The month long occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge hasn’t gotten a lot of attention on the evening news. Sympathizers insist it’s all part of the government conspiracy and mainstream media is being told to ignore the occupation. Personally, I think it has more to do with the Iowa Caucus and the fact Donald Trump is sucking up all the oxygen, along with more pertinent news stories—such as the Flint Water crisis. If any community had a reason to be pissed, it’s my dad’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, not some radical militia folks who want to privatize public lands.
I’m not sympathetic to the #BundyMilitia. Some might say that’s because I simply don’t understand the abuses of the Federal government, and just wait—soon they will be coming after my home! Umm…too late. That sorta already happened. If you read my book Havasu Palms, A Hostile Takeover, you’ll realize our family suffered far more losses after dealing with the Department of Interior than Bundy and his merry men.
Does this mean we were wimps—that we let the mean old tyrannical government roll over on us? Should we have been more like the Bundy boys—armed ourselves and seized the local BLM office?
My answer to the question—no. It doesn’t mean we were wimps; we simply had a clearer perspective.
Before I explain what I mean by clearer perspective, I’d like to take a closer look at the perceived enemy: the government.
What is the government? People are always bitching about it, as if it were some tangible entity like Elvis Presley or the Grand Canyon. But the fact is, the federal government is made up of federal employees—some good, some bad. The framework for the federal government is our Constitution. We have problems when government employees or citizens distort or ignore what’s in the Constitution. If we want to change the Constitution, there is a process, and it doesn’t involve armed bullies who hold our public lands hostage until their demands are met. Why do they presume to speak for the majority of Americans?
I’m a believer of ballots instead of bullets. I support our Constitutional right to protest—but once protesters decide to loot, steal, vandalize—or arm themselves and threaten to shoot people as did the Bundy group—I stop listening to their message. Because then, while they claim the “Federal government is infringing on my rights” they are actually the ones infringing on the Constitutional rights of other Americans.
Some may ask me, “Gee, how did that ballots thing work out for you?” I’d have to say, better than bullets worked for LaVoy Finecum. While some might believe he died for a worthy cause, I would have to disagree. That certainly would not be the hill I’d choose to die on. For one thing, I don’t believe for a moment the Bundy movement has done anything to further their cause. In fact, it makes the militia movement look like a bunch of extreme crazies to the general public. As for Finecum’s death, it was tragic, and I feel sorry for his family, but I watched the video, and I don’t believe for a moment he was murdered. If anything, it was suicide by cop.
My sympathies lie with the residents of Burns, Oregon. This fiasco has torn the small community apart. In my opinion, the actions of the Bundy group were supremely selfish, arrogant, and reckless.
Now back to what I meant by clearer perspective. We all have grievances. But we are a nation of laws, and if we each take up arms and threw a tantrum when things didn’t go our way, we’d have anarchy. And let’s face it; bitching about being oppressed in America is ludicrous when you look at other nations. I’m not saying we shouldn’t work (legally) to keep our government employees in check, but let’s not be drama queens about our perceived oppression.
Our country is a work in progress. In my opinion, we have some good bones—the Constitution is a solid framework. Of course, along the way we needed to make some changes—such as ending the atrocity of slavery and giving blacks and women the right to vote.
The federal government’s handling of Native Americans has been a screw up from the very beginning, which continues today. It’s a pendulum that swings radically from one side to the other, creating new problems and victims along the way.
Our family unfairly suffered losses at the hands of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, yet I imagine from their perspective, they were just sticking it to the white man; like the white man had stuck it to them for so many years. It didn’t matter that we always dealt with them honestly, and tried to work in the best interest of the tribe—they had their opportunity to do to us what was done to them, and they took it—with the Department of Interior’s blessings.
The tangled bureaucracy is not going to get fixed by arming ourselves and taking over some wildlife refuge. It may get fixed if we vote in the right people—and then it will take years.
In the meantime, I prefer to stick around and watch my grandkids grow up. Unlike Finecum, his is not the hill I would choose to die on.