By Ben Olson
As the self-described “Bard of the American Redoubt,” Alex Barron doesn’t often give interviews to the press. In fact, this is only the second interview Barron has granted about the Redoubt. He agreed to be interviewed only if we published his responses in their entirety without edits.
Barron operates one of the three most popular American Redoubt websites, CharlesCarrollSociety.com (the others are James Wesley, Rawles’ SurvivalBlog.com and John Jacob Schmidt’s RadioFreeRedoubt.com). According to Barron, the blog is a view from a “Traditional Catholic, constitutional conservative, American patriot, in that order.”
During a recent speaking engagement to the Post Falls Panhandle Pachyderm Club, Barron spoke of his history and his views on the American Redoubt. We sent him a list of questions to follow up after his speech, and we appreciate him sharing his points of views. Barron also requested a list of links to be made available for further reading, which we’ll include in the online version of this interview.
Ben Olson: Can you give me a quick snapshot of your upbringing – where you grew up, what you’ve done for a career, when and why you became politically active.
Alex Barron: To summarize, I was born in Chicago, moved around a fair bit as a child, ended up back in Chicago, joined the U.S. Navy, then moved around a lot. My childhood included some absolutely horrid episodes. I served in the Navy in a non-combat position overseas during Operation DESERT STORM. I used the G.I. Bill to complete my four- year B.S. degree. I have worked in various companies and have run my own firm for more than a decade. I have visited Idaho for some years researching the area and moved my family, or “took the walk to freedom,” two years ago.
BO: You said you grew up in Cabrini-Green Housing Projects in Chicago. Do you think this upbringing influenced your political ideology today? In other words, do you think your worldview might have been different if you’d grown up in an affluent suburb?
AB: Being born in Cabrini-Green showed me that the government can be very wicked at times. I have watched the tyrannical Chicago government intentionally impoverish working-class blacks over a long period of time. It showed me that centralized bureaucratic government programs, even those designed to help often lead to misery. It proved to me that law enforcement, while doing a difficult and required job, can become tyrannical in its application. The projects became a poor black reservation not un-similar to the poor Native American reservations. Wholly separate racial reservations representing generational poverty. I also understood that culture, politics and solutions are complex things.
I was born in Cabrini-Green Housing Projects — specifically the 1230 North Larrabee part, or the “white projects.” I had the benefit of living in different areas outside of Chicago and returning to the Cabrini-Green area regularly and thus was struck with the difference early on and determined to offer something different for my children.
BO: You identify as a “Traditional Catholic.” I’m curious if you see any discrepancy between the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16-20), which encourages people to spread the gospel to all peoples and nations, and the Redoubt, which encourages people to band together in like-minded communities and live in relative geographic isolation.
AB: The American Redoubt is a political, not a religious, movement. Yet in my opinion, when Catholics send out missionaries, we don’t pick Rome up and drop it into the middle of the Amazon. You send missionaries out from Rome so you can support them while training the next generation of Christian missionaries. But what do you do when Rome is no longer Christian?
I guess the grand proposition of the American Redoubt is we gain more as Christians and conservatives by banding together or cloistering in a “home base” or redoubt and becoming the political majority than staying spread across the nation as a vocal minority.
Religious, political and cultural migration has been explored in many recent works. One recent work that may be appropriate is “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation” by Rod Dreher. Another book that explores this cultural/political separation is called “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart” by Bill Bishop. Yet another great read on this subject is “Coming Apart: The State of White America” by Charles Murray. The American Redoubt is just one expression of this hypothesis.
BO: In your talk, you often spoke about the divisions that exist in our nation. Don’t you think it’s counterproductive to say “No leftist could ever understand us.” Wouldn’t it further divisions to push back against anyone who leans left of center?
AB: I propose that we Americans have compromised all we want to in many areas. For example, we absolutely believe that life starts at conception and that individual “humans in development” should be protected from unjust violence. When a woman is making a choice, there is more than one human life that hangs in the balance. These principles define who we are. To “compromise” on this position would mean the destruction of our unique cultural identity.
This holds for so many of the issues that now separate us; such as the role of government, the role of Christianity, objective reality, immigration, fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech or the right to have and carry the arms necessary to protect ourselves from the state. Many of these questions are moral in nature, which have civic implications. We know what divides us, and neither side really can give up our firmly held moral beliefs without surrendering our unique cultural identity.
BO: You say that there are three people authorized to speak for the Redoubt – JWR, JJS and yourself. Why are you considered one of the voices? Also, can you share the origin of the term “Bard of the Redoubt”?
