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Christmas in, the Republic of Texas
by Debbie Nathan
In any other place Richard Lance, McLaren would be a conventional
upper-middle-class man enjoying a conventional upper-middle-class Christmas.
He's trim, well-spoken, and when I met him he was wearing spiffy white
walking shoes and a quality,
Santa-Claus-red sweatshirt. Even with his halo of Albert Einstein hair
encircling an advanced case of male-pattern baldness, McLaren could pass for
Which he is, but not the kind you usually think of. Instead, McLaren is
a Republican Texian -- a person who thinks Texas was never a state. He and
his fellow Texians believe we're a captive nation, and now it's time to
declare independence. In the new country, there will be no big greedy
corporations. But no taxes, either -- and no welfare, hardly any public
schools, nor any driver's licenses.
Before we go further, you've probably already noticed something else
curious about Richard Lance, McLaren. Yes: the comma between his given names
and his surname. What's it doing there?
I don't know, because none of the nine other adults holed up with
McLaren this past Christmas in a makeshift fortress near Fort Davis could
explain the punctuation, nor why they use it in their own names. A comma
was the last thing on their minds. The
first was defending the Embassy of the Republic of Texas from invasion by
foreign forces: specifically, U.S. marshalls out to serve an arrest warrant
on McLaren, who is the republic's Chief Ambassador and Consul General to
other nations. For days the
newspapers in West Texas and northern Mexico had carried reports of the
standoff. It was taking place in a corrugated aluminum building behind a
country store in the Davis Mountain Resort. The resort is a wilderness
subdivision 10 miles out of Fort Davis,
where the roads have cutesy names like Tomahawk Trail, and residents have
appended private street signs that say things like "Grandpa Ranch."
Due to the standoff the post office wasn't delivering Christmas cards
or any other mail to the grandpas. The papers described armed militia men
arriving in Fort Davis, and suggested dire intimations of another Waco or
Reading this stuff, I was surprised and alarmed. Especially because a
few months ago in the magazine section of Barnes & Noble, I spied a funky
little rag called Republic of Texas. Leafing through it, I recognized it as
a clear and scarey mix of
right wing libertarianism and populism. Yet I was charmed by what I can
only describe as a quixotic irony atop the usual arch-conservative bromides.
This was right after the Clinton Administration declared not only its its
intention to acquiesce in cutting off social entitlements for legal aliens,
not to mention illegals -- but also its latest effort to beef up the
militarization of the border. Meanwhile, here were Republic of
Texas editors declaring that in their country Mexicans et al are welcome to
immigrate. After all, there'll be no free lunches in the Republic, so
whoever's here will work hard and support their kids and who cares if
they're Mexicans -- and to hell with the Border Patrol.
Plus, when I went into the internet to see what else I could find about
the Republic, I found extensive websites (http://texas.by.net,
http://rtmag.com) with documents supporting their claim that Texas is a
nation, as well as minutes of their
meetings from El Paso to Corsicana, and even a discussion group open to
anyone who wants to join (send a message to
<owner-repub...@colossus.net> and write: Subscribe
republic-of-texas, then your e-mail address and your name).
Members of the discussion group are furiously engaged in writing a new
constitution, structuring their military forces, arguing about banking and
immigration policy -- and making total idiots of themselves as they squabble
and factionalize and flame each other in full public view. Again, a quixotic
openness that, if it doesn't warm you to these people's politics, at least
makes you note their spunk and ask whether lefties like us Texas Observer
readers don't share some noble anti-status-quo impulses
with Republic Texians.
To explore this question, I decided to spend Christmas with them in
their Fort Davis stronghold. A Republic member from El Paso whom I found on
the internet gave me the embassy's phone number (915/426-2210). When I
called and said I was with the
Texas Observer and could I come out, it was clear nobody had heard of me or
the Observer but they said sure. I arrived on the 24th, after driving the
vast, jagged miles of Jeff Davis County -- a place with so few inhabitants
that the handful of Texians at
the resort comprise a significant percent of the population.
