In my youth, I took part in peace rallies, working for Eugene McCarthy in 1968 as part of the “clean for Gene” group.  I was called an “outside agitator” and worse by those who disagreed with my beliefs.  Indeed, back then, “Law and Order” and “outside agitators” were almost always right wing pronouncements.

The recent takeover of an unoccupied building at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed men, from outside Oregon, protesting the jailing of two ranchers, is at the moment at a divide between a non-issue that went away quietly or a major conflict that will be remembered for decades.  Two things are immediately clear.  These are outside agitators and they broke several laws.

The facts are not yet clear, and I may be in error, unlike my detractors, who know everything with complete certainty.  The spark was the jailing (insufficient time) of a rancher and his son, who about a decade ago set fire to about 150 acres to remove invasive plants so that they could graze their cattle—on federal land—where they held a grazing lease.  Apparently one of the fires was set to cover up deer poaching.  The law requires a minimal sentence, much like drug use.  The lack of all the facts has not stopped people on social media from opining about government takeover of land, need to privatize all land, and let “the people” (at least of their political persuasion, not mine) run things. The ranchers themselves voluntarily reported to jail and did not want publicity, according to their lawyer.  That didn’t stop the mob from singing “Amazing Grace” in front of their house, proving Obama’s famous comment about America’s Red Crescent “Their guns and their religion,” which while a political faux pas, was and is dead right. Nevertheless, the insurgents felt this was unfair and occupied a building on the Refuge. Cliven Bundy’s son (Bundy had a standoff against the Feds 2 years ago about failure to pay $1 million in grazing fees.  For fear of bloodshed, the Feds backed down) said they were prepared to stay there for “years.”  .

I’ve been to nearby Burns, Oregon, and I can’t imagine staying for years in Malheur.  Obviously, somebody is supporting these people, since most of us have to make money to take time off, especially to destroy the federal government.  Maybe the money came from the million Bundy’s dad saved on not paying grazing fees for putting his cattle on my land.  Yes, my land.  And that is what I am concerned about.  We lease federal lands so that ranchers can run cattle on it.  Then if anything happens to the cattle, like predation, they want compensation from we the people.  Twenty-five years ago, in Arizona, one of these ranchers trapped and killed bears that were allegedly killing his cattle on federal land.  My wife and I became vegetarian on the spot.  Still are.

Mind you, the ranchers in the Malpai Borderlands Group work well with The Nature Conservancy, and their joint efforts should serve as a model, not Bundy’s Tea Party-no negotiation group, which doesn’t work, because saying no and not yielding one point doesn’t work in a pluralistic society.

More than half the land in America’s West is federally owned, and since I am part of the government, it is partly my land, too.  There is a lot of resentment of land being “locked up” as wilderness when it can be logged, mined, snowmobiled, hunted, jet skied, regular skied, or otherwise used to make money.  People use public lands—my land as much as theirs—to make money, often off people like me.

The idea that we “lock this land up,” is false, but like so much of what my detractors say, it is a catch phrase, to be repeated often enough so it is treated as fact.  We hold this land in reserve for those whose lives have yet to begin.  We hold it in reserve so we will still have it.  Should we auction it all off to the highest bidder, who knows where it will go?  I do know what happens when nearly all the land is privatized.  It’s called Texas, where 2% of the land is federally owned.

When I saw the Hill Country, I was dismayed at all the fencing.  The restrictions aren’t just a Texan issue, however. Here in Oregon, a rancher sold a huge ranch to a Chicago man, who closed all the trails that were once accessible to the public.  That would be you and me.  Lack of access to places that we used to go to are the first result of privatization of public lands.  Those are the people who are locking land away, not the feds.  Privatize the land, and those with money get it. So, unless one is a millionaire, few will get land, certainly not the guy who can barely pay his mortgage, take care of his kids, pay for his F-350 and the ammo he uses. I wonder why that guy hasn’t yet figured out that the Republican party is using him.

Last century, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness came close to being privatized.  It would have allowed resorts, dammed waterfalls, logged everything, and one of the great wildernesses in this country—the most visited today—would have been lost.  If we privatize the Grand Canyon, uranium mining will occur, and people will no longer have the experience of total quiet, miles from the nearest person, in a civilization where such quiet is a rarity.  I’ve experienced these wonders and want others to do so as well.

If we privatize Malheur, that will be the end of a special place for wildlife.  Oh, cattle ranchers—some, anyway—will make more money, although not much, because grazing fees are dirt cheap to begin with.  Tell me, Mr. Bundy, what happens when an ORV or a snowmobile cuts a fence containing somebody’s cattle?  Who is going to adjudicate?  If they think that won’t happen, they are too dumb to own a firearm.  They may feel that progressives like me don’t have a right to visit some of these places.  What about future generations?  Do we get booted out of the country?  Is that what America is about?

Answer:  I think so.  The Far Right has money and buys and cheats its way to power.  We are headed for an oligarchy like Russia, with the same results.

I want Malheur under a total, quiet siege.  Keep the media in Burns.  The less coverage, the less these guys can strut on national news. No power, no water, no food, no utilities, no medical care.  Nothing. If one wishes to give up his weapon and leave, he may do so.  He may be subject to a misdemeanor, but I just want him gone.  Nothing else should be allowed in or out, until everybody leaves.  These guys are terrorists, using terror— numbers and their weapons—to take over federal land and push for overthrow of the government.  That is terrorism, regardless of where they come from Algeria or Austin, Libya or Lubbock, Medina or Missoula, Baghdad or Boise, Yemen or Yreka.

Hopefully, this will not be another Waco, which spawned Oklahoma City, just like the Iraq War ultimately helped spawn ISIS. If people bombed your innocent family, killing all of them, might you consider terrorism as a reasonable response?  The “$1.7 billion” war, “Shock and Awe,” and “Mission Accomplished” have finally came home to roost.

It’s time to stand up to right wing terrorism and keep public land public. The government is not a nebulous entity.  It is we.

Finally, language matters.  This is not a militia.  This is terrorism.

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