AB: I would more accurately describe our position as “primary voices” or “thought leaders” of the American Redoubt movement, not as leaders. James Rawles of Survivalblog.com – the creator of the movement – has encouraged and promoted John Jacob Schmidt and me to fill the role of what the American Redoubt political migration movement is doing day-to-day within those established precepts.
I describe myself as the Bard of the American Redoubt to suggest a wayward vagabond carousing through clubs, bars and churches spreading the word that we live in uncertain times in a nation that is increasingly hostile to our culture and faith and asking the question, “So what are you going to do about it?”
BO: During your talk, you said, “The left doesn’t talk about what unites us, but what divides us.” What will unite us?
AB: We have a common American culture and language. For example the vast majority of us celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. The overwhelming number of us want to “do good.” Most of us actually value the Bill of Rights, and a representative form of government. Many of us are suspicious of large monopolies. The vast majority of us agree to punish the wicked and defend the innocent. We can start with a foundation of “we are more similar.”
I think of it like France and Germany. We agree on 90 percent of life, but what we disagree on, we really disagree on. And those differences are becoming more stark and more ingrained. Now that more and more of us are “post-Christian,” we are using religious fervor with our political views. In my opinion this makes sense, as man is a religious animal. Even though the French and German people agree on a lot and can (now) live peacefully side-by-side, I don’t think France wants to become Germany. I believe those things that still separate us are this culturally deep. Progressive America does not want to become red-state America, nor vice versa. If we did compromise on these core issues, it would be the end of one culture or the other. You can read more about these different cultures in the book “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” by Colin Woodard. This of course built upon work “The Nine Nations of North America” by Joel Garreau.
BO: What’s your experience as an African-American in a movement like the Redoubt?
AB: The American Redoubt is fiercely anti-racist. We are actually attacked numerous times by racists. James Rawles gets hate mail regularly by white nationalists, separatists and supremacists scolding him for not “having more pride in his white race.” John Jacob Schmidt of Radio Free Redoubt is also extremely hostile to racists. We refused to be moved from this core concept of Christianity and individual liberty that all man can be saved through the Christian faith, (and are) deserving of equal human dignity under the Constitution and protection under the law. The overwhelming (majority of) people associated with the “patriot movement,” and the American Redoubt who I have met feel the same way.
BO: You say the Redoubt movement isn’t concerned with race, and point to yourself as an example, but wouldn’t you agree that the vast majority of those who identify with the Redoubt are white? Is it fair to talk about race in the Redoubt when most adherents are white?
AB: The vast majority of the NACCP is black – that does not necessarily make them racists. And apparently, the NACCP actually exclude whites from leadership roles, even whites who want to help. From the people I have met the American Redoubt is much more racially diverse than people assume. The “primary voices” of the American Redoubt and the vast majority of the “patriot” movement are fiercely anti-racists.
BO: You also said that there’s nothing worse than when “leftists get a stranglehold on government.” Wouldn’t the same be true for the far right? In other words, do you support extremism as long as it aligns with your own ideology? Isn’t the “magic” of our democracy the ability to find compromise and establish checks and balances, so one special interest doesn’t gain too much power?
AB: You compare “leftist,” a fairly benign term for many people, and “far right,” a loaded term. Also, we are not a democracy; we were founded as a Constitutional Republic created by what we would now call fundamentalist Christians and those who didn’t mind living with fundamentalist Christians but were not so much into the religion, or “deist.”
I stand for the absolute defense of traditional Judo-Christian values, the promotion of classical Western Civilization and the protection of individual liberty. Individual liberty can be defined by classic Greek and Roman understanding of the nature of man, along with documents such as the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. We want as much liberty as possible unless it is hostile to our deeply-held Christian values. We call this liberty under Christ. And we will work to defend and expand these principles. It is my opinion that politically and culturally, we are an angry, bitter married couple arguing about things fundamental to us, both armed with knives in a closet with no light. And we have started to poke each other.
BO: How is the Redoubt different from or the same as other political migration movements?
AB: Geography, and we are in general more conservative than the Free State Project but more libertarian than the Texas Republic. Please note that Montana was the state that came in second for the Free State Project.
BO: From your writings and talk, I’ve gathered that you believe it’s impossible to have any semblance of morality without some kind of divine foundation. Secular thinkers reject that premise, saying that morality is a human invention and designed to make life more tolerable for the biggest amount of people. Can you articulate a bit more why your version of morality should be considered the undisputed truth? Do you reject secular forms of morality? If so, why? What is deficient about them?
