Friday, April 25, 2014

American idiots

Cliven Bundy has become something of a folk hero to the disaffected tea party types who inhabit the wastelands of Southern Utah and Nevada. Bundy has managed to feed his cows on public land for about twenty years without paying the normal fees.

Many ranchers and farmers use federal land, but they also pay for the privilege of grazing on property owned by the taxpayers of the United States. Bundy doesn’t believe he has to pay. Federal authorities seized 400 head of Bundy’s stock to force Bundy into a payoff or showdown. They got the showdown. Some Second Amendment fellow travelers of Bundy’s showed up, waved their guns and did a bit of jostling with the Feds. The Feds backed down. I thought wiser heads amongst the Feds prevailed. No deadly force, no riot gas. I agree with that decision. The confrontation does not rise to a level that cannot be controlled by backing off and taking a breather, then letting the other side do the same.

Bundy’s buddies have been crowing over backing the government down. To say it was a victory for Bundy is not accurate. The U.S. government has learned from Ruby Ridge and Waco that sending in heavily armed troops and the FBI creates a really bad public image problem. Especially when, like Waco, they kill innocent women and children. After all, terrorists, foreign and domestic, also kill innocents and they are vilified (think al Qaeda, Timothy McVeigh or the Tsarnaev brothers). So if they act like terrorists why not assign the same standard to our own government?

But I get ahead of myself. The difference in the action of the government in moving against a rancher in this case is important. The Feds are using tactics to try to enforce laws, while the idiots are showing arms to threaten the United States government. During these occasional domestic “insurrections” the problem for the government  has been in how much force to use to solve a problem. If they are taking down an armed fugitive who has just robbed a bank and is shooting at police then deadly force is called for. If called to bring to a resolution someone owing the government a million dollars for grazing fees then the guns should be kept in their holsters and other less lethal techniques should be used.

We have amongst us people who use all the public services available to citizens but who do not believe in paying taxes or observing laws the rest of us live with. (They are usually the ones complaining about illegal aliens doing essentially doing what they themselves are doing.) Personally, if I could see tax returns from all these folks and they were paying their fair share I’d probably give them a little slack. Otherwise guys like Bundy and his gun-waving posse are just American idiots who call  themselves patriots.

In threatening the authorities with guns, have any of these armed-to-the-teeth yahoos thought of what the government of the United States could do by unleashing even part of its arsenal? Have they seen news clips from Afghanistan that show drones taking out targets with impunity? Do they think their popguns could overcome the massive firepower and unlimited resources the United States has to prosecute a war on foreign soil, and how easy it would be to put down any sort of armed insurrection with even a fraction of that firepower? Do the American idiots understand that soldiers, who include many patriots of the more traditional do-their-duty-without-questions types could quell any rebellion within minutes? The reason they don’t is because we are not Iran, nor China, nor Russia. The American government has limitless power. But it is always smarter to use the power only when it is absolutely necessary, and not just to show how muscular it is to a bunch of disaffected wimps — even wimps with their hands on their NRA-blessed assault rifles —  feeling more powerful than they really are.


Kirk said...

I wonder, if the government decided to sell that land to the highest bidder, and Bundy wasn't that highest bidder (I don't believe he's all that wealthy), would Bundy then continue to use it without paying? And if he did, and the some governmental authority, i.e. the police, showed up to enforce the no-trespassing laws on behalf of the highest bidder (which it's legally obligated to do), would all these right-wingers defend Bundy then? No, but they still would want a bloody showdown--with the government (on behalf of the highest bidder) the clear victor, and with the understanding the clear loser--Bundy--had no one to blame but himself. Except that wouldn't happen either, because the highest bidder would immediately develop the land, leaving Bundy with no place for his cattle to graze. Bundy, and all the other non-corporate cattle ranchers owe their livelihoods and lifestyles to publicly owned lands. Grazing fees seem a small price to pay for maintaining a way of life that would disappear in a millisecond were all that land to go private.

Given Bundy's recent racial comments, his notions of "freedom" seem cherry-picked. Or cotton-picked.

Postino said...

Those racial comments came after I had posted my opinion of Bundy and seem to have swung even Fox Network the other way. Or at least Sean Hannity.

Much of the West is owned by the federal government; Utah is 70% BLM land. I think some of the old timers, whose families have been ranching and farming for several generations, believe it belongs to them. Squatter's rights or something. I think that is Bundy's argument, anyway.