April 19, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
In what is being hailed as a victory of the common man over Big Brother, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) citing public safety, recently withdrew its armed agents from around the Bundy Ranch in Sagebrush County, Nevada.
This ended a week-long, tense, stand-off with both sides claiming the moral and legal high-ground over what is, at its core, a long-running dispute over cattle-grazing rights, unpaid back taxes over $1 million dollars and allegations of harassment, coercion and intimidation from both sides.
I say “sides” as Mr. Bundy, owner of the Bundy Ranch had his immediate family at his side in his ranch-compound and what he called his extended family, over 100 heavily-armed “militia” members from across the country who joined his “cause” and vowed to fight the government to the death.
While this heated stand-off raised the awful specter of “another Waco” and captured the imagination and sympathy of national news outlets like Fox Television, this dispute started simmering as far back as 1993. Back then, the United States Forest Service alleged that Bundy had illegally appropriated thousands of acres of public land to allow his private stock of cattle to graze and began imposing a series of fines and taxes. Today, some 21 years later that amount has swelled to $1.2 million in back taxes owed.
Bundy refuses to pay and claims that the US Government is “illegitimate” and “has no jurisdiction in the state of Nevada.”
In between 1993 and this past week in April of 2014, the federal government on behalf of both Republican and Democrat Administrations has been in a nearly uninterrupted dispute with many ranchers like Bundy. At the heart of these disputes has been a conservation plan that in part calls for limiting free-range cattle grazing and stricter enforcement of private v public land grazing as well as cracking down on unlicensed mineral prospecting and off-road recreational vehicle use.
One of the main goals of this two decades-plus plan is to protect the endangered Tortoise species. There have also been announced plans for wildlife preserves.
These plans don’t sit well with Bundy and his allies. And quite frankly, they never have. In fact, court transcripts over the years have Bundy declaring that Nevada is a free territory and not rightfully part of the United States and most recently, he has demanded that all federal agents in the Nevada area be disarmed immediately, if necessary at gunpoint by himself and other “militia” members.
But an exchange of harsh words and accusations has only been part of this unfolding story.There have also been at least four investigations of domestic terrorism after pipe-bombs exploded in several federal offices in the Sagebrush County area. But so far, no arrests have been made.
So, where do we stand now in the recent wake of this latest stand-off?
Well, predictably the media coverage has pretty much gone according to predisposed ideology. Fox News and many of its pundits have portrayed this in a “little guy v big, bad feds” narrative. Bundy and his fellow armed sympathizers have been hailed as “patriots” who are “protecting the American way” and that “ranchers and not tortoises” won in a display of “cowboy courage.”
Meanwhile, many liberal commentators have called Bundy and his fellow militia-members “thugs” and are distributing petitions calling for the White House to demand that “Bundy the tax cheat” pay up in full what he owes the Government. They say he is a coward who hid behind women and children at his compound, using them as “human shields,” almost daring the Federal Agents to engage in a firefight.
Thankfully, at least so far, no one on either side has lost their life due to recklessness or false bravado. But the stakes continue to be high and emotions even higher all around.
Me, I get nervous when anyone starts bandying around the sobriquet “Patriot.” If, for no other reason than I fear they are referring to that God-Awful movie with Mel “Mad Max” Gibson.
I am curious though, why some conservatives speak so reverently of the “rule of law” yet seem so quick to champion the cause of someone who has lost every round in a court of law. And who then trashes our nation’s supposedly cherished “rule of law” by threatening to kill every last agent of such laws when they try and enforce the law of the land.
My vision must be going faster than I feared because the line between patriot and domestic terrorist or downright criminal starts to blur. I just paid my 2013 taxes and I didn’t like it but I also didn’t choose to hole myself up somewhere armed to the teeth and claim the US lacks sovereignty over me as Bundy did and threaten to shoot the joint up if I didn’t get my way.
If instead of a wild west rancher let’s pretend it was an armed group of African-American men who were in a dispute with the Feds over what they saw as an illegitimate “foreclosure grab.” Sure they went to court but that was just a “White Man’s” sham. So, with guns pointed, they read passages from the First Amendment and dared the Feds to “trespass” and execute any court order. Then, joined by several other armed Black “Militia” men a tense stand-off ensued. And the Feds backed down.
Would Fox News hail them as “Patriots?” Or just common criminals who broke the law?
On the other hand, liberal hand-wringers who say this is exactly why we need even more stringent gun regulations don’t seem to get that the vast majority of those of us who are responsible gun-owners would not join up in such an armed “rebellion” against the “man” and demand “justice” at gun-point when we failed to obtain legal remedies.
You see because therein lies the problem. Either you see the Government as legitimate or you don’t. And it has to be one or the other. You can’t say you love your country and you are a true patriot only when it’s convenient. Or, only when you happen to like the president in office at the time.
Either the USA is a legitimate nation governed by the rule of law with full jurisdiction over all 50 states or it is not. I get that Cliven Bundy is frustrated and wants free-range, unfettered right to graze his cattle wherever and whenever he wants. I get that he sees any regulations protecting the endangered Tortoise and establishing a wildlife preserve as intrusive and a real pain in his rawhide.
But I also get that the courts over the last two decades don’t agree and that other than him claiming he has complete sovereignty from all federal agents he hasn’t offered much in the way of actual proof or evidence. In fact, he admits that according to the law his cattle are trespassing but that he isn’t “bound by their laws.”
Ok, try and do what he and his pals did the next time you get into a legal dispute that doesn’t go your way and see what happens.
I guess if you live in Nevada and have friends who are in their own “militias” then you get to be the exception. And hailed as a patriot.
But where does it stop?
Do these militias get to force the Government to back down when they try and enforce laws involving national parks, wildlife preserves, inconvenient traffic lights, school integration, Obamacare?
Maybe we should all just follow those laws we like and then recruit armed, unofficial “militias” for those laws we don’t particularly like or that cost us money.
Maybe might does make right after all.
Sorry, but I don’t see any heroes in this sad, story. I see a rancher who won’t pay his taxes but can’t prove his case in court despite many chances. I see an overly aggressive government who should work closer with state and local officials to craft for more reasonable resolutions and long-term agreements. I see conservationists who need to strike a more common-sense balance between people and tortoises.
And I see a liberal and conservative media that choose to fan the flames of ignorance and anger in their respective viewer base for their own gain and higher tv ratings. Regardless of how dangerous or reckless it is.
In other words I see things playing out as they almost always do. And that’s the real tragedy here.