AB: You can have “some semblance of morality” without Christian values, but it is questionable if a large group will agree on that morality, especially without the heavy hand of the state. Without a common base of morality, we cannot agree on “what is good.” For example is abortion good, are taxes proper, and are traditional families good? Are President Trump or President Obama good men? Another example is what James Rawles suggests is in an extended grid-down emergency situation: If we did not have police minutes away what type of behavior we should “elevate” and what type of behavior “disgust” us would have to be agreed upon by the community. People who share some similarity of Judeo-Christian values may be able to come to an agreement more quickly without the constant force of the state to “maintain the peace.” John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” I believe there is validity in his concept.
It is not “my version of morality.” It is the version of morality that the vast majority of Orthodox Christians and Jews have agreed upon for thousands of years. What we draw from it now are the concepts of Logos, the Ten Commandments, Calvary and the Golden Rule. What I believe provides a workable foundation for civilization is Orthodox Christianity, classic Western Civilization and individual liberty.
BO: You said, “The left feels that if you don’t share their idea, you’re a racist.” Do you think you fall into a trap of oversimplified generalizations when it comes to religion?
AB: We all use generalizations to talk about most things to a point. Yet I feel at this time it is predominantly the left that attacks people’s character with terms like homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, racist or sexist if they disagree on “what is good.” For example, currently, it is the left which is often seen as opposing free speech. It is strange, because in the early 1980s (and before) it was the right who had a problem with freedom of speech. For brevity and using generalizations, this can be explained in simplistic terms as progressives tend to define terms like bigotry, sexism and racism in terms of “impact.” While conservative tend to define these same concepts in the terms of “intent.”
BO: Do you think the Redoubt movement has risen from the ashes of other populist movements (like the Tea Party, et al.)? What makes it different?
AB: No, absolutely not. We are an evolution of the concerns people have on the direction of our nation. Our focus can be summarized as defense and promotion of orthodox Christianity, classic Western Civilization and individual liberty in our individual lives. Political expression is actually only a part of what I call soft secession. Soft secession can be defined as “informally withdrawing in some way from active participation in a socioeconomic system for the purpose of living a more self-sufficient life while forcing that system to change or collapse.”
BO: You mentioned getting prepared to lobby for legalizing medical marijuana in Idaho. Is that an issue that you’re passionate about? Is this an issue that could possibly unite the right and left?
AB: Very dishonest media have suggested the American Redoubt and the broader “Liberty movement” or “patriots” are “far right.” In my opinions, the liberty movement and “patriots” can be more accurately described as neo-anti-federalist, libertarian-leaning conservatives who are primarily Orthodox Christians. The liberty movement is much more libertarian than many people think.
The Liberty movement is all about shrinking the size and scope of government. We don’t just say that and then “grow the government more gradually” like most establishment Republicans. We actually want to shrink the size and scope of government. We are modern-day anti-federalists, not anti-government. The further that government is away from the people, the more suspicious we should be. This principle in Catholicism is called subsidiarity, or in Latin, subsidiarius. Thus, we are deeply suspicious of the federal government, less so of the state government and just show up at the local government and argue. Walk up to your average liberty-leaning conservative and talk about global governance, and the reaction is akin to antiepileptic shock.
With these principles and background, things that many people who self-identify with the liberty movement could at least be convinced to listen that are more attractive to “liberals” include judicial and prison reform, communications privacy, freedom from government and corporate surveillance, laws that promote small farms solutions, the end to asset forfeiture laws, police reform and yes, the repeal of the prohibition of marijuana. Not that most people in the liberty circles are overly excited about adding another legal intoxicant to our culture, but our deep opposition is to the far-away federal government having any say on what you grow in your backyard.
BO: What’s the most important thing people should know about the Redoubt?
AB: It is a politician migration movement of primarily conservatives who feel disenfranchised or isolated in deep blue states. It is a response to more progressive states continually waging war on traditional Christians and conservatives and limiting the God-given rights documented in the American Bill of Rights. It stands for the defense and promotion of orthodox Judeo-Christian values, classic Western Civilization and individual liberty. It promotes soft secession and has a strong self-sufficiency streak.
BO: This movement has been described as “leaderless” by several people I’ve interviewed. Is that accurate, in your opinion?
AB: I do not feel the term “leader” is accurate. Perhaps “primary voices” or “thought leaders” is more accurate. But the concept that the American Redoubt is completely “leaderless” is ridiculous. If a couple of random Redoubters asked for a bunch of patriots who self-associate with the American Redoubt concept to show up for an event to defend liberty, they might get a small number of people to respond. If the “primary voices” of the American Redoubt put a unified effort into encouraging patriots to show up somewhere and defend liberty, it is my opinion you would get a much more robust response, ergo there are those with more influence in the movement.
Alex Barron runs the blog CharlesCarrollSociety.com, is a Navy veteran and a “Traditional Catholic.” You may reach him at [email protected]
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