Almost overnight, Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy has gone from libertarian folk hero, defying government overreach, to toxic political liability, after making racially insensitive remarks.
Personally, I never really saw him as a hero, and I don’t view him as toxic now, because neither perception has anything to do with the real issues in this case.
Let’s stipulate that Bundy may well be a bigot. That would not be unusual in a man of his generation. (Donald Sterling, anyone?)
Let’s acknowledge, too, that he has technically broken the law by neglecting to pay the required fees for his cattle to graze on federal land.
Neither “crime” warrants the kind of response we saw from our government, as heavily-armed agents surrounded Bundy’s property, killed his cows, and trained sniper rifles on the crowd gathered to support their neighbor.
As a result of the Bundy ranch debacle, those who care about liberty have learned some rather disturbing lessons.
For instance, we now know, if we didn’t before, that the federal government owns much of Nevada and many other western states. (But not, it should be noted, Las Vegas and Reno. Those are owned by organized crime, which is not the same as the federal government, although sometimes it’s hard to tell.)
We’ve also learned that the Bureau of Land Management can deploy a para-military force equipped with tactical rifles, body armor and armored vehicles. This is the Bureau of Land Management, folks, not the FBI, the Treasury Department, or ATF. Yet it has access to an arsenal that would be the envy of any government hit squad in any totalitarian state in the world.
And finally, we’ve learned that we’re all basically just one pen-stroke away from becoming federal criminals. Bundy maintains that his family has grazed cattle on that land for generations, and his supposed crimes are due only to the regulatory whims of bureaucrats. I for one have no problem believing him.
Contrary to the Founders’ express wishes, the majority of “laws” nowadays are written by party apparatchiks — not elected officials — based on the current administration’s priorities (whatever administration that happens to be; this has been going on for at least a couple of decades) and which way the winds of political correctness happen to be blowing at the time.
In fact, with the Federal Register now exceeding 78,000 pages, it’s likely nearly all of us are breaking some law or other. The only difference between us and Cliven Bundy may be that the Feds haven’t surrounded our homes…yet.
Watching the Bundy situation unfold, I can’t help but conclude that it’s an allegory for modern-day America. In this morality tale, “federal land” represents the entire country — and we’re the cows, blissfully munching on government grass, until some bureaucrat decides we shouldn’t be allowed and sends in the assault teams and the backhoe.
In post-Constitutional America, what’s to stop them?
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less and on Amazon. E-mail Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @FamilyManRob.