As a student of the literature of the American West and a Texan, I’ve been watching events at the national sanctuary in Oregon with interest—can come to absolutely no conclusion. Lots of people on Facebook seem to think the protestors should be shot immediately—for treason or some other heinous crime. That seems a bit extreme. Yes, they’ve broken Federal law by occupying the land. Open carry is legal in Oregon so they can’t be punished for being armed. If, as I read tonight, the takeover is to protest the increased jail sentences of a father and son for setting fires to rid property of parasitic growth and prevent fires on their land, it’s a quixotic and futile gesture. Not sure if those fires were on private or Federal land.
I can sort of see the ranchers’ point of view—Federal lands are hemming them in, and small ranches have little chance. But that was true in the late 19th century—read Elmer Kelton’s The Day the Cowboys Quit. It may be because I’m a progressive liberal, but I always thought government ownership of large portions of the American West was a good thing because it protected land from development. That theory came crashing down this past year when Congress voted to sell land sacred to the Native Americans to a foreign investor. I definitely think that’s wrong, but I don’t like much this Congress has done…or left undone. And the land in Oregon now occupied by protestors is part of a parcel granted the Paiute by Teddy Roosevelt, which further complicates matters.
This is apparently a matter for the FBI, which is strangely silent in spite of calls for immediate action, preferably gunfire (what is wrong with this country with its mania for guns?). I think whatever Federal authorities are in charge are playing it smart. Today one of the Bundy brothers said they don’t want it to come to bloodshed, but I’m not sure. A corner of my mind thinks they want confrontation—some are even willing to die as martyrs. A direct assault would play into their hands. Others would undoubtedly join the protest or stage separate protests—in this world today, we don’t need another civil war.
But that’s sort of the way I feel when people argue that President Obama is weak because he hasn’t sent us back to war in the Middle East. He has a far more decisive program there than critics give him credit for, but he’s not going to send our young men and women into another Iraq or Afghanistan.
I haven’t decided who I’m voting for in the presidential election, but I like the idea of a woman. Less combative, less testosterone. Lord, give us peace.