The building whose door I knocked on used to be a community fire hall and
it looks it, except now a computer-generated sign, on typing paper, says
Embassy of the Republic of Texas. No Guns Allowed. A man answered: slight
but well built, with a dishwater-blonde pony tail, a hawk nose, a beard and
deep-set grey eyes. He's got the same intense, ascetic mien that nobody
likes to admit made accused Unabomber Ted Kaczinsky look so sexy in his
arrest photos. Unlike Kaczinsky, though, the man at the
embassy door wears a leather thong around his neck strung with Native
American medicine bags, a bear claw and a gold filigree Mayan amulet. Plus a
belt on his hip with a leather-scabbarded hunting knife and a .44 magnum,
Smith & Wesson.
His name is White Eagle and he is a Cherokee. Later he told tell me
that although he has Native American ancestry on his mother's side, he was
raised white and Christian, on a farm in Kansas. As a teenager he loved
reading Thoreau, and during college, many of his friends were killed in Viet
Nam. While doing janitorial in the government documents section of a
university library in the early 1970s he had the chance to pore through the
Pentagon Papers; which readings radicalized him and in the process, he
helped lead the student strike at Ohio State University after the Kent State
killings. Since then, White Eagle has worked at many things, including
farming, computers, and running a medicinal, sacred and culinary herb
business. He has also been adopted back into the Cherokee nation after years
of study and initiation. Now he is a dedicated citizen of the Republic of
Texas. He pays no taxes to the IRS, never has, and has openly stated his
refusal in letters disavowing any contractual relationship with the federal
government. He wears a gun because he and always has been a member of the
militia, as he considers every is every adult to be according to the Second
Amendment of the United States, and according to the provisional Republic
of Texas constitution.
White Eagle says he is not afraid to die for the Republic of Texas, but
in life, his mission is to represent to the new nation the interests of all
Native Americans. The Republic already has a treaty with one tribe, the
Washitaw de Dugdahmoudyah, who have
been trying for years to get the United States to honor an 1848 treaty
granting the tribe 65,000 acres of land. They are a former mound-building
culture currently based in Monroe, Louisiana and their leader is a woman
named Empress Verdiacee "Tiari" Washitaw
Turner Goston El-Bey. The Washitaw are, for all physical appearances,
African American. They distribute tee-shirts with messages of love and
Kwanza-like symbols; one hangs on the Embassy's wall. Some Republic of
Texas members are not pleased with this binational relationship: they
intimate that the Empress is a welfare queen. But others support it.
I also learnerd that the Republic's vice president, a Dallasite named
Steve Crear, is black. One of his aides is of Vietnamese descent. There are
Mexican Americans in the
leadership, too. Aand the Ambassador to the Middle East, a schoolmarmish and
decidedly Scandinavian-looking woman named Karen Joy, Coffey Kosier, who was
also at the embassy, considers herself Jewish after doing geneological
research stretching back to the Twelve Tribes.
The 3-room embassy was buzzing inside with the anxiety of the standoff
and with holiday cheer. A few old armchairs lay around, as well as a coffee
maker, disposable cups and big plate of colorful Christmas cookies. Mostly,
though, the place was
given over to desks, state-of-the-art computers, phones, walkie talkies,
filing cabinets and book cases bursting with texts and legal documents. The
screeching whistle of a modem was constant, along with a humming of a copy
machine. A fax spit out endless
transmissions, including a list of Secret Service radio frequencies and
passwords (did you know that Hillary Clinton's code name is Evergreen and
Frank Sinatra's is Napolean?).
I bit into a bell trimmed in red icing and a star done up in green.
Then I sat down to meet the other embassy personnel.
One is David Blackmon, who packs a 9 mm pistol in a prim little canvas
folder not unlike an eyeglasses case. "I'm accurate at a hundred yards,"
Blackmon told me, and I could hardly understand him because he said "'M
accurt" and "hunnerd." His voice is East Texas near Oklahoma, but he
currently lives in Odessa. He and his wife run a scrap business there, and
not long ago city authorities ordered him to get a permit for a sign he'd
had hanging for years. He refused and spent three days in jail. His wife,
who is also at the embassy, shrugs gamely when he tells this story and says
she spent the three days running the business, with no regrets that he was
jailed. She wears a pastel
tee-shirt that says, "I've Got PMS and I've Got a Gun."
