January 6, 2016 | In southeast Oregon is a wildlife refuge established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908 as "a preserve and breeding ground for native birds," the 19th of 51 such refuges established by Roosevelt during his presidency. At the time it was one of only six west of the Mississippi (US Fish and Wildlife Service).
That history notwithstanding, yet another band of armed anti-government agitators have occupied the refuge headquarters and say they won't leave until their demands are met. As yet, it's unclear what those demands are. Not that that would make any difference.
The proximate cause was supposedly to support two ranchers who were convicted of starting fires on federal land some time ago, and a judge recently ruled that they would, indeed, have to serve out their sentences. However, the attorney for the ranchers has made it clear that the two of them want nothing to do with the occupiers.
Ammon Bundy sent out a tweet comparing himelf to Rosa Parks: "We are doing the same thing as Rosa Parks did. We are standing up against bad laws which dehumanize us and destroy our freedom" (Chicago Tribune). You can imagine how well that sets with some folks.
Bundy also cited their Mormon beliefs for support, but the Mormon Church issued a strong condemnation of them, saying, "Your religion isn't with you" (SLC Tribune).
He also says the occupation won't end "until we get our public lands back." Back from whom? "Our public lands" implies that the lands are already "our" lands. In any case, good luck with that.
Bundy's reasoning is a bundle of unresolved contradictions and unexamined assumptions. Check out this explanation of why he says he is not anti-government (after all, he did take out a half-million dollar loan from the government recently). His theory of government is "interesting," to say the least.
I am not anti-government. [T]here is a role for government and … the federal government's role is to protect the states from the outside world.
And the state's role is to protect the counties from the federal government — and the county's role is to protect the people from the state so the people can go about freely using their lands and resources and their rights…
So there's a role, but all government's role is to serve the people. Whenever those governments step out, then that's when we step in.
Occupying a facility as a means of protest has a long and honorable tradition. The sit-ins of the 60s come immediately to mind. But there's one crucial difference. Protesters of the 60s were non-violent and were willing to bear the consequences of their actions. The Oregon doofuses not so much.
Credit Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo for coming up with just the right term to describe what this is really all about: "white privilege performance art" (TPM). The headline of Paul Krugman's blog post about this event is "Deadly snits" (NYTimes). He points out that these "protesters" are blithely unconcerned about the deadly consequences that would likely ensue if they were Black, or Muslim, say. We all know how that would end.
And a number of other "standoffs" in recent history have ended badly. CNN catalogs several: Wounded Knee, Ruby Ridge, Waco, Cliven Bundy, and others.
So, the two questions that seem to permeate coverage of this wilderness theatre are What to call the perpetrators? and What to do about them?
What to call them? Editors of responsible news outlets are variously describing them as "militiamen," "occupiers," "armed activists," and similar terms. Not a few have commented on the delicacy with which they are being treated. For one such reasoned and reasonable opinion, see Janell Ross in the Washington Post. It can't hurt to say that Trump has a point about "political correctness" without buying into his whole authoritarian, xenophobic, misogynistic, bullying schtick. But I'm still waiting for any of the "leaders" who are Republican candidates for president to come out and take a stand.
What do do about them? Authorities are correct in playing it cool. They have to be responsible. I, on the other hand, have definite views:
For starters, I'd blockade them in with no access to the media and certainly no deliveries of socks and food. If they couldn't have "news conferences" out in the snow surrounded by cameras, they'd soon tire of their occupation. Then, all power and fuel to the facilities they are occupying should be cut off. Without food and warmth or the ability to watch themselves on TV, this wouldn't seem like such a splendid lark. Then, just wait them out.
This might be an opportunity for The Donald to demonstrate his wall-building skills that he so often brags about. Perhaps he could even have Lithuania pay for it. Oops, that would be to subject his claims to too much realism!
Meanwhile, prepare all the charges against them that can be reasonably justified. When they come out — as they eventually will have to — slap handcuffs on them and throw them in jail.
Last updated on May 1, 2016