Who would think that social media trends would be the first to call a spade a spade? Or rather, call an act of violence against the federal government, terrorism.
It’s not quite that cut and dry, but leave it to Twitter accounts with character limits to bring to light the darker side of the Bundy brothers and their ilk through glorious, unfiltered brevity.
By now, you’ve probably guessed that the writer must be against them. I’m not … really. I have no personal gripe with them or their cause. Civil liberties are important, and when the government constantly mistreats you, ignores your rights, and tells you that what was your land is now not your land, you are expected to react in some fashion begetting justice. My problem here is with that reaction. The course of action they chose not is not only out of proportion to the offense (the punishment’s not exactly fitting the “crime” here), but it is taking an armed stand against the U.S. government. This is not peaceful protest. And it is not strategic.
If it was strategic, perhaps they would write letters to their government officials, organize peaceful marches and protests, enroll in some community college classes regarding community development and government policies, faithfully attend city council meetings, seek legal counsel, or maybe try to get their story on a few local news stations without negative terminology attached to their names. But hey, standing around a building with guns admittedly sounds like more fun.
Speaking of that whole protest option, Bundy gang detractor Elon James White, who started the #OregonUnderAttack hashtag, is being quite reasonable when he says, “#BLM (Black Lives Matter) has been demonized for so much less,” as quoted by CNN’s Wilfred Chan. In fact, a whole cluster of internet-savvy Americans have been pointing out the hypocrisy of our comparatively tame reaction to a group of 100-150 white men with guns in contrast to the police reactions to unarmed black protestors and youth. A few made jokes about the irony of white men taking back land that they originally stole from someone else. (We don’t call them *Native* Americans for nothing.) Mo Ansar, a Muslim commentator, tweeted, “Moderate white people. Speak out — we can’t hear your voices. How will you tackle this radicalization?”
Basically, race is being looked at as a major factor in why these guys have been called a “militia” (which, inferring strategic military training of some sort, is a stupid word choice) rather than the “t” word. The title of a recent article from The Washington Post asked a question many felt appropriate: “Why Aren’t They Called Terrorists?”
Oregon isn’t far from me; I’ve even held jobs in Portland. I know the place to some extent, and the cultures and political views you find in one state are incredibly diverse. In a way, it teaches you to give everyone the benefit of the doubt until all the relevant facts have been heard. The facts are that two ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammand, accused the government of harassing them and taking their land for government usage. Some of that is alleged; some of that is true.
Their land ownership did decrease, and they responded with “controlled” fire (arson?) and cattle trespassing. Legally, neither local authorities nor any higher factions found their case to be deserving of further investigation beyond the initial conviction following their actions. Here, none of the facts point to a need for a group of over 100 men to defend ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond through picking up arms and occupying a government building.
Even Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College and self-described conservative, was baffled at the support for the Bundy and Hammond case. The Federalist published a discussion between Nichols and Kurt Schlichter, retired Army Colonel and trial lawyer. Both hold conservative viewpoints, both are military strategists, and both have decidedly different takes on this situation.
Nichols, in his opening, said he was “kind of shocked” that he and Kurt disagreed on the Bundy takeover, saying, “I despise these guys, not only because I think they’re dangerous, but because I think they’re hypocrites. These are people whose beefs with the government seem pretty much to be a matter of whether they get their way in disputes over money, not freedom.” He pointed out that even if they had legitimate grievances, “(when) you pick up a weapon and occupy a building, your grievances go out the window.” Nichols added that the Supreme Court didn’t deem Dwight and Steve Hammond’s convictions a matter of legal wrongdoing or significance.
Going on to call the Oregon fiasco “lawless thuggery” and adding his voice to those concerned about the hypocrisy of stronger force taken against Black Lives Matter protests than this armed takeover, he is met only with Schlichter’s strange justifications.
While Schlichter clarifies that he is “not happy about this or supportive of this particular action,” he maintains that he is “disgusted with the way our government has disregarded law, norms, and processes to impose its will on people the elitists at the helm on the coasts think unworthy of consideration.”
To his credit, Schlichter realizes what this sounds like. He does, after all, have his Master’s in Strategic Studies. “Some on social media accused me of ‘rationalizing’ what’s happening in Oregon,” he says. “No, I am trying to explain it, because until we understand why it is happening we can’t do what we need to do to stop it.”
In Schlicter’s words, “We need to distinguish these Oregon people from the left-wing groups, like Occupy and Black Lives Matter. These guys are marching with American flags, not burning them. Many are apparently vets. The leftist groups are seeking to take more money from people who actually worked for it, and to stop the police from effectively controlling crime.”
Hold on. If someone is holding a Bible then proceeds to violate all ten of the Ten Commandments, is that better or worse than someone burning the Bible while doing the same? Holding a flag while you take a stand against the government with guns in tote seems to be a fairly moot point, both logically and patriotically. As for the accusations that leftist groups are the ones hating our country and stopping effective police work, it seems doubtful that the haters all fall on one side of the political coin.
After all, aren’t a bunch of right-wing, so-called constitutional rights activists currently making more work for the FBI?
According to the most recent news reports, the group — which calls itself the “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom” — has no intention of backing down anytime soon, and FBI strategists thus far are planning to wait it out rather than bust the balloon of buffoonery. Terrorism Buffoonery, though it may be.
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.