No, not Al. And nope, I don’t mean Ted, either.
I’m talking about Cliven.
Cliven Bundy. Remember?
A couple of years ago, this guy decided not to pay his grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management. When the Feds came to ask for their money, he staged an armed insurrection. Gun-toting Americans came from all over to support him. Feeling cagey because of the Waco incident, the Feds decided not to enter an armed engagement with these protesters.
Fox News treated Cliven Bundy like a hero. They cozied up to him, offering his brand of pro-militia, anti-government rhetoric as a solution to having a black president. Until Cliven started a sentence with, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro …”
That train came to a screeching halt right then.
Well, Cliven disappeared from public consciousness. We all forgot about militias and heavily armed paranoid conspiracy theorists for minute. Ooh, sorry, that last sentence was redundant. We watched the open carry movement with some interest and mocked the people who thought Walmart harbored a UN military takeover of the U.S. during a routine military exercise.
Oh, the salad days.
But the Bundys are back in business. Cliven’s son, Ammon, has led an armed militia group in a takeover of a Federal building in Oregon.
Okay, that sounds a lot worse than it is, and that’s prompting some scrutiny from pro-diversity movements. The allegations include that, if they were black, the National Guard would be involved, The Oathkeepers would be patrolling with guns and the cops would already have shot everyone anyway.
None of that is provable, but happenings in the last, well, forever in America make one sympathetic. If you’re a black 12-year-old in this country you can’t play outside with a toy gun without the cops shooting you.
But: Oregon isn’t Maryland.
Apples and oranges.
The Oathkeepers ARE there, patrolling with guns. They’re tight with the Bundys, it seems. OK, they have announced they won’t go to the bird sanctuary but they were active in the area in April, supporting local miners.
And the federal building isn’t worth contesting.
They didn’t take an IRS office or a military command center or the Pentagon. They took a bird sanctuary visitor center that was unstaffed because it was closed for the winter.
The military hasn’t been called out because it is illegal to use the military against civilians. The National Guard hasn’t been called out because its Oregon. These guys are just sabre rattling. Go in there with armed force and it will turn into a bloodbath all around, just like Waco.
The Bundy militia, dubbed Yeehawdists and Y’allquaeda by Twitter wits, want all the white paranoids in the country to rise up against government agencies in sympathy. Make no mistake: These guys are dangerous. They’re racist, delusional, potentially violent. They feel disempowered (removing privilege can feel like persecution as any argument about race with a white person is likely to illustrate). Anything could happen.
But it probably won’t.
Because they took a bird sanctuary.
I’m sure Fox News will treat them like heroes just like they did Cliven, trying to rile up the Republican base. This is, after all, the network that abandoned all journalistic integrity to promote Tea Party rallies during the last presidential election cycle. But there are facts here.
First, Cliven Bundy owes a million dollars in fines and fees. He just decided not to pay them. He doesn’t believe the Federal government has the right to charge the grazing fees. This is the King Charles I argument: I’m on a mission from God and you don’t have the legal authority to try me. Didn’t work out so well for Charles but Bundy is pulling it off.
Second, the takeover of the bird sanctuary is in response to criminal acts committed by ranchers in Oregon. They were convicted of arson related to poaching activity. They set a fire on federal land to cover up their poaching. Setting fires on federal land is a federal offense. An anti-terrorism statute established a minimum sentence for arson on federal land. When a local judge disregarded the sentence, the Feds appealed the sentence. The ranchers are due back in court.
That’s what these guys are protesting: the idea that the Federal government has the right to own or manage land or, like, make laws. Or enforce them. They want to be free. Hey, I want to be free, too. But they want to be free to do whatever they want. To mine and log with no concern for the common good – those aren’t their trees up there, or their gold up there: the land is our land. Together. As a nation. They want to be free of all constraint, all laws, to stockpile weapons and intimidate the law-abiding with them.
This has been brewing for a long time now. The bird sanctuary takeover seems ridiculous. They’re going to turn it into a staging area, though, to bring together all the white paranoids in one place. That’s a worry. When they advance their army play into actually acting against banks, towns and real non-bird-related government buildings, it’s going to get bloody.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
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