The response to the situation at Malheur in Oregon has been an interesting one across the political board. Probably the most startling aspect of the reaction is how tempered it’s been on both sides of the aisle. For sure, there are fringe elements — from both the conservative and liberal camps — using inflammatory rhetoric and grasp-at-straws comparisons but, for the most part, the nation has decided to treat this with a sort of “wait and see” approach.
And I get it; we don’t want bloodshed, not on any scale, and certainly not on a relatively large scale like this. On top of that, the government has to be careful in how they respond — both through rhetoric and through actions — because this could quickly turn into an imaginary martyr situation.
One common opinion held by such people as Chuck Muth (leader of the Nevada-based Citizen Outreach), is that we should effectively ignore the situation; he would prefer to “speak about it in terms of Big Government… and not get bogged down in the details,” further stating that, though he expects the issue to move some votes in local politics, it won’t be that impactful on a national level.
It would be easy to ignore this, to write it off as simply a bunch of disgruntled white men in the middle of a midlife crisis, desperately grasping at what little relevance they occupy in a cosmically indifferent reality, and with a fairly paltry understanding of why federal land is federal land. Which, yes, is totally what this is. But it’s also — let’s not BS here — an armed takeover by an anti-government militia of a federal building.
No, it’s not the Pentagon, it’s not the White House, it’s not even a state courthouse; this is the headquarters of a wildlife refuge in rural Oregon. But it’s going to prove massively impactful, if not from a legal standpoint, then certainly from a cultural one, as well as being a precedent-setting incident regarding how the government is going to respond to such occupations, and how emboldened these ridiculous “militias” will be in the future.
A few noteworthy and/or scary details that might have gotten lost in the shuffle here:
- Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed militia, said that he decided to go ahead with the armed occupation after God told him in a dream to do it. This is either terrifying or hilarious because it means that either Bundy is insane enough to believe that God wants him to stage an armed revolution from a national park visitors’ center, or God actually did tell Bundy it was okay to do this, but only within the confines of the dream, and Bundy simply misunderstood.
- One of the armed protestors is Jon Ritzheimer, who you might remember as the snaggle-toothed jackass who staged an anti-Muslim protest outside a mosque while wearing a “F**k Islam” T-shirt. He also operates an e-commerce site that almost exclusively sells bumper stickers and T-shirts with that phrase, or the phrase “F**k Anderson Cooper,” emblazoned on them. This is the kind of person associated with the Malheur occupation.
- It’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly this whole miasma began, but the two main catalysts for this are both incidents perpetrated by ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond. First, they protested and ignored a fence that was being built to mark the delineation between their own private land and government land. Then they were caught illegally burning brush. The Hammonds claimed they were doing it to cut back sagebrush, but there is ample evidence that they set the fire to cover up their illegal shooting of area deer; in any case, the fire also endangered area residents and local firefighters.
For the time being, we should appreciate that local and national government authorities are pushing for a peaceful resolution to the situation — and if recent history has taught us anything, then it’s not going to be too long before these guys are targeted by hackers and shamed into becoming recluses, or they say some outlandishly racist nonsense that immediately deflates any public support for them.
Although that last one seems to be working for Trump. So who knows?