David Blackmon is an activist in the Patriot movement and leader of a
group called the Texas Militia. He is in his 50s, with a pot belly and heart
trouble but a fine head of grey-white hair, styled like the early Elvis.
"I'm strictly oil field trash,"Blackmon says, "that's all I am." He is a
gentle, almost beatific man, much like the father in Mary Carr's The Liar's
Club, but unlike Carr's dad, a teller of tales that he thoroughly believes
are true. One concerns Franklin Roosevelt declaring in
1933 that Americans are enemies of the United States. Another is that every
time an American dies, the International Monetary Fund pays the U.S.
government $40,000, since we have all been ceded to the IMF as collateral to
One World Government.
We munch our Christmas cookies and sip Yuletide wine out of styrofoam.
I ask Blackmon to tell me about the events in his life that led to his
present activities and beliefs. What he dwells on most is his two years in
Viet Nam and about as he was coming
back, a superior asked him to do something the specifics he is afraid to
have me publish except to say that it was highly illegal and in his mind,
immoral. He refused, returned home, and didn't want to be with people
anymore. "I'd leave my wife for a week and just go out on the plains and
drink," he says. "Come back and for years, nights I'd wake up screaming and
she'd throw cold water in my face to get me out of it. I don't know what I
was dreaming but it just ended not too long ago."
Between Viet Nam and now he doesn't know why he kept by himself so
much. Then a couple of years ago he discovered the Patriots and the
militias and finally the Republic of Texas. "My daddy always told me Texas
wasn't part of the United States,"
Blackmon reminisces. "Said it wasn't lawful that they made it a state but he
didn't know what to do about it. Now we do." His wife is also a dedicated
citizen of the Republic of Texas, and when I ask her why she goes into
litanies of complaint: about public schools that don't allow kids to learn
anymore, about her six-year-old grandson, whose mother was convinced by a
teacher and a school-recommended psychiatriest to give him Ritalin, which
has turned the little boy into a "zombie." "It's all a UN plot," she says,
"to take over our children's minds."
Two other guards at the Embassy, one from near Tyler and the other from
Palestine, Texas, have accents as strong as David Blackmon's. Like him, they
describe despair and disillusionment after returning from Viet Nam, then
years of what they now see
as solitary confusion before discovering the clarity and communion of the
far, armed right. They talk of being jobless, about friends losing work,
about cousins jailed for minor drug deals after government agents set up
stings, about false accusations of child abuse, and real abuse that the
child protection people let go unpunished. They are rife with conspiracy
theories: the German Nazi government secretly moved to the Western
Hemisphere after the War and Hitler is still alive; the AIDS virus was
manufactured; the International Monetary Fund has every American's birth
certificate on file; the Nature
Conservancy is a UN plot.
Amid these heated and paranoid grievances, arms are everywhere: on the
belts of the men, in their pockets, atop the desk by the phone, and under a
drafting table, where mounds of rifles and hand guns are squirreled into
what embassy staff laughingly dub the Armory. Oddly, though, the people I am
spending Christmas with seem nonviolent. Some say they have never fired a
gun except at a game animal, and some don't even
seem fond of hunting. They call themselves militia, yet seem to have little
passion for a fight.
It's puzzling until you talk to Rick McLaren in his Santa Claus sweat
shirt. Then you understand why the Republic of Texas is such a hope for
people like White Eagle, David Blackmon and their comrades.
Their hope resides in the simple fact that some very unhappy people in
this state were, coincidentally, raised to wonder if Texas really stopped
being a country when it got annexed to America in 1845. As every Texas
school child has learned -- or
learned back a generation or two ago when Texas history teachers were still
smarting over the Civil War and states' rights -- the 1845 U.S. Senate vote
to annex the Republic of Texas was arguably irregular. People who don't know
that usually do know that we've
always had a unique right: to divide into five littler states, which right
suggests that Texas is more independent than places like Vermont or Montana
or New York. Plus, there's Six Flags. And the fact that the tiles on the
Capitol rotunda in Austin say
"Republic of Texas." Trivial facts, maybe, but they lurk in the collective
Texan memory like lone-starred, Jungian archetypes.
