It is sometimes hard to watch train wrecks even when the end collision is so richly deserved. I feel that way a little as I watch the public vilification and condemnation of the Bundys, LaVoy Finicum (AKA #Tarpman, although since he is more sidekick-like #Tarpboy seems more appropriate and then there are the earmuffs) and their associated collection of military wannabees, combat inflators and flat-out bigots.
The opposition started with the usual suspects from the progressive front that have been fighting abusive public lands grazing for years and years (I would put myself in that group). They were soon joined by conservation groups with a hunter and angler focus. This latter development is wonderful as I hope that this is the first step in these groups working closer and closer together on more and more issues like we used to do. Many destructive forces have worked long and hard to drive conservation factions apart because they do not want them collectively working to keep public lands public, curb climate change, and improve habitat quality and quantity. (Yes. I have been harping on this for a while 1,2,3).
Next up were newspapers across the country as they took a breath and realized that reporting needed to transition into background and then into commentary. In the background and commentary period we saw some interesting pieces like those in the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and done by PBS. And we even saw retrospective pieces as outlets like the High Country News reminded us that they have been covering this issue for nearly as long as Cliven Bundy has been stealing a grazing lease from all of us in Nevada.
Then there have been those actions against the dizzy desperadoes that seem almost defensive in nature. First out of the chutes was the Mormon Church that condemned the action of these folks many of whom are Mormons. Ted Cruz jumped in too. The Armed Forces and veterans have also spoken up about the records or non-records of a few of the supporting cast who have variously represented themselves falsely as Marines, Army Rangers or combat veterans. And finally the conservative Cato Institute—formerly known as the Charles Koch Foundation—basically allowed that this was a good issue, but these were absolutely the wrong folks to forward it.
But perhaps the most telling is the wholesale rejection of the terrorists, insurgents, criminals or whatever one wants to call them by the one audience that they felt was in their back pocket: The locals. The locals when asked by their Sheriff who in the room wants the Bundys et al. gone they almost unanimously raised their hands (see above).
Do I belittle the importance of this episode by invoking the “shark” phrase? No. Because we now have a nation that is looking for ways to laugh at these heavily armed men such as songs, erotic fiction or videos. No. Because we now have PETA and others jumping on the media train and folks looking for clever ways to deliver items in some bizarre approach to product placement. And then there is the #Tarpman meme (see above).
So where are we? I think we are at the post-mortem. Even though the event is not truly over the general sense is that these folks need to be punished (i.e., go to jail) for their actions and many I have talked with are in favor of making sure they do not have access to weapons ever again. In this important time of analysis we need to reflect as Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer has done about what we have learned. And what is that?
We should have learned that the West is all about cycles of bullying and resource abuse followed by the consequences of that exploitation. So the answer to that question about whether or not lands legally owned by all of us should be transferred to those who have a long and tawdry history of exploiting those resources and leaving the mess—i.e., denuded pastures, abandoned mines and clearcuts leading to landslides—to the rest of us is: NO. We also should have learned that all of us need to wake up and work together—looking for commonalities rather than differences—because there is a large and well-funded effort to steal our lands and heritage at play.
And if you think the effort to capsize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, transfer our public lands to state or private hands and do away with cornerstone environmental protections designed to keep our water safe and our air breathable are not coordinated and are unconnected to this then you need to look closer to see the puppet strings firmly attached to these mindless marionettes and others like Ken Ivory, Michele Fiore and all those within the grasp of the American Legislative Exchange Council and similar forces. Read up,build partnerships, and act. Let's not only get past this, let's use it as a springboard to move beyond these destructive cycles and heal the damage done to American by the forces that acted to create this stand-off and other conflicts.