen member.” Why be a tourist when you can be a local? What if I lie on my membership application, create a pseudonym, and simply fabricate a background in law enforcement to become a full member? But since full members of the Oath Keepers are comprised of current and former law enforcement and military, surely they must conduct some sort of background check to sift out imposters (like myself, extremists and racists)?
Along with my fake name and background, I add to my application vague rhetoric they might enjoy hearing: “The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our federal government.”
Can you be prosecuted for lying on an Oath Keeper membership application? Let’s hope not.
A woman named Cindy emails me more information about my Oath Keeper membership package: “We ask that you give us 4-6 weeks, but we try to get them out in 3...however much depends on the volume at the time and it's very high currently.”I PayPal the Oath Keepers $40 of my cold hard American cash for a one-year full membership. Other price plans include $1,000 for a lifetime membership (payable in $50 monthly increments).
I fall asleep each night with dreams of full Oath Keeper membership and Constitutional defense. Where the hell is my goddamn Oath Keepers membership packet? So much time goes by I even forget that I’m soon to be an official full member of the Oath Keepers. Maybe the background check found too many red flags? For the safety of future armed showdowns, that’s probably a good thing.
Then the clouds part and the skies open up. Late in January, I open my mailbox to find a nondescript manila envelope mailed from a PO box in Georgia. A computer label reads: “Membership Fulfillment.”
I rip open the envelope. Within seconds, my jaw drops with complete disappointment. Am I missing something here? Here’s what I got for my $40 full Oath Keepers membership:
-A bunch of bumper stickers that say: “Guardians of the Republic” and “Not on our watch.”-A paper copy of the Constitution.-10 Oath Keeper business cards, with the Oath Keepers oath on the back and the words “Not on our Watch!” I assume these are to hand out to 10 people who also want to defend the Constitution, but might not know how to go about it.-10 Oath Keeper brochures. I’m told in the introduction letter to pass these on at local gun shows and Tea Party rallies, 9-12 rallies, etc. to at least 10 people I come across.-A laminated Oath Keeper membership card with my fake name, stating I’ve been an official Oath Keeper since the year 2015.-A membership certificate with my fake name and declaration that “As an Oath Keeper, the member has pledged NOT to obey the ten specific unlawful orders listed in our “Declaration of Orders We Will NOT Obey.” I have no idea what that means (too many double-negatives).-A homemade Oath Keeper DVD on a generic disc with an Oath Keeper sticker on it, featuring speeches with pull-quotes such as “They hate people who speak the truth.”
My estimated cost of the entire Oath Keeper membership pack (including shipping): $2. The Home Depot folder for my official membership Certificate leads me to believe that a very old person put all this together. I’d almost describe the entire Oath Keeper membership package as “cute.” But if I were living in a cabin in the woods—which I declared as my own sovereign nation—I would feel pretty fucking ripped off.
Regardless, now I’m an official member of the Oath Keepers. It’s time to take to the roof of my building armed with a rifle to make sure no one is violating the Constitution while screaming, “Fuck all you libtards out there!” And if there should be some ill-fated confrontation, the first thing police officers will find in my wallet is my Oath Keepers membership card. The misguided media will attribute my lone wolf actions to my affiliation with the Oath Keepers. Perhaps they shouldn’t let just anyone join their group after all.