Now comes Illinois native Richard Lance, McLaren -- Rick, his
supporters affectionately call him -- to tease out these recollections and
commit them to thousands upon thousands of pages of legalistic verbiage:
Orders to Show Cause, Diplomatic
Demands, Certifications, Exhibits, letters to the International Court;
Declarations, Default Judgments, Quo Warrantos, Findings and Facts, Writs of
Execution, Writs of Seizure, Writs of Certiorari, Prayers, Judicial Notices,
Proclamations, True Bills
of Indictment, Notices to Vacate. All these filed to and against Gov. George
Bush, President Clinton, Janet Reno, Warren Christopher, the IRS, the World
Court, state of Texas banks, the media, Federal judge Lucius Bunton, all of
it in rivers,
torrents, avalanches, Noah's Ark deluges of ten-point type, six-point type,
type so small that even reading glasses don't help: obscure documents
starting in the 13th century and continuing to unreadable fifth-generation
xeroxes of handwritten
1800's acts, old newpapers from Jacksonian Virginia, convoluted, dessicated
prose from obscure hearings held by obscure bureaucracies and factoti of the
New Deal, then more Writs, Notices, Proclamations, Demands, Exhibits, et
cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera. Until you are overcome -- vanquished
-- by the force of endless words.
But you are not dead, because they are only words -- words put together
by McClaren. He is not the titular head of the Republic of Texas (that
honor belongs to its President, a baleful, decidely uncharismatic man named
Archie Hules, Lowe). But as the more flamboyant Ambassador, McClaren has
convinced his followers that if these legal words work in the courts of the
universe, then we will have a new country,. the Republic of Texas, conceived
not in blood but by law. It is this promise of a new world, a world with
minimal government where everyone will be happy and peaceful and above all
free, that brings White Eagle and David Blackmon and the rest to the
Embassy. They are less gun happy than suit happy, and their counsel is
He says he despises attorneys, but is himself the consummate lawyer
even though he's self-taught.
It all started in the early 1980s, after McLaren moved to Fort Davis
after getting turned on to the area by reading about it in Texas Monthly.
He'd spent most of his life in the midwest, and arrived in the Davis
Mountain Resort with the idea of setting up vinyards. The spread he started
was the first certified organic winery in Texas. Problem was, the other
resort residents -- mostly elderly city dwellers in their summer and
retirement homes -- disapproved of commercial development in an area where
business was prohibited by covenant. Too, McLaren says, he was angered by
the property owners association and its demands that he pay for road
maintenance that he felt wasn't
being done well.
In response, McLaren began investigating the resort's land titles and
discovered compelling evidence that the entire area had been sloppily
surveyed. He filed a class-action suit against the realtor and slapped liens
on the lots. While they never
succeeded in stopping sales of resort land, these suits did lower property
values. They also won McLaren several parcels in out-of-court settlements.
In addition, he managed to infuriate most of the citizens of Jeff Davis
County. This troubled relationship began about 12 years ago and has not
In the midst of these land disputes, McLaren became exercised about
Nature Conservancy incursions into the area to protect endangered species.
About two years ago, he contacted anti-conservation "wise-use" activists in
places like Catron
County, New Mexico and Nye County, Nevada. They advised McLaren and a small
group of followers that the best way to get the government to bug off is
to "administrate" it to death. In these forays into rightwing populism,
McLaren also learned about Texas
history with its legends about the state's supposed right to nationhood.
He's been litigating this issue ever since, and with each document filed,
his paperwork becomes increasingly megalomaniac and rococo.
His most ambitious case, filed last year with the U.S. Supreme Court,
Republic of Texas, a Sovereign Nation State Body Politic, its Citizen
Nationals and its Delegated Agents of Authority, acting as its Provisional
Government, also specified under the Acts of Reconstruction of March 30,
1870, U.S. Congressional Statute,
Chapter 39 as non-citizens of the United States
Entities of the District of Columbia operating on, over, and under the soil
of Texas as foreign agents, agencies under the SWar powers of the Civil War,
Acts of March 30, 1870 and March 9, 19933 and the 14th Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States, including but not limited to,the United
States of America, DBA UNITED STATES INC....
There are 10 more lines to the caption but I know you won't read them,
so I will just tell you that they include everyone from Janet Reno to Dan
Morales, and that on the basis of this 1500+ page document, the Republic of
Texas has, in fantasy and
with declarations and proclamations and warrants and passports and
diplomatic credentials, already expropriated the Eminent Domain of the State
of Texas, including $77 billion from all its banks (the capitol building in
Austin has also been seized).
