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45 percent of us feel a threat from our own government

Residents hold a sign at an April 27 public hearing in Bastrop County about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise.
Residents hold a sign at an April 27 public hearing in Bastrop County about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise. AP

How will we know when we’ve all gone over the edge?

If it happens, won’t everyone who is completely bonkers just seem normal?

How many people had even heard of Jade Helm 15 before April 27, when people packed a meeting in Bastrop to pepper an Army spokesman with complaints about what’s about to be a military training exercise? I didn’t, but I’ll admit there are important things I don’t always know about.

It turns out a lot of people know about Jade Helm 15, and many of them are as alarmed about it as those in Bastrop late last month.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey released this week shows that 45 percent of voters are “concerned that the government will use U.S. military training operations to impose greater control over some states.” That includes 19 percent who are “Very Concerned.”

That’s not a majority, of course. In fact, the majority 52 percent “are not concerned that the government has an ulterior motive for the training exercises, including 26 percent who are not at all concerned,” the poll report said.

Still, when 45 percent of people distrust their government so much that they have at least some fear of a military takeover of certain states, that’s a number that commands attention.

Texas is one of the states where people worry about the government using military training as a preliminary step to “greater control.”

The Army Special Operations Command announced Jade Helm 15 in March. It’s a war game set for July 15 to Sept. 15 in Texas, New Mexico, California and other states. Texas is labeled as “hostile” in the game.

Some of the people at the Bastrop meeting must come from the extreme end of the 45 percent who doubt the government. They asked whether the exercise included bringing in fighters from the Islamic State, whether Texans’ guns would be confiscated and whether martial law would be imposed.

One man told the Austin American-Statesman what’s happening is “the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany. You get the people used to the troops on the street. …”

The meeting drew a lot of attention, but what made it explode on the national news was what Gov. Greg Abbott did the next day.

He directed the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercise so that “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

He has since said all he’s trying to do is facilitate communications between the Special Operations Command and Texas residents, but I’m sure he also knows by now he could have done that without contributing to the sense of alarm.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger tried to calm the waters on April 30, saying the training operation is routine and important.

Sen. John McCain called the whole thing “bizarre.”

Indeed it is. But the bottom line is the 45 percent of respondents in the Rasmussen poll who are worried.

And what’s most important about that is, they didn’t get there entirely by themselves.

In discussing the issue with KXAN-TV in Austin, Abbott found someone else to blame. Who would you guess that might be?

“Frankly, I gotta tell you, I think the cause of the underlying concerns is that we see instances, like a shooting in Fort Hood by a terrorist, that the president labels workplace violence. We see the president come to the border in Texas and say it’s safer than it’s ever been,” Abbott told the station’s news team.

“And so I think it was a misplaced perception by people in Texas who have problems with the Obama administration and connected that trust with the Obama administration to the military.”

There you go. Obama did it.

Well, maybe so.

Barack Obama has been president for more than six years, and he has not been perfect. He’s done plenty of things that have made people mad at him.

But there’s also been a constant campaign to portray him as a threat to the United States and its citizens.

That campaign has been at least 45 percent successful. So many people feel uncomfortable with their own government, some of them extremely so.

We should all feel uncomfortable about that.

Mike Norman is editorial director of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7830

Twitter: @mnorman9