Thursday, January 7, 2016

More balanced reporting on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning what the Bundy brothers and others are doing at Malheur National Wildlife Reserve in rural southeast Oregon.  In that regard, I'm apparently in the same camp as some locals.  Read more here, here, herehere, and here.  Some reporting, including on NPR featuring a columnist for The Oregonian who lives in Burns, have emphasized that many locals are agitated about the BLM but that they do not support the tactics of the militias who have taken over the Malheur refuge.

I do, however, think it is important not to be too metrocentric about these events--as I have already suggested on this blog and on Twitter.  I don't think rolling our eyes at the Bundys and their buddies helps anyone.  After all, I am not reliant on the BLM to feed my family, but these ranchers are, and so they have very strong feelings. Why are we so dismissive of that?

Indeed, I am reminded by what President Obama said about rural folks during his first election campaign, in what became known as "Bittergate."
You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for twenty years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.  And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Note the similarities between Obama's comments and what Senator Ron Wyden said a few days ago about those who have taken over Malheur, as reported in the Los Angeles Times:
There’s enormous frustration about the economy and a very powerful sense in rural communities that nobody listens to them, that they don’t have any power, that their voices don’t matter. But the next step isn’t to be led by some outsiders into doing something that doesn’t help anybody.
This evening, Amanda Peacher of Oregon Public Broadcasting filed a story in which she quotes a rancher whose last name is Johnson.  The full transcript of that story is not yet up, but some telling comments --telling of disdain for the rural--are.  Mrs. Johnson told of taking her five children out to meet those who are occupying Malheur, so that they would not be afraid and so that they would have a better understanding of what is happening.  Because of my struggle with formatting, I am providing my own commentary on the reader comment BEFORE I provide the reader comment

My comment:

I don't think liberals would say something that pejorative about nonwhites who have five children. So why are they saying it about whites who happen to work a ranch in rural Oregon, a ranch with which they are presumably feeding themselves and their five children, presumably working hard every day to make it all work. Is this the sort of activity we want to discourage? (the ranching, not the armed takeover, that is?)

 Here is the reader comment to which I respond:

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FIVE kids? Her opinion immediately invalidated.
Move on.

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