Such seizures are the basic reason for the standoff. Last year, Federal
Judge Lucius Bunton ordered McLaren to stop putting liens on private and
government property. McLaren replied that Bunton has no jurisdiction since
the Republic of Texas can only
be tried in a court of international law. Bunton twice jailed McLaren for
contempt, then released him, but McLaren was supposed to report to a
pretrial service officer. He didn't -- hence the current arrest warrant,
followed by McLaren's defiant refusal to
accept it, and the phalanx of armed supporters at the resort.
McLaren's has a house nearby, but during the standoff he's been
sleeping at the Embassy. In the wee hours of Christmas morning, his wife,
Evelyn, arrived from Fort Worth. She and McLaren were married last fall
without a marriage license, and
Evelyn has not taken her husband's last name because she works for the U.S.
government and fears that if her boss learns she's a Texian national rather
than an American, she will be fired. While McLaren waited for Evelyn (and
while the defense forces
joked about not body-guarding him too after she got there), we talked.
Even my shorthand couldn't keep up with his nonstop verbal rush. He
told me about all the Texas constitutions, starting from 1836; about the
secession of 1861, forcible reentry into the union, reconstruction, the 1994
Declaration, Judgment and Reclamation of the Republic of Texas, about notice
to nations, Diplomatic notice of perfection, Declarations and Proclamations
of 1996. McLaren showed me his letter to All Nations of the World, creamy
paper and embossed and, indeed, sent recently to every to hundreds of
countries. I saw the Republic of Texas passport -- a veritable work of art
that that's prettier than the U.S. document and bears a suspicous aesthetic
resemblance to the labels on McLaren's wine bottles. I saw a Christmas card
from the Bob Bullock family, computer-addressed to Ambassador McLaren of the
Republic of Texas. This last was a source of intense glee -- proof,
McLaren insisted, that his country has been
recognized by the outlaw Texas state.
He also described driving Judge Bunton crazy with his endless filings.
Recounting such stories, McLaren becomes positively manic: waving his arms,
thrashing his body around the easy chair, chortling. Describing the
expropriation of Texas financial institutions and what will happen if they
refuse to relinquish their funds, his voice climbs to a childlike giggle:
"God, I can't WAIT to sell a bank!! We've got foreign countries interested
in buying warrants. The banks are going to say 'The Republic of Texas got
our money! They got our money!' And we'll say, 'WE TOLD YOU SO!!!'"
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at all this. The Republic of
Texas: it's as though a teenager's elaborate fantasy role-playing game is
being enacted by grown-ups in the courts, on America on Line, in the minds
of Rick McLaren and who knows how many followers. He won't say how many, but
insists that in the event of his arrest 15,000 to 35,000 militia members
will descend on Texas from within the state and without. He and the people I
spent Christmas with believe this -- even though, from what I can figure by
reading their discussion group list and meeting minutes and viewing videos
of their demonstrations, they have perhaps two or three hundred ardent
the Republic Texians believe that three-fourths of Texas's 19 million
people favor making the state a nation. Just look at the polls, they say:
why even Texas Monthly had one with results like that.
I try to explain that Texas Monthly readers probably think of The
Republic of Texas the same way they do The Republic of Tea: just another
campy metaphor or cute product (didn't McLaren tell me that one entrepreneur
wants to open a Republic of Texas
restaurant chain throughout the world?). But this crowd, in front of their
midget Christmas and cheaply giftwrapped presents in a drafty quonset hut,
has never heard of The Republic of Tea. The grocery stores they shop in
don't sell $7.99-a-cannister herbal
decoctions, and if Texas Monthly ever runs piece on them, the Texians will
no doubt be portrayed as a bunch of buhbuhs who are too low class to even
So I don't know whether to laugh or cry as two little preschooler boys
-- the sons of another militia member and his young wife -- tear into their
presents under the tree. I don't know what to say when David Blackmon and I
share a cigarette outside the hut and he tells me that the American people
are so angry with the government that the Republic of Texas is our one
very last hope for peace. Nor can I say anything as Blackmon,
flicking his ashes, comments that the last day he remembers as happy as this
one, under siege, was the day his commanding officer in Viet Nam called him
out from the cave he was living in and told he was going home to the States
and the helicopter would
be there in 15 minutes.
