Cliven Bundy

I haven’t written anything about the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his standoff with federal agents because I really don’t know much about the situation and have not been interested enough to do the necessary research to learn more. As far as I can tell, both sides are at least partly in the wrong. Mr. Bundy has been grazing his cattle on federally owned land but has refused to pay the required fees since 1993, when the rules for grazing on public land were changed. It may well be that the rules were changed in such a way as to make grazing on public lands unprofitable, but Bundy simply does not have the legal option to refuse to pay the fees any more than I can legally refuse to pay taxes even if I disapprove of how the government is spending the money. Mr. Bundy also cannot simply refuse to recognize the authority of the federal government. It is their land that is in question and rightly or wrongly, they set the rules. Bundy has taken the matter to court and has lost, twice. He cannot simply ignore the rulings of a court just because they are not in his favor. The political system that Cliven Bundy and supporters appear to advocate is not libertarianism, ordered liberty under the rule of law, but anarchism where everyone can live under their own rules.

Having said all of that, I do not believe that the actions of the federal government come out all that well in this matter. I have to wonder why they decided to act right now after ignoring the problem for twenty years. I also have to wonder why they had to act in such an aggressive matter. Didn’t anyone consider that sending in armed agents to seize the man’s cattle could not possibly go well? There is simply no way this wasn’t going to look like jack booted thugs stealing a man’s property. Were they trying to provoke a confrontation?

Statements by Senator Harry Reid suggest that someone wanted a fight.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says “something is going to happen” to get Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to stop letting his cattle graze on federal land.

“It’s obvious that you can’t just walk away from this. And we can speculate all we want to speculate to what’s going to happen next,” Reid told KSNV-TV. “But I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen. We are a nation of laws, not of men and women.”

Reid called militias staying at Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch “domestic violent terrorist-wannabes.”

Is Harry Reid a ranking member of a distinguished legislative body of the greatest nation on Earth or a Mafia enforcer? Why does he feel the need to butt into an already tense situation with threatening and inflammatory comments? I would think that Senator Reid is the last person to start talking about the rule of law. I think it would be best if all the political figures in Nevada and elsewhere, whatever their sympathies might be, kept their mouths shut and let this situation be resolved without bloodshed.

Now it appears that Cliven Bundy has contracted a nasty case of foot in mouth disease from his cattle.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Naturally the progressives are filled with glee over this heaven sent opportunity to muddy the waters. Now the debate won’t be over the proper role of the federal government in managing its extensive properties out west but over the racism of Cliven Bundy. There is the usual double standard here. Conservatives are expected to immediately denounce and disassociate themselves from Mr. Bundy. Somehow, Democrats are never required to denounce any fellow progressive no matter how hate filled and obnoxious their comments might be. You can be a notorious race baiter or even an Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan but if you have the right party affiliation, all is forgiven.

The relevant question that really needs to be asked about Mr. Bundy’s comments is not whether they are racist or offensive but whether they are true. Calling these comments racist is simply a matter of evading the question of whether or not he actually has a point. Bundy’s comments are certainly not cowardly and I can only wonder that Attorney General Eric Holder is not flying out to Nevada this minute to have that long awaited discussion on race.

I think I know what Cliven Bundy was trying to say, though he picked the worst possible way to say it. I would not go so far as to say that African-Americans were better off as slaves, freedom is obviously preferable to slavery, but I have wondered whether the Civil Rights Movement has really been an unmixed blessing for the Black community. Gaining legal and political equality with Whites is a great gain and many Blacks have benefited from the Civil Rights Movement. African-Americans have infinitely more opportunities to get ahead than before and can be found at the highest levels of our society, even the presidency. Yet, in all too many cases, the African-American community seems to have lost something, a certain knack for overcoming obstacles or prevailing despite facing the discrimination of  the past. Perhaps too many Blacks have come to believe the progressives when they say that they cannot succeed in a racist America without being dependent on the government. I wonder if they haven’t internalized this message and simply given up.

Maybe instead of automatically condemning Bundy’s comments as racist, we should use them as a starting point for a discussion on how to improve the prospects of those African-Americans who have somehow been left behind by the great progress we have made over the past decades. Of course, this is the discussion Eric Holder, Barack Obama, and other progressives don’t want to have. We can’t have the Darkies thinking for themselves and wandering off the plantation.

Well, for a subject I don’t know  much about, I sure have written a lot about it. Perhaps too much.

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