I’ve been through Burns, Oregon a few times — don’t remember a thing about it. It’s a nice long empty drive through fairly arid country: lots of rock and sagebrush, and an occasional shallow marshy stream adding a little green to the landscape. There are towns, mostly consisting of a gas station, a tiny post office, and maybe a little cafe, but you just drive on through, because it’s two hours to the next town, and you really want to get this trip over.
So having a mob of ‘militia’ take over a town there isn’t just a criminal act, it’s a cowardly act. They picked a quiet little place which is probably mostly conservative, but conservative in an old-fashioned way that says you leave your neighbor along, and they found themselves a target that is far away from anyone else who might tell them “no”.
I know the kind of people who committed this criminal invasion, too. They also come from small isolated places, the kind where there aren’t many people to talk to, except a few family and friends. They work all day at something mindless and get out of the habit of thinking; they get together with their buddies, or their father, or their grandfather, and they start bouncing their resentments and theories and lonely thoughts off of one another, and there’s no check against reality — it all just reverberates back and forth and gets fed now and then by talk radio and pretty soon they’ve got a goddamned mythos that ennobles them as heroes of the land and the government as their enemy. It’s the only enemy they’ve got. It’s pretty empty out there on the edges of the Palouse. The struggle is against loneliness and low wages and hard work and a future of low prospects, and there isn’t much heroic about fighting those. It’s hard to get your ego fed raging against a hay-baler or that danged bitter wind.
The worst of them are little angry men who get a rush from carrying a gun. And they egg each other on over some little bit of news that frustrates them, and soon enough a gang of idiots are carrying out an act of armed sedition. Nothing too dangerous, it’s not like they rushed a National Guard armory, where they might have gotten shot and where the government might have felt compelled to act fast. Nope, they picked their target with a complete lack of courage.
They took over the headquarters of a regional bird sanctuary, and terrorized the nearby small town. You really can’t get much more picayune than that.
What the government ought to do is bring up a unit of trained soldiers, fire a few warning shots, and tell the criminals to lay down their weapons. But I’m sure that’s what is causing some hesitation is the fact that a battle over a bird sanctuary occupied by twits in gimme caps isn’t exactly going to get featured in the curriculum at West Point. It’s not as if Burns, Oregon is a strategic chokepoint in the War on Terror.
These are clowns who got to caper on the evening news in their prior stunt at Bundy Ranch, and now they’re escalating. Their next act of treason will be bolder. I’m afraid it’s time to stop pussyfooting around and shut these bozos down, call them what they are — domestic terrorists — and bring the whole ratpack into court. Without their guns.
It’s not even as if they’re protesting an injustice. The two ranchers they claim to be defending were convicted of setting fires on federal land, and they aren’t arguing against that: instead, they’re trying to claim that these few farmers have right of ownership over land held in federal trust for all of us — they aren’t demanding fair play, they’re demanding to be given big chunks of property which they’ve already been allowed to use for grazing. They aren’t out for truth, justice, and the American way — this is simply a bunch of yahoos committing extortion for personal gain.
Oh, but there is a little something else: religious fanaticism. These are yokel terrorists, high on self-righteousness, believing god has called on them to die for their cause. To die for an undefended building on a bird sanctuary.
What a bunch of goobers.