Monday, January 4, 2016

Poking fun, on social media, at those who took over the federal buildings in central Oregon

The Los Angeles Times reports today these Twitter hashtags for the week-end's happenings in central Oregon—namely the seizure by anti-government activists of some buildings associated with the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

#YallQaeda and 

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry, though I will admit that my initial headline for yesterday's post about these events used the phrase "domestic terrorism."  

Meanwhile, Kirk Johnson and Jack Healy report in today's New York Times on how this all started: 
The protesters arrived in this old lumber town to support a 73-year-old rancher and his son who had been sentenced to prison for setting fires on federal lands. It was billed as a peaceful demonstration, but after “Amazing Grace” was sung and hugs were exchanged, a small, armed contingent declared outside a supermarket that it was taking a stand and asked who wanted to join it. 
So began the latest armed flare-up in a decades-long struggle between federal officials and local landowners and ranchers over how to manage the Western range.
Johnson and Healy quote Ryan Payne, an Army veteran involved in the siege:
We will be here for as long as it takes.  People have talked about returning land to the people for a long time. Finally, someone is making an effort in that direction.
Finally, while such events are often depicted as reflecting the antipathy to the federal government, this latest New York Times story quotes the Harney County Sheriff, David M. Ward, who suggests that it is also about the local government:
These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.
It will be interesting to learn in coming hours and days the source of the Sheriff's information in this regard.

By the way, the LA Times coverage of the events is the best I've seen to date in terms of putting it in context of prior events, including the Cliven Bundy events in Nevada last year, as well as references to Ruby Ridge, Idaho.  Most significantly, however, the LA Times provides the perspective of U.S. Senator from Oregon Ron Wyden:
Wyden compared the frustrations of the activists to those of all rural Oregonians, who face a troubled economy yet to fully recover from the decline of the timber industry and dwindling federal dollars to replace lost timber income. 
“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,” Wyden said. “But the next step isn’t to be led by some outsiders into doing something that doesn’t help anybody.”
As for the sense that nobody listens to these folks, I refer you to earlier posts about the State of Jefferson, including this very recent one by a student in my law and rural livelihoods class.

I do not condone what these people are doing, but I can try in some small way to empathize with them. After all, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) may seem innocuous to me, but I don't have to interface with the BLM and it has nothing to do with how or whether I am able to to feed my family. 

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