This land is (just) my land
"This land is your land,
This land is my land,
This land was made for you and me ..." Woody Guthrie
Until Jan. 2, 2016 few people had heard of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon; but we know about it now.
On this day two sons of the notorious Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy, decided they wanted to peacefully protest the re-arrest of the father and son Oregonian ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond who were convicted of intentionally burning 100 acres of federal land.
The Bundy brothers, Ammon and Ryan, initially met with the county sheriff to inform him that they would be conducting a peaceful protest at the refuge. One wonders what the sheriff must've thought. The Bundys don't have a great reputation for peaceful protests. You may recall that Cliven Bundy; the rancher who has refused to pay his lease of federal land, held an armed standoff with the FBI. The Bundys are big fans of guns (and camouflage clothing). In addition, they are religious fanatics.
The peaceful protest lasted about a day before the Bundys and their tough buddies opted to take up arms and occupy the federal building under the pretense of protesting the harsh sentence for the Hammonds. The Hammonds wisely declared that the Bundys did not speak for them and wanted nothing to do with them.
Being dissed by the Hammonds did little to dissuade the Bundys from having a great time hanging out in a federal building and basking in the glow of the national press; the latter seemingly the real motive behind this ploy. Bundys appear to like attention and feel that the best way to get it is to load up the guns, put on the goofy outfits, beat their chest and challenge the federal government to a dual.
In their initial meeting with the sheriff the not-so-tough Bundy brothers asked the sheriff if he would protect them from arrest by the federal government. Wisely the sheriff declined. They wanted to be able to break the law with impunity. However, that is not how our country works. You knowingly break the law you pay a price; as well you should.
Think about how differently this armed occupation would have been received had the occupiers been Muslim Americans protesting the vile words and proposed actions of Donald Trump. Or if members of Black Lives Matter took up arms and occupied the federal building at the National Seashore Federal Reserve on Cape Cod. Who do you think would be screaming the loudest about this armed occupation? We all know who. First, we would expect to hear from Mr. Trump; the man who has dominated the news for months for no other reason than his outlandish words and behavior. Right behind him would be the rest of those in the Republican Primary candidates. Not surprisingly, there have been few words from these otherwise very wordy politicians on the Oregon situation.
Why is that? Is it because they are radical Christians and that makes it OK? Is it that they're white good old boys and that makes it OK? Is it that they just hate the government and that makes it OK?
Whatever the reason it's not OK. We would be outraged if it was any other group, but because it's a bunch of Christian western ranchers armed to the teeth and threatening to kill anyone who comes near their occupied building it is somehow OK in the minds of some people.
This foolish publicity stunt has tragically come to an end with one person dead and the Bundy brothers and others under arrest. Ammon Bundy has told the remaining militants to go home. No, they should not go home. They should all go to jail for the maximum time allowed by law.
If they want to change things run for office. Taking up arms against civilians is not the American way.
Bob Stannard lives in Manchester.
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