Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The ballad of Cliven Bundy and the myopic militiamen

The recent drama involving Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management is a sad microcosm of our skewed priorities and unfocused anger as American citizens.

For the past twenty years, Bundy has been grazing his cattle on land that has a fee attached to it by the government. The fee was instituted to discourage ranchers from allowing cattle to graze on environmentally sensitive land. Bundy doesn’t like that, and chose not to pay the fee. He now owes the government about $1 million. Bundy has a handful of contorted and unconvincing claims that he feels justify his use of the land. The BLM decided to take action and started rounding up Bundy’s cattle to sell them off. Bundy put out a call, and hundreds of Clint Eastwood wannabes showed up at his ranch armed to the teeth and ready for a fight with the gubrment. The BLM has backed off for now, but everyone involved says that the fight isn’t over.

A rancher has land issues with the U.S. government. Within a day or two of this hitting the news, militia members from all over the West came running to lay down their lives for a guy who is basically deciding what laws he’s going to follow and what ones he’s not going to follow. The government is listening in on your calls, reading your emails and monitoring what websites you visit, all without a warrant. This, friends, is an actual constitutional crisis, but can we get 200 people, hell, twenty people, riled up enough to take to the streets in protest? Uh, no.

Income inequality, the criminal actions of Wall Street, the use of drones, Climate change, the fact that we’ve transitioned from a democracy to an oligarchy; these are real issues that demand our attention and energy as citizens, not some sun baked cowboy with a dubious land claim. While you’re playing High Noon in the Nevada desert, the elites are draining your savings and destroying your economy, killing innocent people in your name, polluting your air and water, and invading your privacy.

The great irony is that these misguided militiamen will go back home and undoubtedly vote for Republicans or Libertarians at the ballot box, thus aggravating every one of the major problems this country faces. The militia members claimed victory after the BLM backed down, but they won nothing and the fracas only served as a minor diversion from the real cancer that is growing and attacking democracy from within.

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