Bundy, revolutionary or rebel? The changing nature of the West
Originally published in St. George News
OPINION – Despite what anyone’s leanings may be with regards to the situation in Bunkerville, Nev., it is widely agreed upon that it is anything but over. What lies in store for Cliven Bundy is likely a host of state and federal charges ranging from contempt of court to, possibly, domestic terrorism. Don’t shoot the messenger.
In the meantime, while armed militia members stand watch over the area, we have learned that perhaps the most effective measure yet to be employed in helping all to understand just exactly what Bundy’s stance is, is to give him a microphone and just let him be himself.
The only thing more surprising than his repeated racially-charged statements were the people surprised that he said them at all. Perhaps more disturbing, however, are those who insist there was nothing wrong with his views.
For example, in a Facebook thread discussion between me and St. George resident Paul Gooch, he said:
“Should I be scared to admit that I didn’t find what Cliven said offensive?
He is literally not speaking the same language that everyone else is using. It is easy to see how spin-doctors can build racism into his comments – whether accidentally or intentionally.
But still … what kind of America do we live in when a guy has to live in terror of saying what he thinks in his own way? The reason anyone needs a PR person to manage their public pronouncements is because we are terrified of today’s PC police!”
Apparently not everyone is afraid to speak their mind. Continuing, Gooch said:
“Too bad he speaks the homespun language of a Bunkerville rancher.
Now even some of the high profile people who were standing with him for the right reasons (government abuse) are turning tail – ‘skeeeeered to death’ that they might be tainted by charges of racism – like it is some kind of pox that can be transmitted through mere thought-association.”
Gooch and I continued our conversation off-Facebook and agreed that we do not see Bundy’s comments in the same light. I suspect that Gooch’s viewpoint adequately encompasses the predominant mindset of the community here in Southern Utah.
Listen to my colleague Bryan Hyde, a local radio show talk show host. He referred to black people as a “victim class” who needed to “get off the plantation.” To his credit, he meant it in the best possible way.
Or maybe we could even look at the local government’s re-designation of Martin Luther King Day to “Human Rights Day.”
Nothing offensive or racist there, right? Wrong. Painfully, and simply wrong.
If you do not understand the implications of such statements, if you dismiss them at face value as innocuous, unfortunate and harmless, you are part of the problem, let me assure you.
But to the broader picture at hand, the one I will readily acquiesce to – that the point of the Bundy matter in Bunkerville has been diverted (seriously, what the heck was Bundy doing going so far off topic?) – isn’t there perhaps a contextual similarity to the attitude he displays in both instances, his stand against the Bureau of Land Management and his racist comments?
Racism is steeped in a mindset of elitism and entitlement. It is a mentality derived from a narcissistic attitude of superiority that sees oneself as exempt from ordinary rules of conduct.
Rules of conduct like, say: Paying federal grazing fees? Obeying federal court orders? Choosing to not rally idiots with rifles in an attempt to stand-down federal officers and agents carrying out federally adjudicated and lawful orders? Not giving a darn really about anyone but themselves and their own personal interests?
It is asserted by many that they do not necessarily stand with Bundy’s methods but they can allow that his principles were marked with those of a patriot and a revolutionary, ones like those of the Founding Fathers.
I contend, however, that the animosity toward government that exceeds the boundaries of common sense is becoming its own distinct and recognizable movement. Its creed is a loose deference to a nuance of principles only a select few claim to understand; as if, somehow, they channel the founders and understand the law better than the rest of us. They fail to understand, that were the founders alive today, they might have answered Bundy and his followers with force for sedition.
You see, had England capitulated to the demands of the founders for representation, that is to say, had England given them land, title, and lordship or perhaps representation with seats in British Parliament, I would venture the war would have been averted.
The founders were intelligent, educated men. They were not rebels looking for a cause but rather were moral men with a truly moral cause and saw war as a last resort.
The fact is, no matter what you think about government overreach, and you may well be right, we have representation and we must use it.
Were the founders to counsel their countrymen today, they would say so. I am sure of it.
The battle over land use in Bunkerville is not the first in this struggle. The Sagebrush Rebellion is the precursor and judicial outcomes have set precedence that is prudent and relevant to this case.
Utah prepares itself to spend $3 million of school trust funds to wage a similar and futile lawsuit, but at least they are fighting what they perceive to be bad law, in the courts.
But armed rebellion?
Perhaps if you don’t believe me, you should read about the Whiskey Rebellion under Washington’s presidency and ask yourself if the causes are similar. Washington, after much consternation, put that rebellion down with force.
And today, make no mistake about it, Cliven Bundy is looking straight down the barrel of a similar fate, as are many of his supporters.
But this really is, like many who support Bundy say, about more than just cattle.
It is about the West. If there is one thing that has long characterized the West, it is that it changes. Native American lands gave way, the buffalo gave way, fenceless grazing gave way, homesteading gave way, and so forth.
Whether or not any of us like or are ready for change, today it is about the changing landscape of priorities in this country.
The last remnants of the pioneers of westward expansion are beginning to give way to today’s progress and what will be the new West: A West where the leading agendas will be renewable energy, recreational use, water conservancy, and ecological and environmental preservation.
And therein lies the rub: national agendas conflicting with local agendas – whether those of a rancher, county or state. When it comes to the characteristic and ever-changing nature of the West, this really is not anything new and no measure of lawlessness or violence will change it.
Again, don’t shoot the messenger.
See you out there.
Not just a New West, but the New American as exemplified with cowboys and indians protesting the XL Pipeline: The Nation, On Cliven Bundy’s ancestral rights: http://www.thenation.com/article/179561/cliven-bundys-ancestral-rights#