Home On The Range

The recent dust-up on the Nevada plains concerning rancher Cliven Bundy got lots of national attention.  You may remember him as the rancher that for twenty years, four lost court cases and over a million dollars in unpaid rent decided to resist the Bureau of Land Management agents that came to collect his cattle as payment.  He and a host of supporters resisted the federal agents with guns and threatened to shoot it out if the officers tried to enforce the law. One of the sharpest tools in the shed supporting Bundy, former sheriff Richard Mack stated bravely that “We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front.  If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”  Wisely, the federal agents did not think some cattle were worth people being shot and withdrew.  However, they have not changed their mind about holding him accountable and the story is not over.  In the process of resisting duly appointed law enforcement officers, Bundy became the darling of some of the “name” right-wing conservatives and libertarians who, mostly, gave him unconditional support in his “fight” against “big government.”  Famously, Bundy declared that he “doesn’t recognize the United States as even existing.”  A “patriot” indeed.

Most recently his racist remarks caused lots of conservative politicians and talk show hosts to retract their support for him.  My question would be why they gave him any support in the first place, even discounting his remarks that revealed his true view of minorities in the United States?

These would be the same people who say they support the United States of America, just not “big government.”  The role of the federal government, its size and functions are legitimate areas of debate. However, I cannot understand the anointing of this individual as a “patriot” protecting his rights.  He is an unabashed mooch.  As many of his supporters deride the “welfare state,” he has taken advantage of the American taxpayers to the tune of over a million dollars.  In four different cases the courts have ruled against him.  Supporters of “law and order” should be helping the federal agents to get rid of the moocher instead of announcing their willingness to stand up for, to stand up for, well I’m not exactly clear who or what it is that they say they are standing up for.  Some vague notion of states rights, traditional grazing lands, the right to bear arms and the right to be a bigot, I suppose.  So of course their first instinct is to lock and load and to use their “women” as human shields.  The only thing that I am sure about is that they are willing to use violence against duly constituted law enforcement officers.  Last time I looked, people who were willing to shoot law enforcement officers carrying out duly litigated court orders were considered terrorists or criminals.

So I ask again — forget the talk show hosts who will jump on any issue if it gets their name out there and they make money off of it (I’m talking to you Sean Hannity) — why would elected officials, sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land support a welfare king and scofflaw willing to kill federal agents?  To maintain credibility in my eyes, the supporters of a smaller federal government at least need to have some logic to their arguments.  And it wouldn’t hurt to vet their “heroes” a little more closely.

Georgia On My Mind

With all due respect to my friends that live in the great state of Georgia, I wonder what is going on there.  The entire state (or at least their elected representatives) seem determined to push back the clock as far as possible.  The evidence may be found in two official acts taking place  in Georgia — one was a bill signed into law today.

First let me say, as many of you know, that I am not against guns.  I am against gun violence and believe that we as a nation can do a lot more to restrict the illegal use of weapons.  I do not consider more guns being carried by more people to be a deterrent to the illegal use of guns and I do not believe that it enhances the safety of the average citizen.  The biggest fallacy of all is the NRA pronouncement that the way to stop bad guys with guns is by good guys with guns.  I see.  Exactly who are the good guys?  The same ones that feel “threatened” and shoot unarmed people?

So today Republican Governor Nathan Deal signed into law the “Safe Carry Protection Act” (or as it is known in other circles, “the guns everywhere bill”).  The bill allows those with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns into bars, college campuses, government buildings, houses of worship and just about anywhere else, including by the way, airports.  (Under the bill TSA can still search for guns at checkpoints, but the individual with the weapon cannot be arrested, only  turned away.)  Oh, by the way, if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor for pointing a gun at another person, you cannot be denied a permit to carry.  My favorite part is that the police are not allowed, by law, to ask a person if they have a permit to carry — I guess they are supposed to assume that all armed citizens are legal. It also allows schools to arm their administrators, teachers and other employees.  Somehow I do not feel in the least bit safer.  I do feel like if I ever return to Georgia that I am going to be real careful about who I talk to.  I sure would not want someone to think my friendly “hello” in an unfamiliar bar was actually a not so friendly “hell no” and have them feel threatened and blow me away.

The second part of the progressive atmosphere in Georgia is demonstrated by the Georgia Department of Revenue approving the addition of the Confederate flag to their official state license plates. Admittedly they are specialty plates (also called vanity plates in some regions) requested by the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  The fun part in this story is that the group previously had such plates, but the symbol was small.  Now the plates will not only have the same small symbol, but the new plate has the Confederate battle flag covering the entire plate and the “Sons of Confederate Veterans” takes the place of the issuing county on the standard plate.   The organization claims that they have just as much of a right to be proud of their heritage as does any other group.  Point taken.  However, these seem to be many of the same people who proclaim that they are true (get this) United States of America patriots.  The “America love it or leave it” types. Seems to me that in my Middle School history class I learned that the Confederate states were trying to create an entirely new country, separate and apart from the United States of America.  It should also be noted that before the Civil War the correct grammar was “The United States are…” and after the war the correct usage became “The United States is….”   Our country went through a very difficult time that forged the united nation that we are today. I see little reason to celebrate those that tried to pull it apart — no matter how noble they may have thought their actions to be.  Study it, yes. Understand why our ancestors did what they did (both North and South), yes.  And many other valid points of view.  While I do not begrudge the organization its “pride” I do not see why elected officials in Georgia are bending over backwards (you can look it up!) to support the official use of the Confederate flag. As a young boy I sometimes thought that the Southern soldiers were gallant, romantic and a lot more fun than the Northern soldiers.  And then I grew up.  I suppose some people never do grow up, but the last time I looked, the Civil War ended almost 150 years ago.  Get over it.