Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Bundys as Harbingers of Hermeneutics

 Excerpt from The Federalist Papers No. 10. The Bundys and the
Militias are factions as defined by Madison and Hamilton.
By Bob Ferris
“I believe the government is going to have to concede to something,” he said. “I don’t think these guys are going to give up without knowing that they’ve done something that benefits the people of our country or our region.” Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer in Members of armed group occupying refuge meet with Grant County sheriff in John Day
According to the Blue Mountain Eagle Glenn Palmer the Sheriff of Grant County in eastern Oregon made the above statement.  My immediate response is a face palm.  I say this because my sense is that if Sheriff Palmer was dealing with a bank robber that he would be unlikely to give the robbers money or allow them to kill a hostage or two as part of the deal.  Likewise, I doubt that he would allow a car thief to keep the radio or steering wheel from a purloined vehicle to make them feel better about the whole criminal transaction.  Sheriff Palmer also got a face palm for describing these domestic terrorists as “Americans” and “patriots.”

Taken collectively, this clearly indicates that Sheriff Palmer does not see these gun-slinging goons as criminals and he obviously has some sympathy for their cause.  Many would see this and shake their heads asking how is it possible that someone who has sworn an oath to uphold the law and the US Constitution take this position?  My answer in a sloppy and broad sort of way would be: Hermeneutics.

I am not a philosopher in the academic sense, but I did take classes that dealt with the intersection between philosophy and the environment and during one of those classes one of the professors, who was a philosopher, said: Hermeneutics describes the phenomenon of being trapped within the circle of your own interpretations.  Whether this is a correct interpretation of this term or not his definition stuck with me and I remember it now because of this situation with Sheriff Palmer.
“I’m sure most of the people being considered for his [Mayer's] job graduated from a college,” he said. “These people are the cause of the destruction of wildlife.”  Cliff Gardner, 74, a rancher in Nevada’s remote Ruby Valley. In "Ouster Sharpens Debate on Sage Grouse
Sheriff Palmer, Ammon Bundy, the livestock folks in Nevada who worked to fire Ken Mayer, and those stirring up additional trouble in Nevada seem like textbook examples of cognitive dissonance which often exposes them to ridicule outside of their communities or “circles.” We smirk a little at the Sheriff who stands tall for the law except where he disagrees with it—essentially becoming a law enforcement officer who does not enforce laws.  We draw cartoons and make parody videos of the hapless Ammon Bundy in his quest to shed himself of the tyranny of federal government (except for the half-million dollar federally guaranteed loan he received).  We giggle derisively at those who would advocate hiring a head of a wildlife agency who was not educated in that field. And we are baffled by those who repeatedly abuse natural resources to their detriment arguing that they are one who should control their own destinies (see below quote).
"I just don't see it ending that way here," he said. "The people who abuse the public lands the worst are the ones who will fight the hardest." Jerry Smith former district manager for Bureau of Land Management in Nevada in Tension between ranchers and federal officials is dangerously high in Nevada 
I know some who point to these logical disconnect problems in the rural West and trace the roots to settlers coming out of the South after the Civil War or to Mormons of a conservative bent like the Bundys.  I agree that this contributes, but I think it gets magnified by this idea of hermeneutics (at least as it was told to me) in that the folks in question are elected by local folks who hold these ideals and the elected officials are in turn influenced by them.

On some level it shares a little bit with the Stockholm Syndrome as I have seen many who manage public resources fudge some in favor of the locals rather than holding hard and fast to the science that brought then to dance in the first place.  In this I assign no “right” or “wrong” because no one regardless of how right they are wants to be the object of hatred in their community.  This tension is a clear theme in the LA Times story and also in the recent Op-ed written by Gloria Flora in Time Magazine).

So where are we left?  Do we just ignore this, avoid the conflict and write this off as unsolvable regardless of its inherent illogical nature?  The Founding Fathers would say: No.  In point of fact they would argue that this was why they wrote the US Constitution in the manner that they did over the objections of some.  They made the case for a stronger central (federal) government, because they were concerned about the “factions” like the Bundys or those users of federal public resources who feel those should be “local” resources rather than owned and managed for their current owners (see Federalist Papers No. 10).


My sense is that we have to do at least two things.  The first is to listen to what Rep. Peter DeFazio has to say to federal agencies (above) and echo that sentiment around the internet and in other public discussions to force our government to protect the US Constitution and our founding principles (see here for a list of potential charges).  The second is to show federal law enforcement entities and elected officials that we support taking prudent legal action against these domestic terrorists.  In Oregon there are two opportunities to do that next week on Tuesday at noon in Portland and Eugene (see here).  My hope is that others around the country follow these examples.

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