Back in the hut, the Republic of Texas women have prepared a Christmas
feast. Ham, turkey, biscuits, vegetables, potatoes, pecan pie, cheese cake.
Before the eating begins, White Eagle takes a paper plate and ceremonially
places a morsel on it from
each dish. It is understood that grace will be a Native American prayer --
and this is fitting, since the Republic of Texas has recently expelled from
its provisional government a faction who insisted that the new country be
Christian, and by implication
Later, I will read one of Rick McLaren's seminal documents that he
claims proves our right to be a republic: the 1861 Declaration of the Causes
Which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union. In this
declaration I read nary a qualm from Texas about giving up nationhood -- in
fact, the legislators seem positively joyful to subserve themselves to the
Confederacy as a humble state. Reading the Declaration, I am
sickened almost to nausea by the Confederate State of Texas's passionate
assertion that "the servitude of the African to the white race...should
exist in all future time" because of the "undeniable truth" that Africans
are "an inferior and dependent
race," as indicated by the "revealed will of the Almighty Creator." This is
something I never hear Rick McLaren telling his followers; nor does he
mention those passages that refer to the Native Americans as "ruthless
savages," nor Mexicans as "bandittos."
It is clear that however valid their unhappinesses are with the America
of the late 1990s, the citizens of the Republic of Texas -- black, brown,
yellow, and maybe even white -- do not systematically read the holy
historical texts that comprise their
Perhaps their failure to notice the perfidy of a Confederacy document
is not the worst of it. Perhaps worse is that they have altered one of the
most existential aspects of their rational beings -- their signatures -- by
now writing them with a comma, yet without having the vaguest idea why.
David Blackmon told me it's because he was taught to do so in public school.
I said that was absurd: I went to Texas public schools too and I never
learned anything like that. But everyone else around the
Christmas table insisted that they, too, had learned the comma in state of
Texas classrooms. And this after most had spent a good deal of time
complaining to me about the years of lies they'd been taught by their
Between the commas and the lawsuits and the guns, I worry about the
good citizens of the Republic of Texas. I think their desire for happiness
and peace and freedom is a heartfelt as mine is, and yours. I wish I knew
how we could all get in this thing
together. Downsize This! author Mike Moore has been writing in the pages of
The Nation and in this magazine that the first thing we should do -- we
people who see our solutions on the left rather than the right -- is listen
to C&W music and go see Star
Trek so we can know how "regular" people think. Mike's even started his own
militia: a shtick, but at least it lets us consider the real thing with a
bit less knee-jerk moralism and
I say go to the movies and listen to the AM. In addition, read Wilhelm
Reich's The Mass Psychology of Fascism, where he talks about how in the
early 1930s in Germany, the Communist Party and the Fascists shared a
virtual revolving door as workers spent three weeks in one group, three
weeks in the other, then back again until Fascism eventually won the upper
hand -- in part because the left ceded discussion about freedom and
happiness to the right. Read that, then let's get interactive.
Are you out there, Ronnie, Molly, and the rest of the readers? Tune
into the internet, e-mail real rightwing populists, call them, go to their
meetings and invite them to yours. Get to know what we have in common at
least enough so you'll start
getting as pissed about Waco as you were when the Chicago cops and the FBI
slaughtered the Panthers. If we could all get to that point, we might have
some grounds for further discussion with the other side. We'd also make it
harder for the state to pull
another Waco or Ruby Ridge out in Fort Davis.
I was thinking about all this while White Eagle prepared to bless the
morsels on the paper plate. "Be sure Spirit gets some pie," Ambassador
McLaren laughed, and White Eagle assured the assembly that Spirit needs
something of everything. He chanted a
prayer in Cherokee, then gravely dumped the plate to the wind outside the
The Republic of Texas lined up for their buffet Christmas meal. I
wondered where they'd be next holiday season, and where we would.
(This article appeared in The Texas Observer, Jan. 17, 1997)
The above forwarded article is posted for discussion
and does not necessarily contain the poster's opinions.