Cliven Bundy is a rancher in Nevada. I first read
about him in the Daily Kos and then saw a more detailed story on All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC. He has been grazing his cattle on federal land for about 20 years. Ranchers are allowed to let their stock graze federal land but ranchers pay a fee for this right. All of the other Nevada ranchers have kept up with their fees but not Cliven Bundy. He says he does not recognize the federal government (of theUnited States of America) which is a very interesting belief, especially when you now owe the federal government and the American people about $1 million dollars.
The government, having tried unsuccessfully to collect the fees owed, started collecting Bundy’s cattle in corrals they had built and they were preparing to truck his cattle to market and sell them so they could apply the proceeds against Bundy’s debt. Bundy had other ideas and he had a large group of family and friends, sort of militia-type friends, who came, well-armed, to join the fray. So we have US Bureau of Land Use and Management Rangers lined up on one side of a ragged line across an interstateand we have Bundy’s “army” lined up across from them. A few pushes and lots of
angry words ensue. The US Rangers decide that it is not a good day to die and, fortunately, they back off before anyone does. But now we have the impromptu militia winning the battle and freeing the cattle – more federal bucks down the drain. What will the next move be for the feds? Bundy warns the county sheriffs to arm themselves as they are the only authority he accepts (I’m guessing marginally). No one leaves happy.
But, even as I wonder how this situation will finally shake out, I begin to get a glimpse of the new Bizarro America that could be wrought from years of conspiracy-centered talk radio which has energized so many across the US. Without a federal government America will maybe become Europe. States will become independent nations with their own governmental rules and their own leaders. There could even be states that become Kingdoms, and states that decide to be lawless nations. In this topsy-turvy America you will need a passport to go from state to state. Some states will offer benefits, some will offer none. Schooling will vary a lot from state to state, which is already true, but differences in the types and amounts of education offered may become even more pronounced. Trade rules will have to be negotiated. Each nation (state) may have embassies from 49 other states lined up along an elegant avenue. (OK, that probably won’t happen.) And what kind of events will it take to produce this new bizarro nation; revolution,
secession, armed rebellion? Yikes!
This is what it begins to look like if, instead of
having a very small federal government as Republicans say they want, we get Cliven Bundy’s America where there is, effectively, no federal government. Where did Mr. Bundy get the idea that each individual in America could make up his or her own mind about whether the federal government has any control overhis or her behavior, or any power over anything whatsoever? That very talk radio network just possibly might have given Mr. Bundy and others that revolutionary idea. It is one thing to be a rugged individualist, which, according to the theory I have seen around the internet, describes why a lot of pioneers came to this country in the first place and settled in frontier areas where the fingers of government barely reached, but we are a long way from the 1800’s and Mr. Bundy is not just talking about “nanny state” stuff here; he is talking
insurrection and rebellion, because the fact is, right now America does have a federal government and we have not been granted the freedom to ignore it.
It is easy to blame right wing Talk Radio for all of
this rebellion-militia –tyrannical government stuff, but Talk Radio had existed almost since the radio was invented. Talk Radio used to accompany truckers across America in the dead of night talking about family topics and psychology and some politics. But once Talk Radio started talking government conspiracy and barraging listeners with grievance talk against certain policies in American (like how their taxes were being spent by lazy people who chose not to work) then Talk Radio found its zone, its vein of money and influence. Talk Radio became the grain of sand around which the irritation living in the heart of America with their government (or in fact any government) coalesced to become the hard pearl of anger. Because of Freedom of Speech these talk show hosts could not be reined in. When they saw the effects they were having they should have reined themselves in but they found they loved being stars (and making lots of money is also very fine) and these listeners apparently really needed them. Well they have in a way performed a service for America. They have “released the Kraken” so to speak. There has always been anti-government sentiment whispering through America, but these rural people never really came together
as a movement until Talk Radio gave them a much louder voice. When a nation has groups of people who are terribly discontented by what government is doing, the government either finds something that will calm these voices, something that will turn them into happier citizens, or the government goes to war with someof its citizens and then who knows what will result.
Cliven Bundy’s is only one of the possible Bizarro
Americas we could end up with because we don’t agree on anything anymore. People are operating on their last nerve. If you or anyone challenges one of the fondly held beliefs of one of these rage-filled people, these beliefs as drummed into their brains by whatever particular talk show host they have chosen to be their personal guru, that person is likely to go off like fireworks or a bomb. And each of these property-owning (or not) opinionated individuals probably owns a small arsenal of weapons because talk radio stresses that the federal government is trying to do away with the 2nd Amendment. Whenever heated arguments and weapons crop up in one location there is the potential for mayhem. Many of these talk show hosts even suggest that it may be necessary one day very soon to rise up against the federal government and this is phrased as Patriotism, as a defense of the Constitution, but these folks are really stoking a revolution. Are they planning one also? Has Clive Bundy simply tipped their hand? Let’s hope not because the world is a chaoticplace right now and we need to stay united.
These same Talk Radio guys, who gleefully embraced the rugged individualist spirit at crossroads of America, offered the tools for rebellion, gave voice to a list of grievances, but have never once given these folks an image of what they will get once they rebel. They are rebelling for nothing and will get unfettered freedom and little else as far as I can see. We
will try to return to being a frontier, Wild West society but we will fail
because there are too many people, forward movement is inexorable (we have been to space) and climate change will still make the predictable simple life they yearn for totally unpredictable. The only good outcome would be that we would probably no longer have the infrastructure to use fossil fuels at the rate that we do. If Talk Radio goes away if will leave a yawning vacuum in the garages, cars, trucks and even the kitchens of America. Can’t we find another topic, less conspiracy-based, that would interest America as must as grumbling about the government? I can’t think of anything that would do it short of an alien invasion, but we need to try or combust.
It is a wonder we have had only something like bimonthly mass shootings so far. Can we expect this trend to escalate from situations where police face off against riled up and armed citizens to neighbor against disagreeable neighbor? Is this an isolated standoff against a nut or is the American tinder box primed and ready to fire.
Mr. Bundy is lawless in a way that scares me because
he does not see himself as lawless. He believes that he is a free American with free speech (free thought) and guns who must defend what he believes even though it is unconstitutional and illegal, and will lead us into anarchy ifeveryone starts to behave in this way. However if I owed the federal government one million dollars I might try to tough it out in the manner of Mr. Bundy, especially if I knew I had support. We can hope that the government gets creative and finds a nonviolent way to make its point and bring this situation to a quick end. But the larger problem of the anger that has been fomented in Americans will still remain and we need a really good lightening rod to deflectall that explosive energy and ground it.
Is all this bizarre enough for you? It gives me the
This is the view from the cheap seats.
By Nancy Brisson
This blog post is also available at http://brissioni.com/