I mentioned in last week’s column — or maybe the week before; time, these days, seems to blend together into one coterminous, I don’t know, Jell-O mold or something — that sometimes a ready made article comes along in the form of a topic or person whose sheer scale of grandiose, comedic absurdity and stupidity all but demands that it be pantslessly splayed for all the world to see. In recent weeks, I have not encountered many of those topics; most of my articles, sorry, have been about moving, which I’m sure most of you have done at some point in your life, and you really don’t need me to tell you what a pain in the ass it is to, say, alphabetize your cookbooks or whatever.
Ironically (?), because of that very process, I haven’t bothered to pay attention to much of the news; after all, as far as I could tell, we’re all pretty much waiting with baited breath to see if the downed Malaysian flight turns out to be either A) a fulfilled prophecy foretold by J.J. Abram’s entire oeuvre, or B) the emergence of Cthulhu, and don’t seem to have much time for the rest of the world. This past week, however, I deigned to steal a glance at a television while I was on the treadmill at the gym, and was introduced to the wonder and the glory that is Cliven Bundy.
Based purely on the still photograph that accompanies roughly half the articles I’ve read related to him, Mr. Bundy resembles the last thing a plumber might see when he cleans out Glenn Beck’s shower drain. Bundy, a cattle rancher and libertarian caricature residing in Nevada, recently entered the news when, after it was discovered that he had cheated the federal government out of more than two decades’ worth of grazing fees and various other lawfully applied taxes, he forced an armed standoff with federal officials near his ranch. And by “armed standoff,” I mean that a group of citizens toting semi-automatic weapons confronted officials working for the Bureaus of Land Management sent to rightfully round up Bundy’s illegally grazed cattle.
To be clear, Bundy has no legal leg to stand on, and never has. Past court cases have found against his claims to “inherited grazing rights,” for which there are absolutely no existing precedents and, despite what he would have us believe is a near-rabid respect for “states’ rights,” he refuses to adhere by them — proudly proclaiming that he “does not recognize the existence of the federal government,” he effectively ignores the Nevada state constitution, which in fact asserts the rights and privileges of the federal government.
Of course, none of this stopped walking abortions like Sean Hannity, Rand Paul and Glenn Beck from expressing their support for Bundy time and time again — it was only slightly less predictable than the near Looney Tunes-level cloud of dust their backpedaling kicked up when Bundy said, well, this:
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro. They didn’t have nothing to do… they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
I won’t pretend that you haven’t read or heard that by now but, really, it’s just too delicious to not quote again. Bundy has since insisted that his statements were born out of sympathy, not racism or ignorance, but that’s kind of like breaking a puppy’s leg so he won’t be disappointed when he finds out that the toy duck he was chasing isn’t real.
I’m not here to further rehash Bundy’s (at best) ridiculously senile, grumpy old white man statements. It’s troubling, but only in a “time for Bingo and a nap, grandpa” sort of way. More troubling is the continued insistence of mainstream right-wing politicians and personalities to not just bolster and enable clowns like Bundy, but to profess his beliefs as if they aren’t both A) reprehensible on every level and B) outright hypocritical and self-serving. Sure, Hannity, Beck and others distanced themselves from Bundy once he turned the corner of Strom Thurmond Boulevard, but their persistence in espousing anti-government sentiment throughout is curious.
It has to do, partially, with public perception. There is a strong undercurrent of racism prevalent in the so-called libertarian movement, especially in the more extremely right-wing factions, and it’s not hard to see why most anti-government activists are white: they don’t stand to gain anything from the type of benefit programs the government provides for new, low-income citizens trying to make a life for themselves in a new country, and thus don’t deem it worthy of existence. The lack of ability to sympathize or empathize certainly doesn’t help, either.
At the end of the day, wingnuts are gonna be wingnuts. Sometimes, unfortunately, they’re also going to win: the BLM backed off of Bundy, at least for the time being, probably because the agents weren’t as heavily armed, and also because a shootout between the federal government and an independently armed militia is only going to lionize the crazies. What do you do about it? I don’t know — sending a black ops agent into the Bundy house at night to confiscate all his firearms and, I don’t know, maybe take a crap in his slippers, would be a pretty good start.
As for the Becks, Hannitys and Pauls of the world: if you hate government so much, stop gunning for placement, influence and voice in it. It would help, immensely, and “hypocrite” would be one less crime you’d have to answer for when you die.