Thursday, January 14, 2016

Whitey's Last Stand

The invasion of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, led by two sons of rogue Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, seems to be fulfilling some of the rhetoric advanced by conservatives in recent years about government being the enemy. While it is not clear if Ronald Reagan really believed in a nation without government (surely many of his corporate friends and allies got rich off the government welfare known as military contracts), he certainly made it sound as if he did. It is not clear, either, if he was really urging Americans to rebel against government intrusion into their lives, nor if the general Republican support for the NRA means to encourage flag-waving militia types to take up arms in that fight, but that is what the rhetoric has now led to. The handful of “patriots” waving flags and insisting that they are upholding the Constitution are, in fact, heavily armed. And the fact that they are indeed armed is no doubt the major factor prompting government agencies to use extraordinary caution in confronting them. Just imagine, for a second, that the group that took over the Wildlife Refuge had been peaceful, nonviolent protestors urging more protection for wildlife. The media would have been full of diatribes against left-wingers violating the law, endangering the public peace, and full of dire warnings that the government should deal with such ruffians severely or risk open rebellion. We saw what happened, in fact, to most of the Occupy Movement’s nonviolent participants: many were beaten, most were arrested and harassed and their possessions seized. The government was clear that such interference in the daily life of commerce (on Wall Street first, then elsewhere) could not be tolerated. But in Oregon, in a clear insurrection that has illegally taken over federal government buildings with the threat of force, the feds have declined to act, saying they prefer not to interfere in a local matter. And the local sheriff has urged—verbally only; there has not been even a hint of a police force coming to mount an attack to remove them, or even observe them—has pleaded with the protestors to remove themselves and just go home peacefully. It is as if law enforcement is simply too frightened or wary or reluctant to engage with white guys with guns. Someone nice (white), after all, might get hurt.
            And that is what I think we have to take from this episode, however it turns out. The forces of the law seem perfectly willing and capable of understanding why white ranchers who graze their cattle on public lands might be frustrated. Why they might have some ‘beef’ with the federal government. Why they might keep insisting that the federal government has no right to the millions of acres of land they have set aside for national parks or national forests or any other national purpose—the main objective of which, since Teddy Roosevelt, has been to preserve the rich natural heritage of the United States for the use of ALL of its citizens. That is, rather than allow every available inch of mountain and valley and river to be occupied and exploited and ruined by commercial interests bent on extracting every bit of mineral or timber or grassland wealth from it as soon as possible, the federal government chose to set aside some of the most pristine and spectacular landscapes so that all its citizens—not just the rich or powerful or exploitative—could use and enjoy them. So that some species, threatened by the very industrial uses of the corporate powers at issue, might survive a bit longer. All of which infuriates those (mostly white) ranchers and miners and timber moguls who now have to be careful about how they use those lands, mainly through leases, and must be subject to the rules and regulations of the federal government intent on preserving them. Ah no, they say. The feds have no right to these lands in the first place. We who came to the West (most of these militants are from western states like Idaho and Montana and even Oregon, which were viewed by white settlers as the last places they could enjoy free from the encroachment of the darker races overrunning the cities) and were given huge land grants, mostly for a pittance, have an inalienable right to even those lands we weren’t given outright. An inalienable right to spread out and extract from those free lands all the wealth we have earned by the sweat of our white brows (i.e. by getting the lands free, and now by being able to use all of nature’s bounty that god has given free, white America without any cost whatsoever). The invaders in Oregon (they call themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom) have posted a sign summing up their position: “BLM [Bureau  of Land Management]: Another Intrusive Tyrannical Government Entity Doing What They Do Best—Abusing Power & Oppressing the Backbone of America.”
            And so we have frauds like Cliven Bundy, who signed up with the federal government to lease, for a yearly fee, the lands he can use to graze (i.e. fatten) his cattle on, and then decided that paying the back lease fees he owes to the Federal Government —amounting to more than a million dollars—was an intolerable intrusion on his rights. In other words, though paying lease fees is an accepted part of the cost of doing business, Bundy simply decided he didn’t want to pay those costs at all, and so reneged on his agreement, and then took up arms to protect his ‘free’ lands from government agents who came to collect. This is basically equivalent to a company deciding to not pay its rent to the property owner. Or a regular citizen refusing to pay taxes to a local government.  But these militia types frame it as one of the freedoms they have (and the government doesn’t have) under the Constitution. It is no such thing. It’s fraud, pure and simple, and they should all be arrested and locked up for fraudulent, criminal behavior.
            But as of this writing, the government has still refused to eject these white guys from their illegal occupation of government property—an occupation that is, according to a local judge, costing the government (i.e. you and me) some $75,000 a day. Nice work, if you can get it. If you’re white, that is. And armed. And taking a last stand on your whiteness before the dark hordes take over majority status—as all population projections say they will in a few years. This is really the issue here. White Americans, and especially white southern and western Americans, see the writing on the wall, see that they will soon become a minority in what they consider ‘their own country,’ and are foaming at the mouth contemplating that awful eventuality, that overturning of the “natural order of things.” And this is also why they are flocking to support racist demagogues like Donald Trump—that pasty-faced sandy-haired epitome of whiteness who best expresses the barely-suppressed violence they wish to inflict on the ‘politically-correct’ world that seems ready to deprive them of the white privilege they’ve come to expect as their due.
            And so we have Ammon Bundy, trying his best to act peaceful and reasonable even as he violates the law. And so we have Donald Trump, trying his best to frame himself as the rough-and-ready (but peaceful!) standard-bearer of embittered white men like Ammon Bundy. And so we have a timorous government trying its best to avoid a confrontation with an entire population that it no doubt sees as ready to explode, choosing instead to direct its wrath at its darker charges who might be harboring a similar wrath, but who are still less numerous, less armed, less organized, and because they have been beaten down for so long, feeling less entitled and thereby less dangerous.
            It is a nauseating spectacle that only confirms what progressives have been saying for years: the deck is stacked, the game is fixed, but the cracks are beginning to show and will soon prove too obvious and catastrophic for even the card sharps to disguise. And when that happens, this ‘standoff’ may well prove to have been the start of Whitey’s last stand.

Lawrence DiStasi

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