I'm glad the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff is over. I'm equally pleased that Cliven Bundy has been arrested and charged with crimes that could lead to him spending the rest of his life in prison.
I readily admit that, like lots of other people here in Oregon and elsewhere, I became quasi-obsessed with the twists and turns of this drama -- especially after the four militants remaining at the refuge started broadcasting a live audio feed featuring their wacko rants and bullhorn pleas from a FBI negotiator to surrender peacefully.
So it's good to have the Malheur situation on the road to getting back to normal. The folks in Burns, Oregon must be way happier than I am that this is happening.
What worries me, though, is that even though this band of supposed "patriot" militants has been dealt with, there are many people in the United States who have the same sort of twisted mentality. It isn't stretching the case much, if at all, to say that these right-wingers pose more of a threat to this country than ISIS/ISIL does.
Consider this excerpt from the Oregonian story about the crimes Cliven Bundy has been charged with, stemming from the 2014 standoff at his Nevada ranch. I've boldfaced the scariest parts.
On March 15, 2014, Bundy is accused of publicly stating that he was "ready to do battle'' with the federal land management bureau and would "do whatever it takes'' to protect his property, the complaint says.
On April 12, 2014, Bundy ordered his followers to get the cattle, directing a crowd of hundreds to travel more than five miles to the site where the cattle were corralled while another group kept officers at bay at the main entrance to the site. The complaint alleges Bundy organized his followers into bodyguards, armed patrols and security checkpoints to prevent officers from carrying out federal court orders.
"The most immediate threat to the officers came from the bridges where gunmen took sniper positions behind concrete barriers, their assault rifles aimed directly at the officers below,'' the complaint says.
Federal law enforcement officers backed off because they were outnumbered, the complaint says. More than 400 Bundy followers, openly brandishing assault rifles and others bearing side arms had converged at the cattle impound site, the complaint says. About 40 supporters were on horseback, and there were "militia snipers concealed on the bridges'' with rifles zeroed-in on officers, Willis wrote in the complaint.
"Outnumbered by more than 4:1, unwilling to risk harm to children and other unarmed bystanders who had accompanied the Followers, and wishing to avoid the firefight that was sure to follow if they engaged the snipers on the bridge who posed such an obvious threat to their lives, the officers had no choice and were forced to leave and abandon the cattle to Bundy,'' the complaint says.
Bundy and his supporters were in open rebellion against law enforcement officers trying to enforce court rulings. They weren't engaged in a peaceful protest against supposed government overreach. No, they had sniper rifles trained on the officers.
Worse, a good share of Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, and, especially, members of the so-called Patriot Movement, thought this was OK.
Listening to the audio feed of the four militants' rantings and ravings helped me grasp how dangerous this bizarre way of looking at the world is. People who share the Bundy mentality actually believe that they, and only they, understand the Constitution of the United States.
Not the courts, including the Supreme Court, which naturally is the final arbiter of what is constitutional and what isn't -- under the freaking Constitution. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the federal government's ownership of land is completely constitutional.
Yet the Malheur militants believe it isn't. So do lots of other people who agree with their view of the Constitution, though not their gun-toting attempts to take over federal land and return it to private ownership.
So this is one big worry: that so many Americans are willing to toss the Real Constitution aside and replace it with a Fake Constitution of their own making. That way lies insurrection, chaos, instability, loss of respect for law and order.
Feeding into and supporting that worry is the theocratic nature of how Bundyists see the world. Like Islamic fundamentalists, most of them believe that God is on their side, and that their own imaginary conception of what God wants them to do supercedes the law.
This way of thinking even is on display among the GOP presidential candidates. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have spoken of their religion being a more powerful guiding principle for them than the Constitution.
Listening to the audio feed of the militants' blathering, which was aided and abetted by outside supporters who were on the phone with them, I felt like throwing up after the millionth (roughly; I stopped counting) time they paused for prayer.
You're heavily armed. You're illegally occupying a federal facility that belongs to the public. You're calling the FBI officers who are trying to get you to peacefully surrender horrible obscenities, along with "evil" and "going to hell."
And you think your beloved Jesus is going to help you if you pray? I am so glad I'm an atheist.
Religiosity is bad enough by itself. It is way worse when fantasized religious beliefs are used to justify illegal and immoral actions. Those with a Bundy mentality actually think that God is on their side. Even after the FBI arrested them peacefully, I saw mentions of "praise God, He answered our prayers."
No, God didn't. The militants kept praying that they'd be able to leave the refuge without being charged with crimes. So their prayers didn't work. They couldn't work. There is no evidence that God exists.
Yet when right-wing wackos believe God is guiding their anti-government steps, this adds theological fuel to their dangerous insurrectionist fire. Normal conservatives try to limit government through political action: voting, lobbying, public pressure, and such.
This is fine.
What isn't fine is picking up an assault rifle and pointing it at federal law enforcement officers who are trying to enforce legal court orders. What isn't fine is taking over federal property and strutting around with guns, intimidating both police and citizens who disagree with you.
It's good to see that the government is cracking down hard on this sort of behavior. I'll end by quoting a Facebook post I put up this morning:
Great. David Fry just gave himself up.
Now, I'm waiting for condemnations of the absurdly-named Patriot Movement from Republicans, property rights activists, Christians, and others who may share their wacko right-wing views, but should disavow their twisted view of the Constitution, propensity to threaten gun violence, and what their demented minds think Jesus wants them to do.
Conservatives are always saying, "Mainstream Muslims need to disavow Islamic extremists." Well, now let's see a bunch of disavowing from mainstream Republicans and Christians.