Last week, federal agents arrested 12 members of the Arizona-based Viper Militia. Announcing the indictment, Attorney General Janet Reno said the Viper Militia had conducted exercises on the use of explosives against government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Secret Service, the Phoenix police station and a local TV station. Among Viper Militia goods confiscated were explosives, explosives training films, machine guns and other automatic weapons.

Let's ask some questions. Why has there been a remarkable growth in anti-government militias? Do we want a nation where ordinary people find militia groups increasingly attractive? Do we have much time before domestic terrorism becomes standard fare?The Freemen aside, it is my impression that most militia members are not common criminals who rob, rape and murder. To the contrary, at least the ones I've seen are working, churchgoing, patriotic family men and women. They, like most other Americans, are becoming increasingly fearful of their government. What distinguishes them, misguided or not, is a willingness to prepare to resist a government seemingly hell-bent on making a mockery of our constitutional guarantees.

"There you go again, Williams," you say, "defending government haters." No, for once in my life, I'm reasoning like a liberal - trying to discover original causes. Much of the cause for increased government distrust and hate in our country is a direct result of an increasingly intrusive and abusive government. In my opinion, that hate and distrust shouldn't be directed toward government workers such as those at the IRS. While there are egregious exceptions, those workers are decent Americans simply following congressional orders. If Congress charges IRS workers with the responsibility of collecting 20 percent of the nation's annual output, intrusiveness, citizen abuse and violation of the Constitution cannot be avoided. During the '80s, one IRS official, in response to a congressman's query, said the agency couldn't do its job if it had to obey laws like everyone else.

Acting under congressional instructions, other agencies like the Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service have a hand in making a mockery of our constitutional guarantees and violate simple standards of decency.

We Americans can continue accepting, promoting and tolerating an increasingly intrusive government. In response to citizen anger, we could just hire more undercover agents, have greater security measures and take away more constitutional guarantees - have a police state. Another approach is to take immediate measures to defuse growing, justifiable anger.

Think about it.

Would you be angry if the Corps of Engineers fined you $300,000 for "destroying" wetlands because you cleared a backed-up drainage ditch on your property?

What if the Fish and Wildlife Service ordered you not to use 1,000 acres of your land, so the cockaded woodpecker could have a place to live, and it cost you $1.8 million in income?

Would you be angry if you were prevented from clearing dry brush near your home to make a firebreak because the Stephen's kangaroo rat lived in that brush, and your house burned down as a result?

In these and many other cases of government abuse, citizens have little legal recourse. Their justifiable anger can make them militia recruits or sympathizers to some of their agenda.

There's no real domestic terrorism crisis yet, but we can't be sure about tomorrow. While we have the time, we'd better take steps now to reduce American fear and hate of our government.