by Justin Robbins
Robbins is a frequent contributor to the Cowgirl Blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustinRobbins15
Finding myself largely aggravated by the militia takeover of an Oregon bird sanctuary, I have spent an unusual amount of time researching the circumstances leading up to it. There are several; and they approach from multiple angles.
By now, any reader of this essay would have had to work pretty hard to not have heard about the “rogue infidel” armed band of Y’all Queda yokels seeking celebrity status in the middle of nowhere. If not, allow me to suggest this Rolling Stone piece, complimented by Matti Taibbi‘s piece to fill out your curiosity. Their actual agenda seems fairly fluid (although they clearly want…something), but is it is safe to say their trip to Oregon was catalyzed by the federal criminal case against Steven and Dwight Hammond, well covered here by David French.
We are at the point where our discussions of this melodrama are focusing on what we believe is the best course of action. It is here that I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, everything I understand about the criminal justice system, coupled with everything I’ve learned about the Hammonds’ criminal case, leans toward the conclusion that, for reasons I neither possess nor expect will ever be acknowledged or revealed, these men were not treated fairly. At least not in a manner I would hope to be treated in their place.
That belief, on the other hand, aligns me in principle (on this one point) with what I can only bring myself to describe as dangerous fanatics now entrenched at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. These men have emerged, through unfortunate and unforgivably avoidable inaction on the part of federal law enforcement, as the ridiculously emboldened cream of a Constitutionally illiterate crop of disaffected, opportunistic and delusional middle-aged white men with Josey Wales Syndrome. But, I digress.
The conundrum here is how to illuminate the highly unusual government treatment of the Hammonds, while denying the Bundys any claim to a second victorious, armed insurrection; validating not only their method, but elevating them to the vaunted status of anti-hero, for which they would happily die…or, apparently, kill. It is a Catch-22 of identity politics, catalyzed by the complete and abject failure of federal law enforcement to hold to account the perpetrators of the 2014 Nevada stand-off. Sadly, there is no clear path.
There is also little solace in the recognition that a full compliment of executive and judicial branch officials have twice-overed the Hammonds’ case. A thorough study of the circumstances of their trial and plea negotiations inevitably causes the reader to imagine themselves in such circumstances. The obvious, dismissive retort is, “Hey, don’t poach. Failing that, don’t start fires on public land to cover it up.” Still and all, one is drawn to empathize; and is even reluctant to associate them with Bundy 2.0, based on their honorable resignation to their fate, and disavowal of the seditious militants. Any intervention on the Hammonds’ behalf, by a legitimate authority, would likely be met on all sides with some degree of favor.
As for the costumed cranks claiming divine caveat and spewing sovereign citizen rhetoric; the time has come to act. They’ve had their press conferences and their nearly every need has been accommodated by those who are entrusted…sworn…to uphold our nation’s laws. There is no need to storm the ramparts; however, there is likewise no need to allow access to supply caravans, nor provide electrical power to the facility. Also, I can’t imagine our tax dollars haven’t, at some point, provided the FBI with the equipment necessary to block cell phone signals, or at the very least, roads.
Ignoring radicalized faux patriots such as these will not make them go away. Clearly. It will make them declare victory and, worse yet, it will actually look like a victory. It will embolden other like-minded groups and individuals and, whether it inspires them or not, will be the precedent mentioned in the media reports of whatever happens next.
By all means, let us use discretion. There is no need for the government to initiate a violent interdiction. But it is time to shut these clowns down and show them, and everyone watching, that armed occupation is not “civil” disobedience, and is not a viable means by which to seek redress of grievances in a nation of laws.