Thursday, August 31, 2017


Cliven Bundy

Looking at the week’s work, it occurs to me that I’ve been leaving out the extreme right.  I’m not fond of people who go to violence so easily, but everyone can be a source of understanding.  Just be careful.

In the Sixties I was much more in touch with the Western rebellions against Federal restraints.  Some of the people we knew rejected the standing rule of law as unjust and indefensible, creating their own ideas of what the laws should be.  Men I liked for their competence and drive were convinced that the government would go door-to-door, taking away their guns to make them helpless.  Given that it was paranoid, their direct confrontation with such sweeping laws as the Endangered Species Act, the Antiquities Act, and the establishment of monuments and other public lands, was certainly more honorable than secret deals by mega-corporations and international oligarchies.  And not as deadly nor as underground as mafia, drug lords, terrorists and other traffickers in lives.

To check out these folks I went to the library to borrow an issue of “Range Magazine.”  You can read it online and the pictures are often lovely.  I mostly listened to these sentiments when it was women who went by SSS —  “Smile, Serve and Shut-up”.  Enabling John Wayne.  There was a lot of safety in it sometimes, especially when women were not given equal powers and especially if women were economically constrained.  (They still are, but not so much.)

The concept of the “rule of law” is a public part of the on-going struggle between the individual and the whole of the population.  It is meant to protect both, but the balance between both is very hard to locate and sustain.  Especially when cynicism, confusion, and resentment are coloring public life.  Constraint is lost when the President has no constraint.

“The rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by decisions of individual government officials. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behaviour, including behaviour of government officials.  The phrase can be traced back to 16th century Britain.”  (Wiki)  This is what ends the “Game of Thrones,” the realization that something overrules and mediates among families and armies.

“Lack of the rule of law can be found in both democracies and dictatorships, for example because of neglect or ignorance of the law, and the rule of law is more apt to decay if a government has insufficient corrective mechanisms for restoring it.”  This is where we change over to “House of Cards.”

“ . . .development of the legal concept can be traced through history to many ancient civilizations, including ancient Greece, China, Mesopotamia, India, and Rome.”  Now we are in a time when law is challenged by greed, a recurring predicament that destroys nations.

There’s really no need for me to invent a story for this problem, since the Wikipedia account of Cliven Bundy’s conflict with the USA is colorful enough, dragging in just about every Federal land-use regulation from grazing leases to Endangered Species to National Parks and Monuments to claims of entitlement through heredity.  The point is that Bundy was totally intransigent, non-compliant, and allied with groups labeled by the FBI as domestic terrorists.  As far as I know, no grizzlies were involved — just a lot of cows and bureaucrats.

Bundy’s problem was that he only owned a little homestead and had to depend on adjacent federal land for grazing.  He got into arguments and began to refuse to pay fees which became a million-dollar debt, and the government began to round up his cattle.  In many ways this is a Civil War artifact.  He is in jail, not for the original offence but for his reactions and defiance afterwards.  He felt he was unjustly gripped by tyrants.

I want to remind readers that the Conrad brothers who sustained Valier, Conrad and Kalispell were teenaged Confederate raiders in their father’s command before they came to the high prairie to exploit the wide open place with little rule of law. 

Bundy’s sentiment is so widespread now that people are threatening that if Trump is impeached, there will be a secession rebellion.  The whole syndrome has become mix-and-match, with constant threats of violence, conceived in terms of dramatic television shows.

There’s no question that today government v. individual is a relationship in trouble.  The government does too much, butting in without understanding; the government does too little, letting people suffer because officials aren’t addressing basic protections; and the government is doing the wrong thing because it’s based on the East Coast with career politicians whose goal is to stay in office.  Worst of all, it appears that the government has been bought by major corporations and fronts for extravagantly rich people who are allowed to run the country.  

The criticism and name-calling goes across the spectrum from anarchist through liberal to don’t-tell-me to establishment Republican to right wingers.  You probably won’t see much about the super-conservative throwbacks unless you read a magazine like “Ranch.

The problem for me is that this is a land that I love.  The material culture here — the worn equipment, the sun-shredded debris of homesteads, the long lines of fenceposts, the skulls of livestock — stuff not worth money unless it’s translated into art — are a familiar vocabulary to me.  I know people here who think like “Ranch” magazine.  

I tend to feel that the older ones have earned it, that they lived it and worked it, but that the youngsters are posing.  The old-timers never say “fuck” and they stay in their marriages.  When I prowl for streaming movies on the Internet, I go to Australian and Scandinavian tales.  Only a few people in the US can get financing for a Western of the classic sort.

The stories in “Ranch” are sometimes over-simplified and demonizing, but there is an outrage at the core that needs to be recognized instead of exploited.  That’s what comes bursting out when there are public meetings about grizzly bears.  To some degree it’s in the depths of the bureaucrats, but the fire in politicians seems to have gone out unless fed by hatred, the ultimate accelerant.  

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